Questions about Metal

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Last updated:  7/19/21, 7/10/21, 12/11/19, 9/20/17

Nancy LT Hamilton, Author

We can no longer get denatured alcohol in California.  I quench my white gold in it.  Do you know of any alternatives to quenching white gold in denatured alcohol?

Answer

  Hoover & Strong don’t recommend quenching at all.  A question was presented on their site:  “Why does 14k white and 18k white crack and become brittle when shaping into a design?”  Their response:
“White gold contains gold, copper, nickel, and zinc. Most alloys use nickel as the whitening agent. These metals are whiter than palladium white gold but are not as malleable. Nickel white gold is difficult to forge and will crack if the metal is not annealed long enough or if not annealed at a high enough temperature. To anneal, the metal should be heated to a cherry red (1500 f) and  then allowed to air cool. White gold should not be quenched. White gold is hard, but annealing too frequently can cause cracks.”

The type of white gold alloy will also affect how the metal should be cooled – is it a nickel-white gold or a palladium-white gold? Does it contain copper or not?

I just read in Jewelry Metals:  A Guide to Working with Common Alloys, Technical Editor:  James Binnion, that when casting, Nickel-white golds should only be air-cooled because of the increased risk of stress cracking.  But, too slow of a cooling rate, can cause “phase separation” (where the alloyed metals can separate).  They also state that if you are working with a palladium-white gold alloy that has copper present, it should be quenched immediately to avoid hardening.  Here’s a quote from page 13:   “Nickel-white golds should be rapidly air-cooled, as quenching increases the risk of stress cracking. (A piece can be rapidly air-cooled, by placing it where air from a fan, or compressed air, can flow all around it.) Too slow a cooling rate can result in loss of whiteness and tarnish resistance.” 

One more book to quote!  Introduction to Precious Metals:  Metallurgy for Jewelers and Silversmiths by Mark Grimwade.  On page 113, the author has this to say about quenching:  “Although residual stresses may be introduced upon rapid heating, they will effectively be stress-relief annealed.  However, rapid cooling, say by quenching, will cause further stresses because the surface layers will cool faster and, hence, contract more than the hotter center.  Eventually, the center will reach the same cold temperature but the strain differential remains.  If the stress level is sufficiently high, distortion of the item may occur.”

So, I don’t think I really answered your question, in the sense that I didn’t come up with an alternative to denatured alcohol, I just discussed why you shouldn’t bother looking for a substitute.  That said, I don’t work with white gold very often (read:  it’s been years since I’ve touched it!) and you know what works best for you.  I hope this information helps, though!

*Update:  Blaine Lewis from the New Approach Jewelry School says to try EverClear (aka: moonshine) which is 190 proof (95% alcohol). Luxco, who makes EverClear, also distills Golden Grain and Crystal Clear – both registering 190 proof on the alcohol content scale.

These gut-punching, brain-skewing, high octane hooches are banned in quite a a few states  because, as you know, we humans lean towards idiocy!  190 proof alcohol is definitly banned in California.

Look for the 184 proof (92% alcohol) single malt scotch, Bruichladdich’s X4. Or try Spirytus (made by Gdanski) – the strongest booze sold in the US at 192 proof (96% alcohol).  My final entry, in this major side-step from the point of the post – just because I need to include rum –  is the 180 proof, 90% alcohol, Granadian rum: River Antoine Royal?  That could work, right?  Hic…I could go on but, I really, really can’t…hic (must be the fumes).

Check availability by calling your local liquor store. If you want to find out if your state carries EverClear, Golden Gran or Crystal Clear, check out Luxco’s product finder.  https://www.luxco.com/contact-us/product-finder/.

But, I’ll reiterate; it may not be necessary, or even a good idea, to quench the gold.  Save the booze for cocktails but, don’t forget to dilute it!  Salud, cheers, kai pay, prost, kampai, vashe zdorovie, stinygiasou, santé and so many more!!!

   Here’s a good article on Ganoksin from MJSA called:  Cracks in Jewelry Manufacturing by Chris Corti.

Question

Can I use electrical-grade copper wire for inlay and do I have to anneal it?

