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Advice on channel-set ring repair


#1

I have a man’s wedding ring, 10k, w/11 15-pt diamonds. It’s heavily
worn and all the diamonds are loose; in fact, one came out, which is
how it came to me.

No problem matching the diamond size, though I didn’t have any that
color. I managed to move some of them around (they were on the verge
of coming out anyway), so my pale one won’t call attention to itself
at the end of the channel.

Problem is that the diamonds were loose for so long before repair
was sought that there’s almost no gold left on the top of the
channel. The seats are nicely carved (!). I don’t have the hand
strength to move nearby metal, by any technique that I know.

I’m inclined to just use solder to restore gold above the diamonds,
then clean it up & polish. I’m charging enough that it’s worth my
time to do that if that’s my best option. Is there a better way
though?

I have tried using a goldsmith’s hammer and a copper punch, but I’m
not getting the gold to move.

thanks for the advice,
Kelley Dragon


#2

There are a couple of different methods I use, depending on how wide
the sides of the channel are. If it’s a fairly narrow strip of metal
and the channel is basically intact, you can file the top of the
channel flat, lay a piece of square wire or strip along the top of
the channel, solder it down, hammer it down a bit and then clean it
up.

If the metal is kind of wide and more or less flat or evenly
rounded, it’s much harder to do and make it look good using the
build-up-on-top method. The better way to do it in this case is to
lower the stones. There are a couple of different approaches to this
strategy. The first (and most time consuming) is to unset the stones,
widen the channel, re-line the channel with strip or wire, file it to
the correct width, polish inside and then reset the stones just like
in a new ring. Another method you can use is to fill the old seats
with solder and set the stones lower. That’s kind of cheating though,
and not a real professional approach for several reasons, but it
works in a pinch. Lasering in new metal is a much better way to do
that and works just fine with yellow gold, not so well with white.
Any porosity in the filled seats can give you fits later on when you
try to finish it.

Setting the stones lower is about the only way to get metal over the
stones if the ring is fairly wide. Keep in mind that if you set the
stones deeper, you have to allow a little more room between the
stones. This is because they move closer together as they get closer
to the bottom of the channel if you were to just drop them straight
down from their original positions. Meaning you will probably have to
lengthen the channel a bit. Make sure the culets won’t be poking out
of the bottom of the ring too. Of course with both build-up methods,
a clean, tight fit of the wire or strip is critical to a nice
finished piece.

If neither of these methods is possible, you may have to replace the
ring.

If you have to cut new seats, cut a seat for each stone, not a
groove. Fit each stone individually, and cut the seats slowly. Cut
and fit, cut and fit, cut and fit until the stone just barely clears,
paying attention to the shape of the seat and pavilion of the stone
and the thickness of the girdle. The better the match of seat and
stone, the better the stone will fit and the easier it is to keep
them level and in the right place. You might find it helpful to use a
divider to mark a line inside the channel where you want the girdles
to end up. For a straight channel with same-sized stones, I start at
the middle of the channel usually by marking the middle of the
channel to place the center stone. When that seat is cut and the
stone is in it (I keep it in place with a little beeswax), I lay the
next stone on the channel and make a mark at it’s center on both
sides of the outside of the channel, allowing enough room for
girdle-to-girdle clearance, cut the seat using the divider line and
marks on the channel to center it and hold that stone in with
beeswax. So on and so on, alternating side to side of the center
stone until I reach the ends of the channel. This is the most
critical and important step in the entire process as this is where
you establish spacing and level of each stone. Take your time here.
It will make the rest of the job a breeze if you do it right. It will
make it a nightmare if you don’t.

Check each stone as you cut the seat for crown height, you want to
have the tables to end up being even with the top of the channel, or
even a little deeper before hammering them in. The smaller the stones
are, the deeper, percentage-wise you want the seat. Ideally, 15
pointers should be about even or just slightly below flush. That will
give you enough metal to hammer and clean up the edge of the channel.
It’s much easier to clean up the channel with more metal than with
less. You may find that some seats will have to be a lot deeper in
the channel than others for the tables to all end up the same height
if the stones aren’t well cut or matched.

