Jewelry, Gems, & Minerals/Platinum Ring
I have been searching high and low for some guidance regarding platinum welding/soldering. I read an earlier response you gave which is closely related to my issue.
My wife's engagement and wedding rings are platinum. Both where my grandmothers (from around 1920's) and have fine engraving/patterns. We had to get the rings resized and a claw replaced on the engagement rings. Back home in South Africa I took the ring to a reputable jeweler who guaranteed me that she had a platinum smith on staff.
So three weeks later we show up to pick up the ring and to my shock the new claw is out of proportion and the ring has a yellow shine to it. I voiced my displeasure and the owner indicated she would talk to the head jeweler and get back to me.
Next day I go back and get the bad news. The "junior" jeweler that did the work used white gold solder. The solder ran into the nooks and crannies of the engraving/pattern and they agreed the work was not acceptable. They apologized and told me they would fix it. They ended up putting a new band on the engagement ring, replaced the claw, and fixed the wedding band. They polished it up and assured us it is 100% and send us on our way. We moved to the USA 1 month later.
Not long after we arrived we noticed areas on the engagement ring that was yellowing. The nooks and crannies of the engagement ring has remnants of the white gold solder that give it the yellow sheen. Not knowing where to turn to and not trusting anyone we have lived with it till now. Every now and again I will be reminded of how the ring is "ruined" ... and that makes me very angry and sad!
First off, can this be fixed? Can someone repair this ring to not have the yellow sheen?
Second, how do I find someone? I live in FL and have been hard pressed to find a "platinum" smith.
I greatly appreciate your comment/suggestions.
Perhaps it is best for me to tell how the work should be done in the first place in the form of questions and answers. Following that I will suggest possible corrections for the present situation and the yellowish shadow of white gold solder.
I do not call myself a platinum smith but used the term a professional bench jeweler. The reason for that is because I did not specialize exclusively in doing platinum work. However, unlike some bench jewelers I learned to be quite adept at platinum work and how to do it correctly. The same held true for gold and even silver. To find a business with a jeweler qualified to do platinum work will mean phone calls or visits. I would go armed with a few basic questions to gain an idea of how proper might be the platinum work, including these:
1. How do you retip a worn platinum prong (claw)? What metal is used and will my stone be at risk?
2. How do you resize platinum finger rings? When metal is added to make the ring larger, what is used to solder the metal in place? Rocco, the answers will be revealing.
For (1.) above, the metal “tip” used to build up a worn prong should be platinum. Because of the intense heat needed to weld or properly braze platinum to platinum will certainly burn a diamond and destroy other gem stones quite readily, there are two options. The first is to remove the gem and then work the metal without heat risk to the stone. In this case, platinum solders such as made by Precious Metals West which are either full or very close to full platinum content as the ring metal may be used quite successfully. Old fashioned platinum solders contain essentially no platinum but are palladium based. Those will generally be acceptably close in color match but might show a slight solder demarcation line. The PM West plumb (“full value”) solders will match perfectly and are actually safer to use because of lower temperatures needed. If interested: www.preciousmetalswest.com
If the stone should not or cannot be readily removed and reset, the option is to braze a platinum metal tip to the prong using a high karat white gold solder. The only evidence of the gold solder may be a very thin line where the new metal joins the original prong. This is followed by a rhodium plate or palladium plate on the work area or entire ring and the yellow is prevented from showing for quite a long time. Even so, such a small area is likely not noticed. The jeweler applies the solder to the tip metal first, removing any excess. The fit to the original prong is quite tight and even resulting in a tight fit with a quite miniscule line of white gold solder. There should never be the running of solder down the prong or onto engraving and patterned areas! In either method, the prong tip is shaped to match the original prongs and when all is shaped, sanded and polished the new prong should not be apparent except for being of adequate size and thickness which was not the case prior to service.
For (2.), sizing the ring, the jeweler will either use a quality platinum solder such as the ones mentioned above or weld the joins of metal using platinum metal rolled quite thin and placed into the joint under slight tension then melted to weld the joint. A good weld will definitely not show and a resize with high quality platinum solders of high platinum content will not show either. In both cases, the heat work is done with speed and protection for gems as is appropriate.
Jewelry lasers are sometimes used for both prong work and sizing. Sometimes this work is quite satisfactory. Unfortunately, oftentimes the work simply is not up to the best quality standards from lack of proper heating adjacent metals and proper joint shapes. That is a full subject in itself. If a jeweler offers laser welding work, make certain to see samples of that work, viewed under a jeweler’s eyepiece. Look for pits and incomplete joining areas. A totally perfect joint is rare and some will say microscopic examination is not fair to the process. I half way agree to this. However, no defects should be visible to the unaided eye.
POSSIBLE CORRECTIONS TO THE GOLD SOLDER SITUATION
Quite honestly, not a lot can be done. The prong(s) may certainly be redone if needed, with high karat white gold solder to join platinum metal to the prongs. (Higher heat as used for platinum prong work with the stone removed will reflow the original and inappropriate white gold solder and exasperate the yellowing problem.) As for the overflow into patterns and engraving, that is a thin layer with a molecular join to the platinum. Removal is by abrasive or cutting it away. Acids as used to test for gold will often reveal gold solders as darker areas and do not hurt the platinum. A good hand engraver is a rare bird in the jewelry world today but basic engraving and patterns may be retraced by a reasonably competent jeweler who has engraving experience even if not a full-fledged hand engraver. (How cute..bird metaphors used twice by accident.)
This is what is done and may be limited in effectiveness or quite successful, depending on extent and locations of white gold solder: The jeweler will retrace the patterns with a sharp and proper graver cutting tool, taking a quite thin sliver of metal off the surface. The ring is then checked for residual gold solder with acid. Gold solder residue is removed as possible with care not to remove too much metal overall. A final correction is not permanent but very effective in recessed areas such as patterns and engraving which will receive little wear in daily activities: That is to give the rings an electroplate of rhodium or palladium. The plate color works well and will cover up the solder visually while helping to prevent tarnish of the solder which is tarnish of a light yellowish color.
Where do you find the right jeweler to do the work? I am not familiar with jewelers in your area and am unable to make a recommendation. In the least, look for a higher end business with some sort of credentials, such as having a certified gemologist in-house, AGS, or the unusual but sometimes seen credentials for the bench jeweler. I say higher end store only because these stores in general have a vested interest in always providing the best service work. Small specialty custom jewelry businesses may also have the jeweler you need. Please check around, rings in hand for a face to face discussion about “what can be done”. The questions I proposed should also help a lot.
This time of the year with business depending so heavily on holiday sales, the emphasis on service will be lessened. You will do best to wait for the turn of the New Year to search out jewelers.
I do wish you God Bless and Peace…with Joy to all your family, this season and always. Thomas.
Get back with a follow-up if you have more to add concerning this subject. Thanks again.