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Repair of pot metal jewelry


#1

I would appreciate any on repairing old, pot metal
jewelry. What is pot metal? Techniques or books on ‘how to’.

Thanks,
Joyce


#2

“Pot metal” is a near random mix of metals (mostly white metals),
such as aluminium, zinc, tin, copper (sometimes), magnesium etc. And
it is called pot metal because the way it was made was that what ever
they had was chucked in the pot and used. The alloy is just a random
mix and will vary item to item…

It can be soldered (use aluminium solders and fluoride fluxes),
sometimes it will take to brazing, but this is quite rare as the
melting temp of a typical pot metal is usually quite low (say between
450’C and 660’C). Other than that you might be able to laser weld it,
but I don’t know what you’d use for filler wire.

Good luck.
Thomas.


#3
I would appreciate any on repairing old, pot metal
jewelry. What is pot metal? Techniques or books on 'how to'. 

It’s just cheap white metal.

I think people who do repair it use soldering irons and low temp
solder.

I don’t think there are any books.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


#4

since the big orchid list expert says" there are no books on the
subject of repairing pot metal" i will offer the benefit of my
Experience on how to do it. first of all when considering a repair to
a piece of "pot metal " you need to keep your expectations low and be
prepared to think your way out of a paper bag. #1 rule is its a labor
of love and if you are planning to heat the piece expect to spend an
enormous amount of time. here is the key to repairing die cast zinc
stuff " is it plated ? " if the piece has a good quality plate
usually you can apply paste flux for pluming work, if the pieces dont
fit together nice and tight make some filings of the solder and mix
them with the paste. what you want is 50/50 lead & tin or better yet
pure lead > health hazard ? you betcha ! but remember ? its all about
the love ?? ok so the little love thing is now clean, fluxed,pressed
together with all the burnable stuf removed. apply heat carefully
dont burn the flux what you are trying to do is flow the original
metal at the break, the plating will hold every thing in shape for a
VERY short amount of time you will see some of the white metal escape
the seam in little bead like spurts you can keep a spray bottle handy
with water for quick cool down. so now for the disclaimer although
ive done this many times, try this at your own risk if someone on the
list thinks what ive said is unsafe you are correct lead fumes and
what ever else are unsafe and so is daily life. look here, they
wanted a way to fix pot metal, i told them how along with the
warnings ! the choice is up to them to think of how to do things in a
health and saftey concious manner.

best regards goo


#5

Early in my career I worked for a company that made costume jewelry.
The alloys used were composed primarily of tin with lead and
antimony, and perhaps some other metals in very small amounts. I
would have to say that I can’t recall anything being designed with
repair in mind. EVER. But then again some of the rings were going out
the door at $3 a dozen.

A soldering iron is appropriate. The time and expense of ramping up
may not be cost efficient, however. You can’t laser weld, sparkie,
torch solder or Puc weld this stuff, for the most part. The stones
are glass, foil backed, and glued in. The metal sags, and then melts,
often right out from under the plating. You are guaranteed to wake up
in the middle of the night in a cold sweat over destroying grandma’s
worthless trinket. Probably she will want the repair for far less
than the piece originally cost, after you have totally reconstructed
it. It probably cost $2 new, retail, unless it carried the made up
name of some imaginary designer, in which case it could be a valuable
"collectable"…

But someone has to do it, so, far better you than me. If you are
going to specialize in repairs, gold or platinum is a far better
choice, IMHO. Sometimes it even pays very well.

Rick Hamilton


#6

Low melting temperature alloy, frequently tin, zinc, lead :frowning: or
such. Also usually plated. I usually used Stay-Brite soft solder (430
F), stronger than tin/lead and doesn’t tarnish as much. For really
delicate, painted, or otherwise suspicious jobs Tix solder (275 F).
Soldering irons are messy, just use a very small soft flame, I used
an oxy-propane little torch.

I ALWAYS warned the customer of possible disaster when working with
mystery metal, and would only charge if successful. The signed off
accepting all responsibility. With care and practice you can build
quite a reputation of being able to fix precious pieces which 7 other
stores deemed un-repair able, still charge gold repair prices and
make people very happy.

Jeff

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing


#7

Well now see, here is your opportunity to sell them a precious metal
reproduction of the sentimentally extremely valuable item. The
durability of gold (whatever) will ensure that Aunt Tillie’s ring
will remain in the family for generations to come.

It has worked.


#8

I happen to have a studio adjacent to a 105 year old plating shop.
They have a steady business of repairing and restoring "pot metal"
items. Remember there exists a long history of pewter (often a fancy
word for pot metal) jewelry and hollowware, much of it plated. With
proper temperature control, one can restore and repair such items.
Spot plating can be applied as needed. Unquestionably, such work is
tricky and requires expertise but a need exists out there. Grandma’s
broach, pot metal though it may be, may havean almost priceless
sentimental value to someone.

