Saibai Island artist Nathan Tabuai

February 12th 2016

Torres Strait Islands artist Nathan Tabuai asked me to take some of his artwork based on his crocodile totem and create a pair of matching wedding rings. The result was two very special rings. I would like to thank Nathan and his family for giving me permission to share his design on the website.

As a non indigenous Australian it is a bit daunting to be asked to apply symbols in jewellery that I have very little understanding of. Nathan guided me and with some explanation I soon began to wonder why I never saw a crocodile in the design immediately. The several Torres Strait Islands customers that dropped by my studio during the rings making certainly knew immediately what the ring represented.

Fitting that detail in.

Nathan and I communicated via email and the phone during the design process. Once we had the design created digitally to a point where he was happy I needed to confirm if that design would translate well into metal.

My biggest concern was how well that detail we were seeing digitally would transfer to metal.

To find this out I did a very ugly and quick trial run of a section of the ring. I often use this process to detect flaws in a design and also to decide on the best way to manufacture it. 

Heh, I did say it was quick and ugly :)

Using the experience of the trial run I modified the design further and the finalised result is shown below. We now had a layout for the 12mm wide ring that we could successfully convert from a picture to a real ring.


Really important to get the finger size right

This ring was always going to be quite wide. I have written before on the importance of getting the size right for rings that will not resize well, especially one like this that has the design going 360 degrees around the ring.

Article: Rings that cannot be resized

With Nathan on Saibai Island and myself in Cairns I made up several silver blanks the same width as his ring in varying finger sizes and express posted them to him. Once they had arrived he was able to try them on and confirm his finger size.


The matching ring

For Nathan`s fiancee we had a ring width of just 6mm to work with compared to his 12mm. The design had to change. Here Nathan gave me instructions to arrange his art as I saw fit and present it to him. Whilst I was a bit apprehensive at first I soon looked forward to the challenge. Below is the design I came up with which Nathan liked.


At the narrower width the details had to be smaller and as such some displayed better engraved than embossed.

The end result

With both designs confirmed it was time to make the rings. They were created in 9ct yellow gold with Nathan`s ring weighing 16 grams and his fiancee`s 6 grams.

These rings were extremely enjoyable to create and I would like to thank once again Nathan and his family for allowing me to share this design on the website.

It was a great pleasure to work with you Nathan and thank you for being both understanding and patient during the process. 

Design, News, WeddingDavid Taylor