Answer

Sure, you can use an electrical grade. Most copper is 99.9% pure. Just be sure that there isn’t a plastic coating on the wire before hitting it with a torch. It should be great for inlay. As far as annealing, that you will have to experiment with. My guess is that the wire will be pretty work-hardened and difficult to move but, then again, if it is very thin, then maybe it doesn’t matter. The main reasons for annealing are that you want very clean metal, if you are soldering, and you want a more pliable metal. So, by annealing you not only get clean metal but, you also get soft metal. Pickling and rinsing are imperative too. Try not to handle it too much and if you do, have very clean hands. Other than that, you should be golden! Good luck!

Question

I am planning to use silver plated bowls and trays as jewelry materials.

The metal is pretty thick, needs to be annealed (my ‘lil butane won’t do the job); cut, then rolled with a mill (or vice versa).  Any tips?

Answer

   The first thing to know when working with silver plate i.e.: coffee pots, trays, silverware, etc. is that when you roll the metal, in the rolling mill, the plating will, probably crack or peel off.

The second thing to know is that the plating will either burn off or absorb into the base metal if soldering.  Read on!!!

With silver plate, the first thing you must do is determine what the base metal is.

Sometimes, steel is the base metal, in which case, to roll it through the mill, you will need to protect the mill with sufficiently large sheets of brass, made into a brass sandwich, with the plated material in the middle, to protect the rollers.  Any unprotected steel, rolled through the mill will damage that very expensive piece of equipment and the mill is rendered useless. Another concern, if you roll out the metal, and it has lead soldered seams, and you don’t cut out these solder seams, you can contaminate your metal via the rolling process.

Any soldering done with silver plate, with a steel core, will not be able to be pickled (see my page on pickle) as the steel will copperplate all the metal as a result of a reaction between the pickle and the steel.

If the core is stainless steel it will not be solderable.

Often, pewter is the base metal.  If this is true, you’ll melt it if hard soldering. It melts at 563°F and an acetylene/air torch reaches temperatures of 4532°F.  Butane runs around 3578°F. If lead solder was used to hold the piece together, realize that lead melts at 625.5°F.  A torch with over 4000 degrees of heating power will turn your metal into soup if it contains lead and/or pewter!

   Try a large-headed butane torch if your little one doesn’t cut it or get a disposible Mapp gas tank and torch.

Another possibility for the core metal is nickel silver – which is not silver!  Nickel causes allergic reactions in some people.  But, nickel can be soldered like copper, brass, and bronze. Nickel is a very difficult metal to bend and cut.

To determine if the underlying metal is pewter or one of the base metals (brass, bronze, zinc, aluminum or copper, etc.) you need to hammer or push (hard) into the metal with a nail or other sharp steel implement.  If it goes in easily or dents easily, it’s probably pewter.  If difficult, it’s not!  You can check for steel with a magnet but, not stainless. To determine if it’s copper, brass, and bronze, you can sand off an area to see the metal color.  Nickel will be dull looking next to the silver. Do your testing in an inconspicuous place.

Hard soldering or brazing silver plate is not often done because the heat likes to burn off the plate or melt it into the base metal, revealing whatever base metal is used underneath. If the core metal is a base metal, you may see colors showing through the burned off plate – depending on the metal.

Another issue with soldering plate is, if you don’t sand down to the core metal, the solder join will be extremely weak because it is joining two very, very thin layers – not the core metal. Any stress placed on the join will tear off the plating and separate from the core material. You can sand off the plate and solder the exposed core metals together. But, remember that the surrounding plating will be damaged by the high heat.  Any finishing: sanding or filing, will further remove the plating.

If the area of the metal being soldered is small enough and thin enough, you should be able to use butane – of course, a lot depends on the base metal being able to withstand the heat. But, for larger pieces, such as bowls or big chunky cuffs, you’ll need to use acetylene and air or propane and oxygen.  But, once again, say goodbye to the plating – not to mention the core metal itself.

Sometimes too, soldering plate with an unknown core metal can be dangerous as you don’t know what is in the core. Older pieces may be more dangerous due to the lack of health regulations, at the time the piece was created. There may be lead or cadmium present in the metal or the old solder used, which, when handled and/or heated pose a health threat.

If you choose hard soldering (soldering at high temperatures usually, propane, butane, acetylene, hydrogen and mixed with air or oxygen), use medium solder and cover the piece in Prip’s Flux.  Here’s a recipe from my site.  Also, see my soldering information.  See all the additional soldering links to videos and my web pages, at the top of the web page. Ventilate very well!

