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Replacing silver ring shank

Please assist me with words of wisdom. I need to replace a sterling
silver ring shank. The stone is an elk ivory held in place with gold
antlers. Annealing the gold to bend the antlers away from the ivory
will probably damage the enamel on the tooth. Customer knows this
may happen and has given me a smaller tooth… If I need to replace
the tooth I will need to remove the gold to fill the void with more
silver. Please advise me how you would anneal the ring and if I need
to, the best way to remove the gold antlers.

Thanks, Ingrid.

When you say you need to replace the ring shank, do you mean you have
to replace the entire shank? Or does the ring just need a half shank
or perhaps even quarter shank? If all the ring needs is a half shank
or quarter shank, if you’re confident in your soldering abilities, as
conductive as silver is, there’s a possibility that the new shank can
be soldered in place with the top half of the ring covered by a
refractive wadding of your choice. I use a lot of wet paper towel and
on occasion, heat shield at work.

If the entire silver shank, not just half or a quarter needs
replacing, depending on how attached the customer is to that tooth
there’s an outside possibility you could sell the customer on
re-making the silver portion of the ring from scratch. You could then
cut the silver away to let the tooth free, remove the gold from the
old ring and attach it to the new one exactly as it was before.

As for annealing the antlers to get the tooth out, unless the gold
used to make those antlers is extremely tough/brittle they’ll
probably be good to bend back enough to let the tooth out. I don’t
know how the ring is put together exactly but if the antlers are
soldered on you’d want to be pretty careful annealing them anyway,
they may be attached with a solder that flows very easily and while
annealing they could just let go an drop off. I once had carved west
coast native band in silver with a gold element attached to it that
had been stuck on there with soft solder. You could try gently
grabbing hold of one of the points of an antler away from the tooth
with a pair of pliers and see how that point reacts to being bent. If
it doesn’t snap right off then the rest of the gold is likely the
same hardness.

Either way, the worst case scenario there is that the antler breaks
while extracting the tooth but in my experience that’s not all that
common for gold to break if you move it slowly and watch carefully
what it’s doing. If you see any cracking at all, stop, reassess the
situation, get a coffee and think things through. If the antler
breaks, you’ll at least have the tooth out and you can then repair
the antler and work on the ring all you like.

Alternately you could seek the assistance of a local repair shop with
a good reputation. It’s not too uncommon for other jewellers to come
to the shop where I work for our assistance. I’m not sure where you
live but people on the forum here might be able to point you to
somebody nearby that could be of assistance to you. If you’re in
Vancouver, I’ll be happy to look at the ring for you.

Hope that helps a bit.

Hello Ingrid,

If the antlers are truely gold it should bend away without breaking.
See if you can pull one branch out to release the tooth. If it
breaks, you will proceed with your re-shanking and solder the branch
back on before replacing the tooth.

That said, I would alert you to the likelihood that when you solder
the new silver shank in place, you may have some trouble at the
point where the gold antlers meet the silver. There tends to be a
melting of the two metals. I’m not sure how effective this would be,
but I’d use ochre or white-out to protect those points. Re-soldering
the gold antler shouldn’t be a problem as gold doesn’t conduct the
heat like silver does.

Let’s see what others have to say,
Judy in Kansas

As is often the case, without seeing the piece its hard to give
specific advice.

Ok, you need to replace the s/s shank. Depending on the mass of the
piece you may not have to remove the tooth. But even if you do remove
it, you don’t necessarily have to anneal the gold antlers. I assume
they are acting like prongs so if they bent once (to set) they’ll
bend a second time to unmount. They will anneal when you solder the
new shank.

If the ring is overall not all that massive, try suspending the ring
upside down with the tooth immersed in water to solder. Some people
use a potato or a clump of wet paper towels or kooljool. If you’re
reshanking because its worn out at the bottom perhaps doing a half
shank will be advantageous, as the joint will be farther away from
the top of the ring. Its tricky to judge the risk factors in this
situation…low heat threshold vs changing the tooth and rebedding.

If you have to remove the tooth, just gently pull the ‘prongs’ away
from the tooth. Sometimes I’ll use a flush cutter to act as a prybar
on the prong tip. One jaw under the prong, the other one the outside
of the prong down a few mm and lightly twist the plier. You might
also use a chasing tool reshaped to a hook of sorts and tap the prong
away but you’ll need to the clamp the ring securely.

If the antlers form a cage, capturing the tooth, it might be that
the antlers have been riveted in place. If so drill out the rivets,
make your repair, install new rivets.

Hope at least something there is relevant to what you’re dealing


Any chance you could upload a picture to Flickr, Picasa or one of
the other websites so we could see it?


i would immerse the tooth and setting in water and use a torch on a
high oxygen flame to solder the shank. I assume you are doing a half
shank. I have done several similar replacements using this technique.
Just make sure that the tooth and metal that it is in contact with
are immersed, work hot and fast with an extra easy sterling solder.
p.s remember that pickling after soldering may damage the enamel as
well, you may have to sand off the firescale rather than pickle.

Hi Ingrid,

The ivory should not to be sacrificed because that is the thing most
sentimental to the owner, the most difficult part to replace, or is
simply irreplaceable. The gold antlers are replaceable and they
should be sacriced and then restored.

Un-bend the antlers cold, and if that is not possible (if they are
hammered on for example), then cut them off, all without damaging the
piece of ivory. When the ivory is out, then fit a new shank and
solder the antlers back on. The gold will be annealed automatically
if soldering is involved. Open the antlers up to receive the ivory
and then re-set the ivory and finish the antlers so that they appear
the same as or better than the original.

If the new shank is only a half-shank and the joins are more than
5mm from the ivory, then it may be possible to mudbath the setting
and solder the new shank on osing an oxy/acetylene torch or some
other high insensity heat, ie without un-setting the ivory.

Annealing the gold is not necessary to unset the ivory, and doing so
with the ivory in place will completely destroy the ivory!