Jim Slaughter


#9

Hi Jeff, and others;

With care and practice you can build quite a reputation of being
able to fix precious pieces which 7 other stores deemed un-repair
able, still charge gold repair prices and make people very happy. 

Careful what you wish for. Early in my trade shop career, I went
after the “estate” jewelry business, which nobody seemed to want. I
now have a reputation for the stuff, and believe me, you have to
discipline yourself not to get your ego wrapped up in these
challenges or you’ll lose your arse. I work on everything from
platinum and diamond masterpieces to bakelite. I find my hourly rate
drops by half when I work on this stuff, no matter what I do. It’s
hard to explain. I wouldn’t still be doing it if it weren’t that some
of these clients are my oldest accounts and I feel a certain loyalty
to the people who got me to the dance.

Jeff’s got a good system. I usually rely on the Tix solder entirely
though. But like him, I usually prefer a torch to a soldering iron.
Tix solder is a god-send, but it will only work if the solder can
actually stick to the metal. A certain amount of magnesium in the
alloy and nothing sticks. And re-fusing the stuff as Goo suggest is
tricky. If the metal starts to oxidize before it flows, it doesn’t
work. There are acid based fluxes and rosin based ones, and they each
have their more suitable applications. I’ve gotten Rio’s paste
solders designed for magnesium and aluminum and have had zero success
with them. Often, I find pieces that nothing will stick to, and my
solution has been to drill holes and insert pins for support and use
JB Weld epoxy. Remarkable stuff, sticks to just about anything and
it’s wicked strong. Then, get out the silver or gold paint marker and
touch it up. And sadly, it’s always the case that you must inform the
customer that you will do it only and completely at their risk. But
then, what have they got to lose?

David L. Huffman


#10
try this at your own risk if someone on the list thinks what ive
said is unsafe you are correct lead fumes and what ever else are
unsafe and so is daily life. look here, they wanted a way to fix
pot metal 

When stained glass artisans work with lead solder, they use a small
fan to direct the fumes away from their face. Ventilation is always
important when soldering, especially so with lead based solders.

Gisela


#11

Just to add my comments to the “pot”. Couldn’t resist.

I have routinely repaired plated costume jewelry, made of pewter and
plated with whatever. I found that Tix solder let me get a good
joint that is strong. I have even been able to work very close to
the Rhinestones and not damage them. That is more luck than skill.
Tix melts around 280 degrees. I found the Micro tips on the Hoke
torch is usually more effective than a soldering iron.

That material I am most familiar with that is called "Pot metal"
seems to be a zinc based material. It is usually die cast. I had to
deal with this nasty stuff when working on old phonograph and player
piano parts. This material seems to corrode/break down on its own
under the plating. The only way I found that really worked was to
clean the fractures and copper plate each side. Then I could get a
good solder with Tix or the other low temp solders.

The copper plating idea came from an old machinist shop hints book.

Bill Churlik
www.earthspeakarts.com


#12

I do not make a habit of repairing “pot metal” jewelry, but as a
bench jeweler it always happens the a “good” customer has something
they just can’t part with. It’s never profitable, really, but it can
be a rewarding challenge when I can’t avoid getting sucked into
doing such repairs. I find lower settings, with a wide beam in the
laser works very well, and you can do some pretty amazing repairs
with simple lead solder. Always a dirty job, refinishing, but often
there is no indication the repair was ever made. I just look at
these occasional unavoidable involvements as sort of therapeutic
diversions.


#13
Well now see, here is your opportunity to sell them a precious
metal reproduction of the sentimentally extremely valuable item.
The durability of gold (whatever) will ensure that Aunt Tillie's
ring will remain in the family for generations to come. 

That does bring back memories: a customer once had an Avon pot metal
ring she just loved. Her husband did not believe in spending his
money on jewelry. She had me copy the ring in 14k yellow and white
gold, with diamonds and pearls, and until the day he died her husband
never knew her ring was the real thing! He almost threw it out when
she passed away, and for the life of him he could not see why their
daughter wanted “that old thing” so badly!!


#14

i’ve been reluctantly repairing costume jewelry for almost thirty
years. i agree with you that these belong to some of my best
customers and its not really a money maker but more as a favor. you
should make this known to the customers as well as not being held
responsible when it blows apart. thinking outside the box helps. look
for an easier option than what you originally thought. i’ve had good
success with stay brite solder and its flux. i’ve also been raising
my prices and no one seems to mind.