You said something about using a copper punch. Try a punch made from
an old bur or a small masonry nail, flattened (but slightly rounded)
on the end with slightly radiused edges, and polished. The shape
should resemble a very slightly used pencil eraser. Put the ring on a
mandrel, put the mandrel in the hole on the front of your bench, and
with the punch just barely touching the metal over the stones, gently
tap the punch with a chasing hammer. Watch the tip of the punch
where it touches the ring, not the hammer or the end of the punch
you’re hitting. Walk the punch along the channel, and go back over it
several times, changing sides of the channel with every reversal of
direction. The idea is to push the metal over the girdles of the
stones gently and evenly, and then straight down. If you took your
time and cut the seats well, the tables of the stones will all be
level and straight. Look at it with light reflected off of the
tables as you roll the ring. You’ll see any variations quite easily.
Do this often during the hammering process and you can correct any
deviations before the stones are locked down, by hammering a little
more on the high side. If you have to, use your copper punch and
chasing hammer to lightly tap on the high side of the stone to push
it down (don’t do this with anything but diamonds though, and be
careful! This is risky business). If it won’t go down with a little
gentle persuasion, you may have to pull it out and re-cut the seat.
It’s almost impossible to correct them after they’re hammered down
tight.

This is also the time to keep an eye on spacing. When you check the
"table rolling", use your loupe to check spacing. If two stones are
touching, you are almost guaranteed to break one or both if you keep
on hammering. You want the stones to be almost touching, but not
quite. I try to keep the girdles about half the thickness of a piece
of paper apart. If you need to, use an onglette graver to push the
stones to where you want them. Hammer a little more and check spacing
and level again. If they persist in being too close or too far apart,
or won’t stay level when spaced correctly, you may have to recut the
seats. Again, be careful, it’s really easy to chip a girdle with an
onglette, and don’t nick the channel below the girdle. It’ll be there
forever and it’ll show.

If you hold the punch exactly perpendicular to the metal, it won’t
make much of a mark (or move much metal), but if you hold it at a
slight angle, it will make little smiley faced divots, that will
eventually create a shallow groove-like depression parallel to the
channel as you push metal over the stones. Not a problem if you cut
the seats deeply enough in the channel and have plenty of metal, big
problem if you didn’t. Whatever marks you make you will have to
remove or fill later. The flatter the punch the more easily it will
make the half-round divots, but the more easily it will move the
metal in the direction you want to move it.

You may find that to move the metal you have to really whack it,
especially old 10K gold, but start gently and increase the force
slowly and only as much as needed. It’s better to tap it gently a lot
of times than to whack it hard a few times. It’s also easier to see
what you’re doing if you hammer towards you slightly, so turn the
ring around on the mandrel when you change sides. It also works
better to hammer towards the wider end of the mandrel, causing the
ring to almost lock down on the mandrel. It’s a lot more difficult to
channel set going downhill, if you take my meaning.

After all the hammering is done, the tables “roll” perfectly in
reflected light and everything stays tight after a good ultrasonic
and steaming, clean up and polish the inside edge of the channel
before cleaning up the hammer marks on the outside of the ring. I use
a highly polished #40 flat graver and a 000 onglette to clean up the
channel, almost like bright cutting. A quick polish with a mounted
brush and rouge after the graver makes it sparkle. Finish the outside
as normal, but be careful not to round the edge of the channel too
much. Polishing towards the stones from each side (not across the
channel or along it’s length) will help keep the edges crisp.

Good Luck!

Dave Phelps
www.precisionplatinumjewelry.com


#3
I'm inclined to just use solder to restore gold above the
diamonds, then clean it up & polish. I'm charging enough that it's
worth my time to do that if that's my best option. Is there a
better way though? 

