Jewelers get challenged all the time, whether it’s sizing a complicated ring design that wants to resist being worked on, or a ring with a vulnerable gemstone. How your jeweler responds to this challenge can effect your jewelry collection. Do you have a ring that is unfixable?
Is it unfixable because one or two jewelers said it was? Have you asked lately if that ring can be fixed? I ask because the technology in jewelry repair, has leaped forward with the adopting of laser welding.
Since ring sizing is the most frequently requested jewelry repair in my jewelry practice, I’ll focus here on the joys of laser ring welding
Why Normal Open Flame Soldering Ruins Some Gemstones During Ring Sizing
The normal technique for ring sizing for many years has been the open flame soldering method. Using a torch, your ring is heated up at the section of the ring or other piece of jewelry being worked on. With the conductive nature of jewelry metals, this open flame heat expands from the point of the flame work up and away from the area being worked. Heat can conduct fairly quickly along the gold ring shank during this method of ring sizing. This heat can cause cracking, discoloration and shattering of sensitive gemstones.
Using open flame soldering is not a guarantee that gemstones will be damaged. It is a possibility. Varying ring designs determine how long flame must be applied to do the ring sizing. The trouble occurs when the complexity of the design, the thickness of the gold, the fragility of the gemstones and heat, collide.
Why Laser Ring Welding, is Like a Miracle for Jewelers
Laser is a acronym for “Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” Lasers produce focused beams of light to rapidly melt metal. Because the beam of light is so small, less overall heat is generated. This translates to a ring being sized without heat conducting to the setting area with fragile gemstones.
Another gift that laser welding gives us jewelers, is the tool to repair small intricate work, especially on vintage designs and thin filigree elements on a ring. I’m not saying that the laser does the work like magic. Laser welding needs to be done by an experienced and trained jeweler. Laser welding offers the tool that the experienced jeweler can use to do complex and difficult repairs.
The biggest change in what a jeweler can do for your jewelry with laser welding, is his or her ability to work with sensitive gemstones. I’ve had the joyful experience of sizing many rings with heat-sensitive gemstones that sat in jewelry boxes, not fitting and sadly unworn for years and in some cases, decades. These were rings set with many emeralds or with multiple opals or with settings close enough to the sizing area, that open flame solder guaranteed disaster for the gemstones.
Why is Your Ring Un-Fixable?
My guess was that these rings were custom designed for a special client and the jeweler knew that only one person would wear it, so they didn’t bother about whether their design could take repairs and alterations at some future time. Not every ring that is designed is designed with the thought of how the future jeweler will be able to carry out its future repairs.
One of the frustrations I’ve run into as a jeweler, is being given a ring with the expectation that it’s no big deal for me to size it. Some rings are a big deal to size. Some rings need laser welding to make changes without causing damage to the design.
Unfixable Rings of the Past May Now be Fixable
If you were told your ring couldn’t be sized or repaired in the past, maybe it’s time to try again. Maybe your jeweler didn’t offer laser welding at the time you asked. Maybe they do now. Sizing rings and doing challenging repairs of jewelry using laser, allows jewelers to do repairs they couldn’t in the past. It includes the freedom to work with with emeralds, opals and other sensitive gemstones.
This work can now be done without conducting heat up to those vulnerable gemstones. For more technical data read this article.
The old school sizing method would have required the removal of an emerald from the bezel setting prior to traditional open flame soldering. The bezel—the thin rim of gold surrounding the gem and holding it in place—would have had to be cut open to remove the emerald, causing the setting to have to be rebuilt. This would have added considerable expense to the sizing.
The other thing to be aware of is that when certain fragile gemstones are removed from their settings, there is the possibility of them chipping or cracking. Removing gemstones to shield them from heat and then resetting them can be almost as dangerous to them as the risk of heat damage.
This is especially true of softer gems, such as opals and emeralds. I’ve seen too many gems that were held together by their setting fall apart when that support was removed. Happily, having to remove the gem and risk it cracking, may be able to be avoided with laser ring welding.
Laser Welding Machines
Many jewelers don’t own, or have access to, laser welding machines. The main reason is because these precise instruments cost as much as a small car. Therefore jewelers with no access to laser machines will turn down work that requires laser techniques.
Laser Knowledge is Power
I wanted you to know about the availability of this laser technology. If no one laser welds for repair work in your area, you can still find someone who can safely work on your jewelry.
Look online to find a jeweler who offers laser welding services. It is worth mailing your piece to a distant jeweler if they have the expertise your ring needs.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
Have you been told your jewelry couldn’t be worked on because of the risk of damaging the gemstones? Times have changed. Call me and let’s explore if laser welding could solve your unfixable jewelry problem.