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Resizing sterling ring with turquoise and coral


I have a size 12 ring that I need to downsize to a size 10.
Therefore, I need to remove about five mm from the bottom of the ring
shank, close the gap, and resolder the shank closed. If the ring were
gold or platinum, no problem. This Navajo ring, however, is sterling
and it’s well-accented with stones and decorative add-ons… The ring
is fabricated from a piece of sheet, 1 inch wide at the top and
tapering to 1/8 inch wide at the bottom of the shank, with 8-gauge
wire side rails. The problem is the materials affixed to the top and
side of the ring. There are one coral and one turquoise cabs,
bezel-set into the top of the ring on either side of a very pretty
little pile of various sterling accents: a leaf, balls, coils of
wire, and little disks. And down both sides are little sterling
leaves, more coils, and more balls, extending to just slightly more
than half way down the shank. I don’t know what grade of silver
solder was used, but I’d guess hard for the bezels and rails, medium
for everything else, and easy to close the shank at the bottom (which
I’ll cut out). Now if this were gold, or, especially platinum, I’d
just invert the ring in a shallow dish of water and go ahead and
solder with easy solder. But because the ring is sterling I am
concerned about 1) the thermal properties of the silver, silver being
the best conductor of heat of all the metals, and 2) the sensitivity
of the coral and turquoise to heat. Typically one has to heat an
entire silver piece to get up to soldering temperature. So, here is
my question: What’s the best way to solder my ring shank closed again
without damaging my stones or loosening the solder on all the
little do-dad accessories, and without removing the two cabs? [The
coral and turquoise are so soft I’m worried about badly scratching
the stones trying to open the bezels.] COULD I just invert the ring
in a pan of water and go in hot and quick for an easy-solder joint?
What about embedding the top and sides of the ring into some type of
refactory chill gel or stuff like Vigor Heat Shield? Or should I just
head downtown to the Jewler’s Exchange and find someone with a laser
welder? Can someone with actual experience in this kind of work
comment? I don’t want to experiment with this not-super-expensive,
but sentimental ring.

Thanks in advance! Denny Turner in San Diego, who really likes
Southwestern style silver.



What's the best way to solder my ring shank closed again *without
damaging my stones* 

The usual method you use for gold, ie inverting the ring in a dish
of water, works with silver rings like yours, as well. But there are
some differences. You may wish to use a bit larger amount of water. I
usually do this with something along the lines of a tuna fish can or
similar sized container, pretty much full of water. That’s enough to
avoid boiling it away. You also want to be sure the water comes far
enough past the heat sensative parts (the stones). As you note silver
is an exceptionally good heat conductor, so where the silver enters
the water as you work, the water will be sizzling and boiling. You’ll
need a distance of several millimeters of immersed silver to be sure
the stones themselves are not being overly heated. If the ring is
heavy enough, don’t be surprised if, by the time your solders flows,
the whole container of water is happily boiling. That’s OK. A temp of
212F is all it can reach, and this is still safe for the stones. Just
don’t scald yourself.

The biggest difference over how you’d do this with gold or platinum,
however, is the size of the torch you’ll need to do this. If you
could do this with a gold ring using a little torch and a mid sized
tip (often enough for that task), with silver, your little torch
won’t even get the joint much past warm. When I’m doing this, I use a
Meco midget torch and the largest tip I have for it, using propane
and oxygen. That gives me a flame that could happily melt a half
ounce of platinum fairly quickly if I wanted to. But it’s about what
you’ll need to get the silver solder to flow on the bottom of the
shank, when the main bulk of the ring is under water. A hot, neutral,
strong flame will do it. If it doesn’t do it fairly quickly, stop and
switch to a bigger torch tip, or crank up the oxyge and gas pressures
a little for a stronger flame. It will either do it reasonably
quickly, or will never get there. Often, the trickiest part is
keeping the torch lit, since the water will be boiling and spitting
where the silver enters, and the spatters from that can sometimes put
out the torch flame. You may need to hold something just under the
flame to shield the tip from the spatters. And again, take care not
to get scalded.

Peter Rowe


I think you touched upon the most pain free way yourself when you
asked about getting it laser welded.

Nick Royall


Dennis, I have successfully sized many rings in sterling, coral and
turquoise in my career by the water method you describe and an
oxy/acetylene torch with a welding flame with out removing the
stones. Putting the solder in between the ends of the ring helps but
I have also fed it in by hand while soldering.

Sam Patania


Three words- remove the stones.




I have done quite a few repair jobs on Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, et. al.
jewelry. It’s a specialty of mine. The only safe way to go concerning
the stones is to remove them. It’s tedious but it must be done.
turquoise and coral cannot stand much heat at all and quite a lot of
turquoise has been “backed” with something like epoxy steel which
will turn into bubbling goo at anything over 150 degrees. If you try
the water trick, just make sure you have some replacement stone
material on hand. Just be grateful it is not channel inlay.