If you just build it up with solder, which you can do, of course, the
repair won’t look as good or last as long as it should. This is the
same as retipping a worn prong. They too, can be just built up with
solder. But a better job is done by using solder to add a new piece
of gold. Roll a piece of wire to the right width for the channel, and
sufficient thickness so the end result will be like a newly set
channel. Solder that over the old worn channel, with the diamonds in
place. Be sure everything is surgically clean first, and use plenty
for boric acid fire coat, to protect the diamonds. Because of the
wider area being heated than with a prong retip, you should probably
be more conservative with the choice of solder. Some people can do
this with hard solder, but if you’re not used to it, the risk of
burning diamonds increases. So choose a solder grade you know you can
handle. The piece itself will also dictate some of this, what with
prior solder on the piece (if any). Depending on the shape of the
channel, sometimes you’d just “tin” the strip with solder, and sweat
it down onto the channel. Othertimes, with curved or complex shapes,
it may be easier to tack solder the end of the strip down, then shape
a bit and tack again, till it fits, then add solder as needed from
the outside till you’ve fully soldered the piece. The latter method
tends to use more solder, however, and if you’re not careful, it can
get a little less neat looking, such as solder pits, etc, because
doing this sometimes it’s hard to get a perfect fit all the way down
the strip.

After your new channel edge is soldered in place and cleaned up a
bit, you can check to be sure all stones are now tight. Usually they
will be, but if you need to tighten any that are still a bit loose,
now you’ve got the metal to do it with. Be gentle though, since
solder tends to flow into the original seats, around and under the
girdles, etc, and the diamonds may be fitting differently and tighter
or less well than they would with newly cut seats, so you have to be
more cautious to be sure you don’t chip anything. This is one reason
to be careful to try and not use more solder than needed in the first
place.

The other method, of course, that also rebuilds channels very well
is to use a laser welder. With white golds or platinum, especially,
which weld at low enough power settings that damage to diamonds from
the laser is easy to avoid, such repairs can restore the channel to
literally like new, or better than new, since there is no solder
involved, just good solid metal. Visually, this may not be different
from a well done job with solder and a torch, but not having solder
holding down the new channel edge means future jewelers won’t find
themselves “surprised” if they need to again solder on the piece. And
laser welded metal tends to be a bit harder than fully annealed
soldered metal, so it might last somewhat longer too.

Hope that helps
Peter Rowe


#4
I'm inclined to just use solder to restore gold above the
diamonds, then clean it up & polish. 

Solder alone will not do it. The solder will flow AWAY from the rail
and make a disgusting mess. What will work is this…

select a flatwire thick enough to cover from the stone to the outer
edge of the rail and wide enough to account for curvature of the
channel around the ring. Use a fresh piece of flatwire and position
it precisely and maybe you won’t have much cleanup to do. Trim to get
a nice tight fit. You will solder this ‘new’ rail on top of the old
rail. While you might think the flatwire would act as a heatsink, it
actually will allow you to bring the heat in mostly from the top,
reducing the possibility of frosting a stone. Needless to say but I
should anyway, the flatwire will be fitted edge on.

Now you’ve got something you can hold onto while setting up for
solder. After you solder the first new rail, trim it reasonably close
to the stones. Trim the second afterwards. Cutting both at once could
be problematic.

Alternately you could use a bezel strip wide side down, or a shaped
square wire but I think you’ll get a better fit the first way,
springiness of strip and all. The flatwire will be more wasteful for
sure but if the result is a better job its worth it imho.


#5

Kelley, my advice is to take the ring over to the store that fixed
up the sapphire ring that you sneezed the stone away from, before you
have to replace the entire ring. It is not a trivial task to repair a
ring like this well, and the more things you ‘try’, the more it will
cost to fix in the end. Unfortunately, the ring was probably poorly
constructed from the get-go, as most 1.65 carat total weight 10K
rings are, so you have little to work with, and lots to lose (in
time, effort, and $$$) The stones were probably set into the wax
model, then cast with a super-hard 10k alloy, so no amount of
pressure will give a good fit.

Lee


#6
I'm inclined to just use solder to restore gold above the diamonds,
then clean it up & polish. 

