Is this a silly idea? Silver solder is as low as 1% Ag and gold
solder as low as 10% Au. I have never worked with either. But my
guess is that low Ag and Au content solder would be very soft and
easily worked. Could it be pressed into pockets in a jade carving for
Is this a silly idea? Silver solder is as low as 1% Ag and gold
Is this a silly idea? Silver solder is as low as 1% Ag and gold solder as low as 10% Au. I have never worked with either. But my guess is that low Ag and Au content solder would be very soft and easily worked. Could it be pressed into pockets in a jade carving for astistic effect?
It’s not a silly design notion, but you can’t use solders for that.
Silver and gold solders are brittle rather than soft. Pure gold is
the most malleable of metals and pure silver is also very malleable.
So you should think about using high karat gold, ~22K, or fine silver
to be inlaid into jade.
The masters of this technique were the mogul jewelers of North
India. Here’s a dagger with a nephrite hilt, inlaid with gold and
Here’s another: a beautiful Mughal period covered jar, carved in
nephrite and inlaid with gold and stones.
I love looking at Indian inlay at New York’s Metropolitan! My sister
lives in upstate NY, and her daughter lives in Manhattan, so when we
go to visit, we almost always spend a day or two at the museums. The
work on the rifles can easily cost me an hr or so, even with all
those other rooms to walk through. I live outside of a very small
town down a gravel road, and could never give that up, but the
inspiration I come home with keeps me going for weeks. Thomas III
Beautiful picture. I was suprised by your earlier comment that gold
and silver solder are too brittle for inlay. Can you or anyone else
explain? All I know from experience is that household solder is very
soft, especially when heated with an iron.
I was suprised by your earlier comment that gold and silver solder are too brittle for inlay. Can you or anyone else explain? All I know from experience is that household solder is very soft, especially when heated with an iron.
Different beasts; different natures.
Thank you for the helpful reply. Yes, the Zn would make Au and Ag
solder more brittle. But I will also ask if soft solder (more Pb)
could be mixed for inlay to keep costs down.
Let me explain why I ask. It has to do with a design concept. The
thumb-sized “green bear” at $10 on sale is a tourist keepsake for
Polar Jade. I am guessing it is only break-even for them with mass
production in Asia and they make the profits on higher priced
carvings up to the tens of thousands.
What we have here is a huge supply of nephrite but low grade (so far
- deeper and closer to the faults I expect better results). Giacomo
has some in Italy so he knows what I mean. This nephrite varies quite
a bit in colour and also has some interesting patterns (wavy lines
and sploches which lend themselves to more baroque art work)
So how about a competition to carve an amulet or necklace sized
salmon about the sixe of the Green Bear and jazz it up a bit with
some baroque inlays of gold and silver?
The salmon is associated with all First Nations in BC as a staple
food for thousands of years. I collect First Nations drawings and
carvings of salmon. They are always abstract or impressionistic as
the art terminology might say so the baroque inlays would work out
household solder is made of lead, tin and bismuth (generally, thouth
there are lead free solders that are mostly tin). lead, as you know
is a very soft and ductile metal. When you alloy metals you normally
get a mixture of phases to the alloy, some are the elements you start
off with, such as pure silver and copper crystals in a silver solder,
then there are crystals of other phases or combinations of the
elements present and finally you often get a eutectic, which is a
ground mass of the residual and this being less ordered than the
crystals is less ductile than them. Often, elements such as silicon
is added to form small but hard crystal phases and these have a
different property to the metallic phases and are not ductile at all.
That is where much of the strength of the alloy comes from.
If you add too much bismuth to your lead solder it creates more
brittle phases and although it will still be softer than most other
metals it is less ductile than lead or normal lead solder.
Silver solder for jewellery making is about 70% silver and the
remainder is usually fine brass so copper and zinc. They used to use
cadmium to lower the melting point but no longer. Gold solder is
normally the same percentage gold as the caratage of the metal you
are working with up to 18k but different metals are added instead of
the silver and copper that are the most common metals in gold alloys.
Quoting peter :
Thank you for the helpful reply. Yes, the Zn would make Au and Ag solder more brittle. But I will also ask if soft solder (more Pb) could be mixed for inlay to keep costs down.
you are not allowed to put lead into jewellery
Thank you for all the detail on soldering for jewelry use Nick.
Perhaps I can explain a little more on how this is useful
to me. I have here a fish carved in ceramic clay. It is about 3 x 1 x
What I want is for that to be carved in nephrite so that it can be
our counterpart (when mass produced) of the $10 Polar Jade green
I want it inlaid with spots, splotches, lines or ? to brighten up
the more subdued colours and patterns of the nephrite. The overall
shape should be the elongated body of the trout-salmon family of
fishes but otherwise as abstract or impressionistic as the artist
wants. But the inlay could be metallic or non-metallic.
By analogy, I just finished my first complete hearth, floor to
ceiling and inlaid with about 300 lbs of my best nature-tumbled river
stones from Fraser and Chilliwack rivers. That’s 300 out of 10-15x
that already selected so the colours and patterns are excellent…
but subdued. I wanted brightness. So I mounted glass buttons about 1
inch in diameter between stones (cabochon shape I guess you would
say). The shiny reds and greens and clear and blue glass works well.
Now we could put the nephrite fish out to the 13,000 on Orchid for a
competition with corresponding payout to the winners. How would you
suggest we proceed? For example, is it better to start with a ceramic
model and then have it done in nephrite?
Perhaps the inlays could even be varied - gold or platinum would be
I, and many others I assume, have no idea of what this $10 green
bear is you speak of. My guess is that is the Northwest analogue of
the pot metal miniature Statues of Liberty sold in NY or Eiffel
Towers sold in Paris. From that, I had thought you must live in
Alaska, but I see from your mention of the Fraser and Chilliwack that
you are from Vancouver or thereabouts.
If you are thinking of initiating a design competition I suggest
doing it through the auspices of a local University with a design
program. There’ll be more interest among local designers for such a
project than from a globally scattered group.
Also keep in mind that most jewelers and designers are not
lapidaries. They will have neither the skills nor equipment to carve
nephrite, nor the experience to know how much labor is involved. And
most lapidaries are not jewelers or designers, thus don’t subscribe
to the same lists or read the same blogs as jewelers.
Then there’s the problem of incentive. How will my labor as a
designer be recompensed? You mention payout. What is the amount of
the prize? Or do you have a factory in mind with the winning designer
receiving a royalty on each fish produced? Or if the prize is not a
great amount will this competition garner enough national or
international attention that it would be a worthwhile use of my time
to compete for the advertising exposure?
I’d start by considering these questions.