I have seen plate soldered using soft soldering – employing a soldering iron, flux, and solder, designed for soft soldering.   IF you need to solder the plate, this is the best method – especially with a pewter base. But, there is a great chance that you can melt the pewter or any lead solder seams. Soft soldering, although much cooler than hard soldering, can reach temperatures in the 800°F range – which is above pewter’s melting temperature.

To use a soldering iron, the plate needs to be sanded off, cleaned and the two bare areas are soldered.  This works for base metals and steel. But, since the solder, with soft soldering, is more like glue, than the molecular bond that we see with hard soldering, the joins will be nowhere near as strong and will be incapable of dealing with great stresses like those experienced by bracelets and rings.

   Another option is to use micro rivets, tabs,  screws or bolts.  Micro-Mark carries a variety of these connectors as does Metalliferous. Hobby stores will carry them.  These methods of connection, don’t involve heat and preserves your plating – although the plating can still chip.

    One last option:  If you do burn, melt or sand off your plating, you may be able to replate the bare areas with a pen plater or another type of plating system.

What Metal Has Similar Soldering Characteristics to Sterling Silver

Question

“Is there something I can use that has similar soldering characteristics to sterling silver? I have some things I want to try but I don’t want to waste that much sterling. The bracelet that I am thinking about making is pretty big and there is quite a bit of soldering I need to do on it. Could you suggest a cheaper metal that I could practice with?”

Answer

   Have you tried nickel silver as a practice metal? (The name is a misnomer as there is no silver in it). Nickel is an alloy of nickel (20% approx.), copper (60%approx.) and zinc (20% approx.) and is a common material for creating mockups and models for casting.

It is yellower than silver and is a very hard metal:  stiff to bend and tough to saw.  Also, some people have allergic reactions to nickel but, it is a great practice material and you are not going to be wearing it. 

I also use copper, brass, and bronze for model making, run-throughs and practice.  Each responds a little differently to heat:

  • copper puts off tons of oxides and needs to be well fluxed. Copper is the softest metal to work with and is one of my favorites for chasing and repoussé.
  • brass and bronze turn copper colored with heat but, that is quickly remedied with a dunk in a mixture of 75 – 50% pickle, 25 – 50% hydrogen peroxide (the stuff from the drugstore). Don’t leave the metal in too long or it will etch.

All the above metals work with silver solders and are great for practice.  Try each one and see what you think.  If you have a metal junkyard nearby, see if you can pick up some scrap copper, brass or bronze.  Might be unlikely that they’d have nickel silver though. You can also source your metal at one of the following suppliers:

P.S. – did you see the page(s) that you inspired me to write?  Jewelry Tools – Harbor Freight and Jewelry Tools at Micro-Mark.
Back to Table of Contents

Etching a design on brass, fill etch with electroless nickel

Question

“Etching a design on brass, fill etch with electroless nickel, have you done this?”

Answer

I don’t have experience with the electroless nickel plating process.  I HAVE created color differences by flooding an etched piece with solder and then sanding it down so that the brass and the filled pattern are visible.  But, that doesn’t sound like what you want. I had never heard of electroless nickel plating before (until your email) but, have just looked into it.  It appears, from the descriptions that I’ve read, to be more of an industrial practice.  Do you have experience with this process?  It appears (from Wikipedia and the forums/websites that I did my research at) that the chemicals don’t last long and are dangerous.  One post mentioned hydrochloric acid which scares me right off.

There are nickel plating kits available for small scale use.  One of these is Pepe Tool’s Digital Pen Plating System. Micro-Mark sells the Plug N’ Plate. Here are instructions on home plating from Instructables.  Finishing.com (a great site, filled with information on many subjects), has information on “How to Set up a Simple Home Electroplating System“.Wikipedia info on Electroless Nickel Plating. Watch out for those chemicals – they are pretty dangerous.  Get great, great fume ventilation.  Follow directions (sorry – must say these things) and all safety precautions. Please see my webpage on: Ventilation. How you proceed, will depend on what you want to do and how often you will be using it.

Back to Table of Contents

Basic shopping list (wire, sheet goods, etc.) for a startup jeweler

Question

“I am a newbie jeweler and have a healthy budget to buy materials, but I don’t want to purchase a lot of materials that I won’t use. I’m thinking of starting with silver and starting with rings. Any thoughts on a basic shopping list? (wire, what gauge, sheet goods…what for? etc…) I’ve also got a collection of jewelry that I have been hoarding for years until a time when I can make them out of gold….any thoughts or tips on working with gold filled material?”