Close, but no cigar, Kelley. What you need to do is called
"strapping", a common repair. You can’t just use solder because it’s
messy all around. Make little strips of gold that fit on top of the
channels, and solder those down. When you file them and finish them
it will look like a new ring. You can do it over “jiggly” diamonds,
but if they are truly loose then you need to tighten them a bit -
solder them in or use a beading tool or about anything that works. It
doesn’t have to be pretty because you’re putting a new surface over
it…

Line up the inner edge, over the diamonds, as best as you can as that
will be the finished edge, in the end. The other edge should hang
over the si de so you have a shelf to catch solder. I.E. don’t make
it exactly to width - make it wider, solder, and file it down…


#7

Kelly,

If you can’t move the metal then the soldering is the next best in
my opinion. Without seeing the piece its hard to help but I have done
this many times. Sometimes if the insides of the grovve are really
worn, I use a graver and before I add the solder I put a tiny bur
over the stone… this must be TINY!.. Then I cover that when I
solder. I just did 12 that way a week ago.

Hope this helps. Dan


http://www.dearmondtool.com


#8

make them a new ring ! it may be easier you may both be better off

goo


#9

This sounds like a GREAT opportunity to sell a new custom mounting
with his diamonds.

I’d charge a bunch of money to do this repair. I’d have to make or
buy 10 kt gold,roll out the wire straps, solder straps, and finally
finish the ring so the solder seams are perfect.

On a repair like this I only offer my special "Tail Light"
guarantee. The work is guaranteed until I can no longer see your tail
light as you drive away.

Explain the complications of the repair and then show your customer
how with just a little more money he can have a new ring.

Have fun and make, not repair, a whole lot of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com


#10
If you have to cut new seats, cut a seat for each stone, not a
groove. 

Well, for a 10kt ring I’d just strap it or scrap it, but anybody who
wants to understand channel setting should print David’s most
excellent essay and post it prominently. I’ve seen quite a few
setting tutorials that say to cut a groove. That ~can~ work for
baguettes, but even then it’s usually funky. It’s the cheap,
down-and-dirty way to set, and it has a great many problems - there’s
no side-to-side “lock”, for instance. It’s a lot more work and a lot
more difficult to seat each stone individually, but it’s the right
way to set a channel. Nobody said it was easy…


#11
This sounds like a GREAT opportunity to sell a new custom mounting
with his diamonds. 

That’s a fact, it might be a great opportunity, but I would never
recommend or even mention scrapping it out and replacing it until I
know the whole story and have an idea of the emotional connection
the customer has with that piece. A specific piece of jewelry - even
a cheap one - can be the single most important physical possession a
person ever owns in their entire life, and it is impossible to judge
that based on value (or lack thereof) alone. The mere fact that it
is heavily worn should be an indicator that you are dealing with
something potentially very special to this person. The fact that
they took the trouble to bring it to you for repair means they are
consciously giving you the opportunity to earn their trust. I learned
this very valuable lesson many years ago.

A lady came in with a cheap - and I mean cheap - box chain that had
broken. I looked at it and told her that repairing it would cost more
than it’s worth. She should just get a new one. I started to show her
new chains, thinking I had a great opportunity to sell her something
of much higher quality. Her eyes started welling up and I could tell
immediately I had crossed some kind of a line and asked her to tell
me about the chain.

“My 10 year-old son gave this to me with a little heart pendant for
Mother’s Day. He saved his allowance for a couple of months. He was
killed by a drunk driver last month, and this is the only thing he
ever gave me that he really sacrificed for. I don’t care if it costs
more to fix it than it’s worth, it’s just special to me.”

I took it in the back and soldered it together right then, and gave
it back to her, telling her to be very, very careful with it, it was
as fragile as it was special. She then asked to see the chains we had
and bought a new one to wear the pendant on so she could keep the
little one in the box her son had given it to her in. I got the
repair and the sale and most importantly, her trust, although I had
almost blown all three by prejudging her motivations.

Since then, my approach to repair work is to first ask the customer
to tell me the story of the piece, then make sure they know what is
wrong with it (I use a video linked microscope). I then present the
different options for repair or replacement based on their
sentimental attachment to it. I make no recommendations unless I’m
asked, I only offer all of the options, discuss the pros and cons of
each option and then give prices. It is then their choice as to what
they want to do. If Kelley’s customer got the ring at a yard sale for
$200, he will probably opt to scrap it and start over. If it belonged
to his Army buddy that was killed in Vietnam, the options of
repairing vs. restoring become the issue, and the options of
replacement or scrapping it are most likely completely out of the
question.

