Let’s chat about handling your ring’s prongs. In Ring Disasters, Part 2 “Re Tipping Your Ring Prongs, Defining a Common Ring Repair,” your Santa Barbara Jeweler told you how re-tipping of ring prongs is done. In this post I’ll explain the little known weakness in re-tips and why this is so.
Rants I’ve Heard From My Clients
“I wore my wedding ring every day for ten years before I lost that little side diamond. Then Joe the Jeweler down the street re-tipped the prong and replaced my diamond. He’s obviously a terrible Jeweler because it’s been two years and the same diamond is gone.”
After this particular rant I did an inspection under magnification. I noticed that the re-tipped prong was broken off at the solder point, where it had last been fixed.
As much as you might think I’d be happy to inherit Joe the Jeweler’s upset clients, I can’t let this go by. I explained about the Jeweler’s need to use a softer gold to do the repair and how it just doesn’t last as long as the original.
Why Did her Prong Repair Break so Quickly?
Re-tipped prongs are not as strong or as long lasting as the original prong with cast-in integrity.
Why is this? 14k gold is an alloy, (composite), composed of approximately 58% gold and 42% other metals. The alloy metals give greater strength to the gold and enhance color. There are other properties that I won’t go into because I don’t want to bore you.
What I’m getting at here is that there are soft solder mixtures which are used in the solder repair of your prong and there are harder solders. The reason softer solders are used on a ring, is that there are often solder joints from the creation of the ring originally. When too much heat is applied in repairs the heat could destabilize older original solder joints.
Repairs Are Done With a Softer Gold Solder Than Your Original Ring
Getting technical here. When you have your prongs re-tipped, slightly different alloys of gold and strengthening metals are used to build the new prong. This mix is different than the alloys of gold and metals used in the original casting. Every refiner mixes slightly different mixes of gold and its alloying metals.
The gold and its alloy metals used in the original casting are stronger and harder than the gold and alloys used in re-tipping. If we used the same formula of gold as the original ring, it would require such a high soldering temperature that we would melt your ring. and breaking it down to do the repair.
We Need to “Do No Damage” When We Fix Your Ring
If this sounds complicated, don’t despair. Just remember that because the new prong is made of slightly different gold, it may wear out sooner than the original. But it’s a huge improvement over a pancaked, (flattened), broken or cracked prong!
Solder, Like Glue, Isn’t As Strong as the Original
When I repair your prong, I do not know exactly what mix of gold an alloying metals were used in the original. I also don’t know if some solder was used in the construction of your ring. So I will choose a soft solder with a lower melting point for my heat work.
I do not want to risk damage to your ring. If you think of solder like the glue you’d use to fix something you’ve got a good picture. Generally a glue bond is not as strong as the rest of the piece that was glued. Therefore your re-tipped prong will not last ten years like the original did. If you want me to be a bit more technical, the molecular bonds within your gold when your piece was originally cast, at very high temperatures, are very strong. The molecular bonds of the gold at the point of a repair are not as strong.
So is Joe the Jeweler a Jerk?
In my opinion in this case Joe’s error was not explaining this to his client so she’d know to keep an eye on her newly re-tipped prong. He’s not a jerk, he just needs to explain things better.
What’s the Takeaway Message Here?
Keep a close eye on your new re-tips. Knowledge is power. Knowing what you now know can help reduce your loss of gemstones in the future. By better understanding when your ring needs repair and how to care for it after its had re-tipping done you’re way ahead of the curve.
For the how-to on keeping an eye on your ring’s prongs see Ring Disasters, Part 1 – Broken or Pancaked Prongs
The Rest of the Series
Your Personal Jeweler,