Answer

Those are big questions that require a lot of space to cover.  But, I will give you the abbreviated version of my answer.  As far as metals go, practicing is usually done with brass, bronze and or copper because they are less expensive than silver.  Copper is also easier to work with yet, a bit more difficult to solder.  I generally buy all of my metals in 22 and 24 gauges with a piece or two in 20 gauge and a few at 26 and 30 gauge.  It all depends on what you are making.  (Fine) Silver ring shanks are best with 20 gauge (and up) as fine silver is very malleable and 22 or 24 g can get bent out of shape.  Sterling is stronger and more capable of handling stress.

Today, in 2021, there are several new sterling silver alloys available.  Each has its pros and cons – lke anything!

  • Argentium Silver is a relatively new sterling silver alloy that contains Germanium (a metal), that when heated, relases a coating over the plate, keeping oxidation at bay (you cannot see it!). I’ve worked with this silver and it is resistant to oxidation, still colors with liver of sulfer fairly well but, needs to be supported while soldering as heat makes it slump.  It is also known for “embrittlement” which makes it difficult to work with in casting and fabrication. But, it is firestain resistant!  It is recommended to only use Argentium solder.
  • Stuller has a new sterling alloy called Continuum that is also an anti-tarnishing silver.   Can be easily heat-hardened in a kiln.  Great for earring backs and other parts where hardness is imperative. “Continuum has a much higher as-cast hardness
    that allows setting of high quality stones in a sterling silver jewelry
    product. The improved as-cast hardness and a much tighter grain size
    allow a better finish that will last longer. It provides superior oxidizing
    and tarnish resistance than other high tech sterling silver alloys”
  • While Hoover & Strong carry a silver called:  TruSilver.  It is a tarnish resistant silver.  You can use any silver solder with TruSilver.  Because it is tarnish resistant, it will take longer to patina with (especially) liver of sulfer and will not get as dark, with the product, as regular sterling silver.  It does not suffer from embrittlement but, it is not firestain resistant.

Here is my page on metals  – arranged alphabetically by metal type – (which is in progress and therefore, not complete)!

Copper should be thicker as it is also very malleable.  So, go up a gauge with it.  Brass is very strong and you can get away with 22 or even 24 gauge.  Golds (not gold filled) can be thinner yet as gold (except for 24 gauge) is pretty tough stuff.  White gold is very strong.

So, if you are making earrings, you want the metal light:  22/24/26 gauge.  Bracelets 18/20/22, Rings (for bands) 22/20/18 etc.  Rings and bracelets receive the most stress, then necklaces, brooches and finally, earrings.  Ear wires are generally 20, 21 or 22 gauge.  I use 21 g.  Jump rings – unsoldered for bracelets (I believe) should be either 16 gauge (doubled – meaning, use two) or 14 gauge (single).  Anything smaller in gauge should be soldered shut.  Bracelets receive a lot of abuse:  people get them stuck on things, they fall off, they rub on tables, etc.  So, to protect your work, use large gauge wire or solder them closed.   Necklaces:  single 16g is fine.  Some use 18g but, I don’t like getting my work returned to close a jump ring so, I use 16g. What gauge of metal to buy and how much, depends on how many layers of metal in your design, how much negative space there is, the stresses placed on it, etc.

Basically – the requirements of the design will dictate how much metal to buy.  You can make patterns for your design and measure how much space you will need to create it.  Use grid paper and draw out a 6″ by 6″ square and place your pattern in the square.  Measure to determine how much to order.

Of course, take into account mistakes and making more jewelry down the road so, buy what you can afford, start out slow and add on as needed.

I keep three containers for of each type of silver:  One box is for large pieces of uncut and or relatively large, uniformly shaped pieces. Another box is usable scrap and the final is refinable scrap.  Keep the different types of silver separate (fine, sterling, argentium) (if possible) it makes it easier to sort for refining down the road.  I also save my copper and brass scrap.

   You don’t need a huge stockpile unless you live in the middle of the jungle, live outside the USA or deep in the woods.  With silver, you either buy by the inch or the ounce.  I usually purchase 12X6  sheets which fit into my 6″ PepeTools Guillotine Shear. 12X12 sheets are usually cheaper, because you’re buying more, but, if you have a 6″ shear, you have to cut it in half – which can be a pain in the A**!  I have to use my other shear – which then, immediately, makes one of my edges no longer square.  My other shear is difficult to cut a perfectly square line with.    Harbor Freight Throatless Shear

Fine silver is more expensive than sterling because it is all silver wherein the sterling is partially copper – less silver and cheaper.  Argentium is the priciest.

