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Hanayama has several classic puzzles in the Cast Series that were first introduced centuries ago, and were updated to reach a wider audience. Thanks to this, we get to experience a puzzle from the 15th century Europe, the "Puzzle Ring", which is now just called Cast Ring. The first version was released by Hanayama in October 2000.
The description of the puzzle points to a couple of interesting facts, among them the mention that the style of the ring was used as real engagement and marriage rings. The size of the puzzle back then must have been small enough for a woman's finger, which is not the case in this Hanayama's modern version. The Cast Ring has a diameter of 5.2cm (about 2"), so it looks more like a bracelet than an actual ring. I believe they manufactured the puzzle in this size for easier handling, and I'm glad they did it or otherwise it would've been far trickier to solve - Not that it wasn't already tricky as it is.
The Cast Ring has a striking visual appearance with four bands, the two middle ones are golden and the outer bands are silver. The puzzle has the usual Hanayama touch with a smooth and shiny coating finish, which complements the already stunning and elegant design.
The bands show this intricate intertwined pattern between them, and just imagining having to put them back together is scary enough. When you hold the ring in your hands you have to be extremely careful and hold the four bands together, because the puzzle is highly unstable and could fall apart at any moment.
The goal is a two-part challenge, although disassembling the puzzle is the easy part, as it almost does it by itself. Reassembling it, however, is a whole different story... A very frustrating one. Hanayama rates this as a level 4/6, but to me it was more like a 5/6. I reckon this is a similar concept to the Cast Coaster, although that one was as tough to take it apart as to put it back together.
As I mentioned above, expect to have very frustrating moments trying to solve the Ring. As soon as you see the four bands moving freely around each other you'll probably realize what a huge mistake you made and just should've left it be. As I tried to make sense of how the bands should be put together again, I just kept thinking that this one was gonna stay like this for a long time. The reason for this was because no matter how I tried to recombine the bands together, they always intertwined in the wrong way, like it was impossible to get them in the right position.
After almost two straight hours, and finally put the ring back to its original state, all I can say is: It requires a high dose of trial and error and seeing which bands form a perfect match. After you get a match, slowly try to get the remaining bands in place without screwing up what you already did. It's actually not easy to do and also requires some dexterity. I'm not sure if it's true, but I found that it's easier to combine first the middle band that goes under the other golden one with an outer band, instead of the two middle ones first. I'm sure there's other methods you can try, and probably easier ones, but this one did the trick and I'm happy with it.
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To be honest, the Cast Ring is one the Cast Puzzles that I enjoyed the least. It's just not fun to play with and plain frustrating. It's not because it's too hard, but because it feels more like a chore than a fun and rewarding challenge. Nevertheless, the puzzle is indeed quite beautiful and it will look great on any collection.
If you like this type of puzzles you're in luck, though. There's a whole category for these puzzle rings and not just Hanayama. Just do a search for "puzzle ring" and you'll be surprise by the sheer variety of designs out there.
Availability: I got the Cast Ring from Sloyd.fi in Finland, as well as many others in the Cast family.
Hanayama Cast (in English) - Very useful website in English, with plenty of information on all things Cast.
Hanayama's Factory Visit (Many thanks to Roxanne Wong for sharing these pictures)