Every piece of jewelry has a story. A customer will want to know
that we understand and appreciate the sentimental value as well as
its intrinsic value, and that we will respect their property as much
as they do before they trust us with something so important in their
life. Even if it is only a lightweight 10K ring set with lumpy top
light browns, or a 3/4mm 10K box chain from Wal-Mart.

This is why jewelry repair is almost entirely trust sensitive while
virtually every other aspect of our trade is at least to some
extent, dominated by price.

I used such a long explanation of the various repair and restoration
scenarios for Kelley, just as I would for a customer, with no
recommendation as to which option was best, purposely, because I
don’t know which is best for her customer. I explained the entire
channel setting process I use so she could possibly learn a bit more
about one method of doing it, but at the same time to demonstrate
just how time consuming this job might end up being. She can explain
to her customer the options and price it accordingly, and let him
decide whether a new ring might be the way to go, or if he wants a
quick fix just to get by until he can afford a new ring, or whether
it is worth it to him to spend pretty much the same or maybe even
more on restoring the old one. Or even if he would rather scrap the
whole thing for cash. It’s his ring, it’s his choice, or should be.

Stomp, stomp, stomp, El Tee! (That’s a little inside Army Aviator
lingo, Kelley knows what I mean)

Dave Phelps


#12
Without seeing the piece its hard to help 

It should be realized by people who are seeking advice, that terms
like “channel set ring” are way too general. There are could be
literary thousands of solutions, or may be the only one, so post
pictures please.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#13

My additional third and fourth cents worth…

Kelley has a strategic business consideration here also, beyond the
technical. She is recently setup in biz and needs to develop
favorable word-of-mouth for excellent repair, she needs to stand out.
So while selling a new mounting might be the easy way out, it doesn’t
take into consideration that many, many times the customer’s
imperative is to ‘save THIS ring’ for sentimental reasons. I can tell
you all from personal experience sometimes they will spend like mad
to keep their sentimental attachment. If this guy has shopped around
and heard mostly, “We can order you a new ring” and then winds up at
Kelley’s because he hasn’t heard what he wants elsewhere, Kelley has
no competitive advantage if she chimes in with the same line, “I can
order it for you”.

My number one Rule of Retail…Serve your customers’ best interest.
But you need to know what that is. So the time to address options is
when it first comes in over the counter. At this point I think its
too late to go back to the client and say, “I can’t save this ring”,
Kelley is already committed to the repair. CAN’T? Never say can’t to
a client after the fact. Can’t is for weenies. Can’t erodes your
image.

Back to the technical. I myself would use hard solder (well, I’d
really use the laser but that doesn’t help Kelley). I get much better
flow control than with medium or easy. You need the solder to flow
where YOU want it to. Plus if you have to go back in to add more
solder you have a cushion. The risk is a bit higher of course for
cooking a stone so boil it in lye first. Firecoat.

Oh, and don’t use 10K solder, 14K will likely not show but works
much better.

MHO


#14
don't use 10K solder, 14K will likely not show but works much
better. 

Don’t use 10kt at all - do the entire job in 14kt and save yourself
much grief. 10kt gold is brass, and I could go on and on about it’s
many and various problems, but I won’t. You can put 14kt on a 10kt
ring without legal issues (stamping and such), it’s if you put 10kt
on a 14kt ring that it’s a problem, technically at least. The stamp
says it is AT LEAST what is stamped…

David and Neil both waxed poetic about the sentimental attachments of
jewelry, and I could do the same. A guy ordered his family crest on a
signet, and between that time and delivery his father died, leaving
him the soleheir. He cried when I gave it to him - took me to an
expensivve lunch, too.

The best part about the bridal businesss is that you are making an
heirloomfor intrinsically happy people - very fullfilling, that. Next
week is asizing of grandma’s ring as the mate to a newly made
engagement. It just goes on and on. Some jewelry is just jewelry,
some is very much more that that.