I always buy my metal: dead soft as that saves me having to anneal it.  It’ s really easy to work harden the metal – just work with it!

On gold filled material:  often, you’ll see the copper or silver filling on the edges – the thinner the gauge, the less visible it is.  So, design where the edges don’t show too much.  Buy the best you can afford.  Rio sells a good type – 14/20 and also has solder for it.  When soldering gold-filled be careful to not overheat it as the gold can melt into the metal beneath.   Double clad means that there is gold on both sides – the best for making rings.

Links that may be of assistance:

Here’s a link to my website page that has information on the different types of gold/plated/filled, etc.

Metal Studio Workshop on working with gold-filled

 This quote from Rio Grande Jewelry:

“How To Protect Your Gold-Filled Material”

Handling your gold-filled properly is essential to maintaining its good looks and its bright finish. Made with a substantial layer of gold bonded to a base metal core, gold-filled requires some special care to keep the gold layer intact and unmarred for your designs.

  1. If handled properly, gold-filled should require only buffing. If you cut it, be careful not to damage the gold layer, particularly on corners and edges.
  2. Gold-filled stock should be stored in a dry place. Tarnishing elements act very slowly in the absence of moisture.
  3. Use tissue paper between stock to protect it against scratches.
  4. Use a clean flannel cloth while working on gold-filled material.
  5. Maintaining the condition of your tools is important. Keep cutters sharp; bending tools should be smooth.
  6. Use a firescale retardant such as Stop-Ox II™ when soldering.
  7. Clean the metal thoroughly.

On wire:  purchase what you need:  if you are making earrings, get a few feet.   If you are wire wrapping, same deal.  You can always order more.  Rio has great two day shipping prices (not as cheap as ground but, I’m always in a hurry).  If you are always wire wrapping and know you will use it, buy an ounce or more.  Making jump rings – 1/2 an ounce should do for a ton of jump rings.  Tubing – hold off on until you have a design that requires it.  Are you making a tube setting or a hinge – then order to size.  Tubing can get pricey.  I have a coffee can full of tubing that I wonder if I’ll ever use.  A waste of money and space but, I wanted it all now when I first started. Back to Table of Contents

Working with Copper

Question

“I love working with copper but copper sheet is so expensive. I can get roofing copper from the recycle very cheap but it’s too thin for the men’s cuff bracelets. I’m told that it doesn’t melt down to be re-poured well. I have folded it to make twice as thick but that leaves the edges to open up over time even after being in a press.  Do you have any ideas on how to thicken this up?”

Answer

A warning:  Don’t try to refine copper especially if you are unsure of the original refining process. There could be cadmium in it which is toxic.  Not all copper is pure copper.  Ditto for brass and bronze. It is a pain in the butt too, to refine it!

To answer your question:

  • you could fold one end over the other and rivet it along the edge.

riveting-thin-copper-sheets-together

  • You can pattern it to work harden it
  • You could foldform it.  Foldforming
  • Rivet it to aluminum cuffs
  • Pierce it and rivet it to aluminum
  • You can also use corrugation to create thickness. I have a fun video on making corrugated metal.

v
Do you have a metal recycler nearby? I didn’t know if when you said “recycler”, you meant a metal recycler or not.  I get a 3 foot by 2 foot sheet of copper (22g) for 30.00 from mine – it lasts about a year. You can make a lot of different things with 22g copper. Which is about .03 cents a square inch.

Have you checked out Rio Grande’s prices or Metalliferous?  Rio Grande sells 2 sheets that are 6″ x 12″ (144 square inches) for $18.00.  Metalliferous sells 6″ x 6″ sheets (22g again) for $4.55.  These suppliers cost about .13 cents a square inch. You can make a bunch of stuff with a 6″ X 6″ sheet. The heavier gauges run a little more or you get less.

Rivet patterned or pierced copper to old leather belts to make cuffs.

Try Aluminum.  Online metals is another great place to purchase metal.  Here’s the link for 20 gauge Aluminum.

