Pearls and Metal


This has kept me up part of the night. I was looking at a very
simple piece of jewelry in a store yesterday. Part of the design
had pearls on gold wire. The wire was soldered onto another
piece and at the tip of the wire the gold was balled to keep the
pearl on. How did this person solder the wire onto another
component, put the pearl on the wire and then ball the end of the
gold wire without trashing the pearl from the heat? I have
glued metal into pearls when I wanted a similar effect but I
never tried to heat up an end of wire with a pearl on it. I know
this may sound really naive, but how did they do it?

I am signing this baffled in the East village…

(AKA DeDe)

Hi Baffled, I used to make up pieces with balls on pearls. I
used a small electric soldering machine to ball up the gold. It
melted the metal so quickly, there wasn’t time to hurt the pearl. Have fun.
Tom Arnold

DeDe, They probably had the pearl in a glass of water when they
balled the wire or else they might have used a product called
Heat Shield. It comes in a paste form and is just what it says. I
use it in repair work to cover heat sensative stones when
retipping settings in the same mounting (not ones with stones in
them). works great been using it for years. Frank

DeDe, One question, was there any play, space between the top of
the pearl and where the wire was soldered to the piece? If there
was a little play there so that the pearl could be held away from
the end of the wire to be balled up, maybe 1/4", it could have
been accomplished with the “Little Torch”. I have been using one
for years and with a #3 tip properly adjusted one can have a
pretty intense heat focused on a very small point, i.e., the end
of a wire. I have done this with no damage to the pearl. I hope
that this helps you. Joel

Hi Dede,

I experimented a bit and came up with a method that might be
crude, but it works more often than not. I use paper mache made
from toilet tissue, I wrap the pearls in wet paper, leaving a
short segment of wire exposed, it helps to submerge as much of
the piece including the pearl ( or any other stone or element you
want to protect from the heat) in water. I use an old tuna can
full of soaking wet tissue, because it’s shallow enough to access
the piece, yet retains enough water needed to keep things cool
during the soldering or bead making operation. It can be
remoisten and molded to support the piece in place. It gets
better with age, turns into a carbony paper mache like material.
I trim my flame to the hottest smallest size that will adequately
do the job, and hit the wire head on. If it’s been cut to the
right size it will bead up to the size that you want, without
burning the pearl. Anytime I can use a household item rather than
order something from a supplier, it adds to my sense of
accomplishment.I find commercial products such as that
non-asbestos paste messy and hard to wash off , and wet sand or
garnet gravel seems to get all over everything. Although, it
might be said that they may have better heat deterring properties
than ordinary wet paper, paper works fine for me.

DeDe, He might have used a laser welder, great new expensive
tool. A hydro torch may be enough to get in quick and out of
there again.

Good luck,
Etienne Perret

Dear DeDe:

Nice trick eh? If I understand you, they soldered the wire to
the piece, threded the pearl on. I suspect they used a heat sink
between the pearl and the tip of the wire and perhaps a
protecting jell or wet sand to pack the pearl. They then balled
the end of the wire and simply slid the pearl down to the end
and cemented it. That’s my guess anyway.

DeDe, without seeing the piece you saw, but from your
description of it, it sounds like the gold wire was balled at one
end with a torch or other heat source first, then the pearls
strung on it…then, was attached by using an electric
soldering machine. A clean and easy soldering joint, fast too.

The machine is available from Rio Grande located in Albuquerque,

I have no affiliation with them other than purchasing from them
quite often.

Hope this might solve your mystery.

de de -do rest of solder on body of piece & leave pearl & wire
part until last. the gold wire was separate from the rest when
it was done: unroll length of wire & flux end. then heat with
torch in up & down motion. ball will form quickly. cool, cut
wire slightly longer than needed & slide on pearl. decide where
you want the wire & pearl & drill hole in body of piece just
barely big enough for wire to go through. position pearl &
balled wire on front. TRICKY PART: cut off about 6" from a roll
of ‘plumber’s tape’ - a silver insulating material - & fold
sticky to sticky so you have 2 silver sides. clip to a center
point on tape square (this isn’t brain surgery so eyeball it).
next slip the tape under the pearl so that the wire is in that
slit in tape. (or you can use the messy ‘heat shield’ material
on front.) on back flux where wire comes out. use lower temp
solder for gold-filled work - use ‘dot-dot’ motion with torch so
it doesn’t get too hot on body of piece. it will take only a few
seconds to solder wire to body. clip wire & sand smooth. this
may not be the ‘book way’, but i have had to teach myself
everything in a crash course of ‘pragmatic jewelry making’ -
good luck - ive

Hi Baffled, I used to make up pieces with balls on pearls. I
used a small electric soldering machine to ball up the gold. It
melted the metal so quickly, there wasn't time to hurt the pearl.
I've spoiled a few pearls on trying to make a ball as last part

of the finishing of a piece. Tom, you say you use an electric
soldering machine for the purpose. What type is it? And how does
it function? The only electric solering machines that I know of
would hardly be able to ball a gold or silver wire, no mater how
thin. Does your method work with both gold and silver? Looking
forward to your explanation.

Kind regards
Niels Loevschal
from rainy, hot, summery Denmark 
(hot and humid as in the tropics)