How Laser Ring Welding Fixes Fragile and Unfixable Rings
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.
Who ya gonna call? Calla Gold Jewelry of course. My mom, God rest her soul, had an inherited emerald eternity band ring that she could never wear because it was unsizable.
I’m going to see where it is and call you.
It’s like I wrote that blog post just for you. I hope you find the emerald eternity ring, because now it can be sized!
Call me when you find it. 805-963-4157.
Your Personal Jeweler,
Calla Gold Jewelry,
That laser soldering of jewelry is so cool! I didn’t know about that. It sure saved the gems and the added expense. Who needs that?
Who knew jewelry repair could have technical breakthroughs and laser machines? Thank you for making it interesting.
I read a lot of Sci-fi and have watched my fair share of Star Trek. I love technical breakthroughs, lasers, time travel… Oops we haven’t figured out time travel yet in the jewelry industry. But I can take a really old Grandmother time period ring that’s just “done,” and restore it. Sort of like time travel, right?
I do think restoring heirloom jewelry is like time travel! I think about my Nonnie every time I look at my grandmother’s ring that you so lovingly restored for me!
Dr. Lynn K. Jones, Certified Personal and Executive Coach
It was a pleasure to do restoration work on your Nonnie’s ring to make it yours.
Let me know when we can trip back in the time machine and do it again!
Your Personal Jeweler,
Do you know if sapphires can be damaged by a laser welder? Let’s say the jeweler meant to work on prongs and setting only, yet makes a mistake and hits the stones with the laser–could this cause inclusions to expand and break inside the stone?
Thanks very much for your insight,
Kathleen Childress, G.G.
Hi Kathleen, I went and looked at your jewelry creations. Just beautiful! Sapphires can indeed be damaged by an accidental laser touch. This happened in our workshop with tsavorite. We had a pair of earrings and the laser strayed and created an interior inclusion like a star burst. It wasn’t surface reaching. I showed it to my client and told her what happened. The star burst really caught the light and was kinda pretty. I offered to discount the work or buy a new gemstone. Lovely woman that she is she said she liked it like that and appreciated my… Read more »
Dear Calla Gold, thanks so much for your fast response…a jeweler friend had this experience with a laser welder whom he trusted with a sapphire & diamond ring (he’d louped the sapphires before giving the ring to the laser guy)…when he got the ring back, he immediately noticed inclusions and issues that weren’t there before! Then he started second-guessing himself…so I started doing research and found a credible resource, you! Much appreciated and thanks for your kind comments about my designs…made my day!(I follow you on Twitter and Instagram; I’m @innergems).
I love being your credible source!
I just followed you back on Twitter. For any of you reading this, I’m @sbjeweler, and I loved seeing that sick ruby from Sotheby’s auction blowing the records away.
I have to say that Calla is by far one the most professional, talented and very accomodating people I have had the pleasure to speak to. I just love all your work and the care and love you put it each piece that makes it even more precious. The help and advice you have given me about the botched ring re-size was just what i needed to get it fixed properly. All the way from Northern Ireland and with time differences and the lot and you still made time to help me. Thank you so much for taking the time… Read more »
I was happy to help. It was with surprise that I hear you’re in Northern Ireland. One day I’ll visit your emerald shores and climb your craggy mountains and warm my hands on a peat fire.
I’m so happy that my advice was helpful to you. May your ring re-round and re-bound from its current state.
Seriously you have made my day!
Your Personal Jeweler,
Hi Calla My wife’s platinum engagement ring was cut off with a bolt cutter in an ER after an injury. We just took it to a jeweler to repair, but they are concerned that the cuts were not straight and they were through the thin part of the shank. They think if they solder it it may be too weak. We’re hesitant to replace the whole shank since we’re sentimental about the whole ring, yet we wouldn’t want to risk it breaking and losing the whole thing. Would laser welding be stronger? If we replaced the shank, could we have… Read more »
Dear Dan, Many times when bolt cutters are used to remove a ring a re-shanking is needed. At the time they are used the patient’s needs are way more important than a careful cut. I’ve seen badly warped rings due to bolt cutters. In each case I have been able to put the ring back together again. In many instances I have had to re-shank the ring. Your jeweler is right to suggest that if your ring is thin in the area of the cut. Open flame soldering is quite strong and in my mind stronger than laser which is… Read more »
Nice Blog. It’s a useful information for us. Thanks for sharing. Signavec Technology also provides machinery products like Laser Welding Machine, laser cutter, Laser cutting machines etc.