Also, below, is a cuff I made from 20 gauge aluminum.  The patterned cuff part is the aluminum and the fancy stuff is pre-made pieces from vintage jewelry supply – all riveted together – including the bezel.  The “Stone” is a piece of faceted glass.

aluminum-victorian-cuff Other metals to try are pewter and nickel.

More Copper Information

Replicating A Ring Of Mixed Metals

Question

“I have a question regarding making a bracelet or ring out of silver, sterling or PMC with a copper inlay. I am having a hard time doing it myself.
image (2)
This is similar to what I’m wanting.
Also, I use unique patinas on my rings but was wondering what to coat them with to prevent the patina from coming off.  Any ideas?”
Answer

What,  in particular,  are you having a hard time with?  Is it with soldering the copper to the silver?  The image you presented doesn’t appear to be inlay, it looks more like the metals were layered.  Here’s a video on metal inlay from Susan Rezac on YouTube.  Perhaps, though, a channel was cut in the copper and the brass (cut slightly wider than the groove and beveled on one edge) was hammered into the channel.  It’s hard to tell just from the photo.

It appears that the jeweler made three rings:  Silver, copper, and brass.  Each ring was probably soldered closed – individually.  Each ring is slightly larger than the one before it:  Silver is the smallest, then copper and then brass.  They are stacked on top of each other  – maybe soldered – maybe not. They could also have invisible rivets but, I doubt it.   Often, the silver is flared on a dapping punch to make the outer walls larger than the inner rings so – that they inner rings don’t slide off. This is similar to making a Spinner Ring.
Not sure what this maker did though.  The last step is:  the silver is hammered over the copper ring.  It is difficult to solder different metals together, like the ring pictured,  because of their different expansion rates.  It is possible though and is a lot easier when using small pieces.  I’ve attempted quite a few soldered/mixed-metal rings and I’ve found that the copper band really enjoys opening up. Annoying behavior! Of course, it could be metal clay and therefore, all of the above info is not applicable.
Hadar Jacobson has information on mixing metal clays.  Here’s the link to Hadar’s blog (Image found under March 22, 2015’s blog post). (Image from Hadar Jacobson’s Blog).
You can use a product like Everbrite by ProtectaClear to seal the metals.

How to Remove Copper Flashing

Question

I accidentally got a piece of steel in my pickle and plated all my sterling pieces.  My question is how do I get rid of the copper plating that now covers everything?
Your help will be greatly appreciated!
Answer
Just visit my web page on Removing Copper Flashing.  You will soon be very happy!

Question

My question was the copper deposit I get on brass when I solder and put in pickle. Have to sand it off, right??? It’s the oxygen that brings the copper deposit to the top of the brass. Yes?

Answer
No, you don’t have to sand it off.  The solution of hydrogen peroxide and pickle will remove it. The solution eats off the copper.  It works for both flashing and depletion plating.   Really.   Please see my recipe page.   I use it all of the time.
 The copper is not there due to oxidation – which would be a reaction with oxygen.  Oxidation is the brown gunk that forms after soldering.  After pickling, the oxidation is removed, leaving the copper color.  The copper rises to the surface because, as far as I am aware, the metals that the bronze or brass are alloyed with (Brass is alloyed with zinc which is a low melt metal.) burn off, leaving the base metal – copper.  When removing the copper with the peroxide/pickle solution, you are eating through the copper and revealing the alloyed metal beneath.  That is why it is not a good idea to leave the brass or bronze in the solution too long as it will etch the metal and leave a matte finish – although, I do this intentionally because I love the look!
Let the solution sit out, overnight, then pour back into the pickle.  The hydrogen peroxide dissipates and becomes inactive and the pickle is back to just being pickle.  Don’t use stainless steel containers – only glass or plastic.

Question

“I just got engaged!! and with all materials and supplies, it makes no sense for us to buy our bands, right?  Way more fun and special if I was to make it.  Now, I’ve never worked with gold before, our band would be a first.  My fiance and I were wanting somewhat of a statement ring, just a big band, like 2 gauge, but no one sells gold wire that thick.

Also, I don’t have a casting machine, so not really an option.

Is soldering gold much different than silver?
Do you think I could just buy the gold and melt it down, then hammer it into shape?  Or maybe I can solder two wires, that are not so thick, side by side?”

