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Question
Hi Thomas,
I am about to fabricate a custom ring and wondered if you would walk me through how you would approach the project. It's all old school. No laser welder.  
The Project:
On a 5mm, 18KY half round band, I am setting three oval diamonds in Platinum bezels, east to west.
On either side of the center diamond are two 1.5 mm rubies set in 18KY bezels. They are set one on top of the other like this O:O:O
All of the settings should butt right up to one another.
The entire ring is hammered using a hammer hand piece.

Also:
- Any tips on filing the bases of the bezels to fit perfectly on the half round band would be appreciated. This is always difficult and time consuming for me.
- Everything I've read suggests 18K easy to solder the platinum to the gold, but I want this to be secure for the diamonds. Is it adequate?

Thank you so much for considering this. I am a relatively experienced jeweler, but mostly work on my own. It will really help me to hear how someone else would do it.  

Chris

Answer
Sketch, bezel on band
Sketch, bezel on band  
Dear Chris,

This is an ambitious project and should be very nice when completed.  I will try to minimize some of the frustration along the way. To start, a note about laser welding: This method of joining metals was introduced to jewelry work with a lot of hoops, hollars and hype.  After learning to use a laser pretty well, I realized this was no miracle tool to change every jeweler into laser sizing, laser joining of findings, laser prong work, etc.  Yes, in certain applications the tool is excellent and is about the only way to do some jobs. Yet, to size a ring or install a crown or bezel, I personally find torch and soldering to render a cleaner and often stronger job with less clean-up.  Too many jewelers don’t know enough about welding to produce a clean and strong joint with a laser.  To do this well means proper settings to provide enough heat to surrounding metal and to have a properly shaped joint to fill with weld material.  For your job, a laser would help by tacking the pieces in place but soldering would be the final method to use for a strong and clean job of installing the bezels to the band.

Shaping the bezel to fit:  Chris, you said fitting the bezels to fit is always difficult and time consuming. Well, it will still be that way but will be quicker if you use a rotary tool and sanding rod or abrasive wheel.  To start, you need a sanding rod or wheel with a curve about the same size as the dome of the band.  Place your bezels one at a time on a small wooden stick with a flat end or the flat head of a nail and cement in place with Super Glue™.  This is your handle for tiny stuff like the bezels.  Mark the direction of the band on the bezel and then with a comfortable speed sand the shape precisely along the proper direction. The concave cut out must go the  “across the band” direction. Try and fit as you go, moving the sanding tool to get a better shape.  Do you have any wheel or gently cutting tool with an edge about the shape of the bands outside curve? Likely you do not have one that large.  Using sanding paper around a dowel or ring mandrel or a large enough rotary sanding wheel, hit the bezel only slightly in the direction “along” the band.  You might not get this perfect but if it fits pretty neatly and wants to stay in place, that will do just fine with platinum and 18k solders. Use a razor blade or acetone to get the bezel off its handle.

Dip the band in boric acid/alcohol and burn it off to make an coating to help prevent discoloration from heat when soldering is done. Put a bezel in place, apply some flux ( liquid or thinned paste flux), heat gently so the flux both inside the bezel an outside bubbles a bit then settles down. All the time, use a soldering pick ( small metal rod preferably tungsten but stainless will do except when actually soldering platinum) to keep the bezel in place. When the flux is hot, the bezel might want to move a tiny bit or if not aligned, a little heat will loosen the flux and you move the bezel with the pick to where you want it.  When the heat is removed, the flux has the bezel “glued” in place.  Heat it again gently to see if the bezel wants to move out of place when the ring is heated. If it does, you might need to redo the fit of the bezel to the ring dome.

The cleanest soldering is done like in the very rough sketch. (My scanner is dead so I had to settle for a poor digital sketch.)  Once fluxed, etc., all in place take two or more little pieces of solder and dab with flux then heat to form a ball. Put these inside the bezel, touching the wall. (The circle is the bezel from top view and the tiny yellow beads are the solder.)The ball form allows the solder to touch the bezel wall and the ring at the same time, helping a flow to both when the solder melts and flows.  Heat is critical and the important thing is to let the solder start to flow to the heaviest section first, you guessed it, that is the ring band.  Run heat around the bezels and under the ring to try and get all pretty evenly heated. The bezels will heat quickly so avoid much direct heat there or solder will melt and run up the inside wall.  Heating with a constant torch motion, concentration on the band, watch the solder very closely. When the beads of solder start to shine and droop move the heat to a circular motion around the bezels.  The solder should flow and at the same time run around the bezel base.  Keep the solder pick handy to move an unruly bezel while the solder if flowing if need be. For this, I advise not to use a stainless rod to touch the platinum but a tungsten one instead or maybe neodium.  This prevents contamination of the platinum.  Tungsten has the advantage of staying hard and strong while very hot. Other metals can get bent easily with any pressure when hot.  If all is fitted well, you will likely not have to mess with moving a bezel and it will stay in place when the solder flows.  

Chris, the easy solder will do fine but a medium will work better. Either will be strong enough so use what is comfortable.  The advantage you have is using platinum bezels…those bezels are not going to melt while you are soldering.  Gold bezels of those sizes could be testy and a touch too much heat could droop the wall or top rim of a bezel.  Platinum is safe, will look fine and stones set more easily and more securely than with gold.

Frankly, for the 1.5mm rubies, I would likely use tube bezels and drill out a seat into the metal to fit the tiny bezels. Those will be tough to hold in place otherwise.  If you get the center bezel where you want it and soldered, then fit the ruby settings next to it. Then solder those. Then fit the final outside diamond bezels and solder in place.  Be careful to use just enough solder to flow around the bezel, less than you might expect to use. With butted settings, you do not want solder to flow up between the adjoining bezels.  I don’t believe you will need it here in this job, but to prevent solder flow the best I have found is Whit Out™ correction fluid, the solvent based form and not water based. A tiny bit of it allowed to dry will absolutely prevent solder flow.


I hope this helps.  Get back with a follow-up if you want to. Fair enough?


God Bless and Peace.  Thomas.  

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Thomas

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Have a question about jewelry repair or working with precious metal jewelry and gemstones? For many years up to December 31, 2010, I was a working professional bench jeweler, involved everyday with setting stones in mountings, designing and making jewelry, repairing and limited custom manufacture. If you work with jewelry as a hobby or as a profession, I might be able to help. I deal with the retail business, not mass production. Ask privately if you wish. See the box for that: It keeps your question between us. Please DO NOT ask MAKER'S MARKS, but metal quality marks are fine to ask. Please DO NOT ask diamond prices. See a gemologist for that.

Experience

I have extensive experience in design, service and making of jewelry. I deal mostly with precious metals and gemstones but work with many materials as needed and usable to create an artistic design. My experience also includes freelance photography and photographer of jewelry and similar items for a former employer and individuals. Design of custom items requires reading the desires of the client and being clear on what can be done within that framework...then fulfilling the transition of idea to reality. Effective communications is essential in a working designer/producer and customer relationship.

Education/Credentials
Education is English/Physics! Started in human resources, to advertising, to jewelry...wow, what a road. I have had formal training in jewelry work and many shared experiences with top grade jewelers. We just never know were we will go or be. Follow your best, your dreams, with some discretion! Don't let the work tear up your body along the way as it has mine.

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