As to the other soldered on elements there is really no telling what
sort of procedure the artist used during construction. The safest
thing to do is to use soldering investment. Coat the ring with
Firescoff and let it completely dry. Completely encase the ring in
the soldering investment then once it’s dry, carve the investment
away down to where your solder joint is. Typically, I will put the
ring in a small matchbox lined with plastic wrap and just fill it
with the investment then wrap some small gauge binding wire around
it when dry to keep it together. The investment will keep all of that
soldered on detail in place if the solder happens to re-flow.

And yes, soldering investment (or clay as sometimes called) is
different than casting investment. Available from Rio and others.

The Orange County Guy


Hello Dennis,

I suspect that laser work would be the least invasive way to
accomplish the resizing. I don’t have a laser and can’t speak to
that… However, no one has discussed cold work to reduce ring size
on rings like this. Here are a few ideas:

On a turquoise set pinky ring (too tiny to do the water in tuna can
thing) I wrapped fine silver wire around the band, using the arrow
fletching technique. If done correctly, the wire ends are completely
hidden and the wrapping is tight enough so that it does not shift.
Customer was pleased and it has worn well. Ladies (of a certain age)
do you remember doing this with fuzzy yarn so that you could wear
your high school “steady’s” ring???

Although I have not tried this option, if the band is wide enough,
it might be possible to rivet a silver liner in place to reduce the
ring size. It would certainly make the ring heavier! Oooo, oooo.
Wait! What about constructing a liner (with lips) that matches the
outline, and stretching it to snug-fit, then tapping the lips around
the edge of the band as is done with a bezel. Think of how a spinner
ring is made, without the liner spinning.

If only sizing down a half size or so, riveting “sizing balls” to
the inside of the band might work, but that thought requires some
testing. Effectiveness will probably vary with band thickness.

Some out of the box thoughts from, Judy in Kansas, where the
Christmas lights are becoming more beautiful every night.

However, no one has discussed cold work to reduce ring size on
rings like this. 

Possibly because it’s just a whole lot more work, to no especially
better end result. While sizing a ring like this is a bit more
involved than a typical gold and diamond ring, this is still about a
ten minute job, not more. If you’ve got a torch able to properly
solder this with the stones under water, it’s actually fairly
routine. If you don’t, perhaps it would be best to refer the job to
a jeweler better equipped for the job. Liners? wraped wire? rivetted
in bits and pieces? Yes, if you want. But that’s not really the right
or best way to size this type of ring. It may be for some things, but
this doesn’t sound like one of them.

By the way, I DO have a laser welder, and while I Might use it for
this, chances are I’d do it with a torch, the old way, as I’ve
described before, simply because frankly, it’s faster, and does just
as good, or perhaps even better, a job in this case. Lasers are
wonderful for some things, including some jobs with silver (where
they do have more trouble than they do with other metals, including
occasional problems with weld cracking with some silver alloys). And
for many sizing jobs, especially platinum and higher karat gold, I
love what the laser can do. But big heavy silver rings? I’ll usually
use the torch and solder the seams.



I think everyone knows about wrapping stones in wet tissue to
protect them whilst getting in quickly with a nice hot flame, I use
Oxy/propane. I have used a potato to protect sensitive areas. Cut
throught he potato top and bottom so that the centre section stands
up on the work place. Carve out for the area to be embeded, place
the ring head in the depression and pack the bits of potato taken out
around it. There you have water protection held in the potato and a
soldering jig that steadies the piece. Get in with a nice sharp hot
flame trying to fire it away from the sensitive area and the job is
done. Used to use a potato quite a bit as a soldering jig, wires can
be stuck into it and joined together etc. You don’t have water
swilling about or wet tissue messing up the work station and you get
that lovely seml of a chip shop wafting through the shop.



Soldering is better than a weld. I will not weld a heavy section
(ring shank) if it’s possible to solder it. Welds are brittle and
suffer from micro-cracks during the fast cooling that occurs after a
laser/pulse-arc heat blast. The heavier the section the more this is

A heavy silver shank half submerged in water needs the most extreme
heat available to melt the solder and fuse it to the adjacent metals.

For me it’s an oxy/acetylene torch spitting a flame 1 metre long,
focussed onto the joint for a second or two, and as soon as the
solder melts the flame is withdrawn.

It needs practise, total meltdown is half a second away! But it will
do a good solder quicker than a brittle weld; as Peter W Rowe says.


In agreement. Most of the Native silversmiths made their jewelry so the stones could be removed without too much trouble.


First you need to really decide if the shank can be bent enough to get your 2 sizes down. If not you might have to go with soldering some sort of insert, bar or sizing bead in the shank to make it 2 sizes smaller. For pulling stones out I like to use an exato knife blade inserted in between the stone and bezel and then gentle pry back. Be careful the blades break easily.