Answer

What the heck, go ahead and make your own. Hoover and Strong carry thick gold. Here’s the link to 1/2 round stock.  You didn’t state what shape you wanted.  So, here’s the link to their wire page.  If they can’t help you, I bet if you called them that they could steer you into the right direction.

 You can always sweat solder two piece of gold together to make it thicker.  You could also make wire wider by soldering a couple of pieces side by side – I’d flatten the two inner edges – give the solder more area to grab onto.

 Rio Grande sells 6 gauge 1/2 round gold wire.  Here’s theirrectangular stock. I wouldn’t bother with melting it down and making an ingot – that’s a lot of work but, can be done!  Here’s a video that I found on this subject.  Here’s a video on making wire.

Soldering gold is a bit different because gold isn’t as good of a heat conductor as silver so, the heat performs a bit differently. Can you obtain any scrap gold to practice on?
 Next,  you’ll need gold solder.  Use a solder that is the same karat as your gold or higher.  Don’t forget to specify the color!  There are quite a few colors of gold. But, be careful to not use a karat too much higher or the color will be different at the seam.  Also, the lower the karat, the quicker it melts but, a lower karat is not the best choice for a ring join!
As always, use the smallest amount of solder possible.
See my Annealing Temperatures Chart for common jewelry metals.  Fine Silver melts at  1761°F and 14k yellow gold at 1615°F.  White golds have higher melting points.
Solder in a darkened space because, with the lights on,  gold does not show that it is red until it’s about to melt!  Watch the solder!
Soldering gold requires the same constraints as silver:   You still need a good fit, clean metal, flux, solder, etc. You can dip the entire ring into flux before soldering to reduce the amount of oxidation but, if you are using pickle it doesn’t matter too much. You can also dip it into a mixture of boric acid and alcohol. See my Prip’s Flux recipe.
If using white gold, let it cool for a while because it can crack and get very brittle. Red, yellow and green golds can be quenched hot or air cooled a bit and then quenched.  Although, to avoid hardening with red gold, quench it while hot.
If soldering on settings, don’t forget to heat the ring, not the setting – maybe never or only briefly – depending on the size of the setting. Heat from below and around the setting.  Otherwise, you’ll melt your setting (it’s the same with silver).
 Lower karat golds can be pickled in a pickle that you would use for silver.  With 24k, which I don’t recommend for rings as it is way too soft, you don’t need pickle.
White gold, I have found, does not clean up in regular pickle, like Rio Pickle or Sparex.  I haven’t found a solution yet – that doesn’t include sulphuric acid. Oppi Untracht says the formula is 10% sulphuric acid to 1% potassium dichromate.  Sounds scary.
Get some practice in with scrap gold – if you can!  Good luck.

Where can I find Rose/Pink Gold and what solder to use?

Question

I really enjoyed the ‘3 Ways to Tube Set a Stone’ tutorial. I am
definitely a beginner but your video gave me some confidence to try
setting stones! As of yet, I’ve mostly just done copper electroformed
jewelry and I’m obsessed – addicted, even. 🙂

I would really like to try this technique with rose gold (of course I will
practice with sterling silver first!!) but I cannot find rose gold bezel
setting tube ANYWHERE. Is there a reason for this and do you happen to
have any insight to where I might find it? I was also wondering if you
have any recommendations for rose gold solder. I’ve read that it can be
difficult to match the color of the solder to the metal.

Answer

I’m assuming that you are in the USA? Supplier links are for the States.

Stuller has rose gold tubing but, you need a wholesale account. They also carry a cadmium-free (which is what you want!) rose gold solder.

Stuller has a video of soldering with rose gold solder. 

Rio Grande carries a rose gold-plated tubing.  Otto Frei has a solder they recommend for pink gold.   Precious Metals Westhas pink solder and other pink gold metals like sheet and wire.

I found a partial explanation for the lack of rose gold or pink gold solder here at Rio.  The article also explains what solder to use and how to use it.  I think you’ll be making tubing in your near future!
Another option is to purchase a plating pen and plate the silver.  PepeTools carries a pen plating system.  They also have a rose gold plating solution.  Be VERY CAREFUL when using these products – some contain cyanide.  Check the SDS or MSDS for your particular plating solution!!!
 These articles by Janet Alexander should be read.  Article:  How to Pen Plate and Article:  Beginning Pen Plating.
On making tubing (an important skill to posses!):  Ganoksin (A great site – if you haven’t been there before – has this really good article: “Making Your Own Tubing” by Charles Lewton-Brain (the King of jewelry making knowledge and skill!).  Another article by Hans Meevis called “Make Tubing How To:  Making Your Own Tubing Stock”.  I couldn’t find a video – guess I’ll have to make one now!  Guess what?  I did.  Jewelry Making Techniques:  Easy to Make Tubing.

Hope this helps!

Do you have any ideas about what to do with my metal scrap?

Question

I am in the habit of trying to be as economical as possible with my materials, so I was wondering if you can do anything with the little bits of metal that you cut off the prongs or other scrap?  Can those be melted down and rolled back into wire. Of course, I am eager to one day be good enough to work with gold… so that can get expensive… Thank you!

Answer

granulation You can make balls to attach to pieces by melting the scrap, in relatively equal piles, to have matched sets.  You can weigh the metal if you want to be exact. You could make small granules for granulation.  Here’s a link to my video, Creating Consistently Sized Spheres.

You can also make a faux type of reticulation or fuse it metal.  I have several videos on interesting techniques that employ scrap metal.  Check them out!

audrey-ring-sm  You can also use the balls to help keep a ring from rolling around on your finger.

 ball-earring-and-post  You can also add an earring post to the back of the melted balls and make earrings. You could solder the ball onto a ring shank. You could hammer the ball, texture it, etc.

You could also, save all your scrap (I save all my filing and sawing dust too) and send it to a place like Rio Grande Jewelry (when you’ve collected an ounce or so) and sell it to them. They will pay you or give you credit.

You can melt a pile of it and run the flattened, melted blob through the rolling mill to create new sheet metal.

Metalsmith.  graphite-ingot-mold (Graphite Ingot Mold).   wire-ingot-mold (Wire mold)  Or you could either carve a groove in charcoal or use a wire mold, make a wire ingot, and then draw the ingot through a draw plate or roll it through a rolling mill to make new wire. Here’s a video called:  Making Silver Wire by Hand Engraving on YouTube.

You can fuse the scrap to another piece of metal. This creates interesting textures. You could reticulate it too. See my video on an easy faux reticulation on silver, below.  Sugar and I, once again, had too much fun!

I have a video called: Fusing silver and reticulation on copper

water-cast-ring-with-green-crystal-aug-2016 (Water-cast ring).

Water Casting is another amazing way to use up your scrap silver. See what run Sugar and I had pouring moulton silver into water!  Water Casting and Crucible Prep.

I also found a way to make that scrap look intentional!  It was a enjoyable few days of experimentation which resulted in the following video:  Experiments with Silver:  Cracking Metal.

In the following video, I demonstrate several things to do with your scrap silver including fusing both scrap, granulation and filings.  So many cool things you can do instead of just refining!!!  Soldering and Fusing Silver.

As you can see, there are many things to do with your scrap. Get busy and make something amazing!!!

Solutions for Working with Gold Filled or Gold Plate

Question

“I was wondering if you had any opinions on attempting to prong-set or tube-set a ring in with gold filled/plated metal. Is that totally out of the question due to not having sufficient layers of plated gold on the butt ends of the prongs and on the face of the tube setting?”

Answer

You can make settings from gold-filled/plated material although, the filing required for shaping prongs and shaping the setting would remove some of the gold. I’ve heard of people melting gold solder over areas that become exposed (i.e.: the silver shows). I’d wait until you felt very comfortable making the settings before moving onto gold.

You can mix your golds.  Make a tube setting with prongs where the tubing is plated and the prongs are real gold. 14k is a very strong metal so, you can use a thinner gauge than you normally would. It’s all about experimenting and discovering what works for you.

Any wasted gold can be refined and you will at least get some of your money back.

You could also look into getting a pen plating system and plate the areas that are exposed. Pepe Tools (and other companies) make these systems. Here’s a link to one at Contenti.

There is also a paint-on-gold that is fired in the kiln at 850 degrees F. – cool enough to not melt solder. One brand is Aura 22. Don’t do this with the stone in place unless it’s a diamond, a CZ or other heat-safe stone.  Rio Grande has more information on Aura 22  (don’t forget to check out the “more information” tab.   I figured out a method for applying gold to brass and bronze (why would you?) but, also copper, steel and silver.  Simple to do and no fancy tools required.  Check out the video!  Torch-Fired Gold! An easy and inexpensive way to apply REAL gold to base metals and sterling!

Good luck!

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