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Retipping sterling prong


#1

I just finished a custom ring and was ready to set the emerald cut
faceted created ruby when I noticed that one of the prongs is too
short. These are Legendary settings from Rio. I have had so much
trouble with them being of poor quality. I figure this is as good a
time as any to teach myself to retip a prong. Any suggestions? I
couldn’t find any instructions anywhere in the ganoksin archives or
library. Can anyone share the appropriate procedure?

J. S. Ellington
jsellington@cs.com


#2

Janie,

First, I’m assuming you want to actually add length to the prong,
not just ad a new tip. Correct?

Second, I hope you don’t plan to do the soldering with the stone in
the setting? This may not be a good idea…depending on the kind of
stone and its quality.

If my assumptions are correct, you will get a good exercise in free
hand or off-hand soldering.

First, make the tip of the prong being repaired, perfectly flat.
Second, select a piece of round/ square/ half-round wire that will
fit the shape of the prong being repaired. It should be a couple of
inches long. Third, do the Prip’s flux thing, and then use Battern’s
or some other self-pickling flux on the tip of both pieces. Now, you
will ‘presolder’ the end of the piece of repair wire. To do that,
place a snippet of solder (I suggest hard if the piece will take
it…if the prong is very thin, you might want to use medium or even
easy but, hard will provide more strength) on your soldering block,
hold the repair wire in tweezers and while heating the snippet with
your torch, touch the tip of the wire to the solder. It should
stick to the wire. Now continue to carefully raise the heat of the
end of the wire until the solder first turns into a ball and then
flows over the end. Don’t melt the end of the wire into a ball…or
you will have to cut it off and start again.

Now, with the ring held in a third hand and the prong sticking up,
begin playing your torch over the head. As the prong being repaired
begins to show dull red, bring the pre-soldered wire down and hold it
against the prong being repaired. Continue to heat both evenly until
the solder flows…immediately remove the torch but continue to hold
the piece in place for a couple of seconds till the solder sets.
Remove the tweezers and cut the prong to the proper length. Proceed
to shape and set your stone.\

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2


#3

Janie,

On a new ring I would suggest cutting the prong back and replacing
the prong. This way you won’t have the retipping to do and no solder
on the top of the piece. In building the prong keep the solder below
the point where you need to bend material when setting the stone.
Solder joints don’t bend well. Mark


#4

I called Rio Grande this last Friday and asked one of their
technical staff if they could help with this question because I was
in a rush. It will be good to see what others suggest as tips for
this too.

I did the retipping with the created ruby in place as the Rio
personnel directed. "It will not damage the stone to apply heat."
Now that the ring is beautifully finished, I notice an imperfection
that is hard to describe but I am sure it is from heating the stone.
It looks like some kind of watermark or filmy splotch on the surface
of the stone. I cannot remove it with Zam, cleaners, etc.

Any ideas?
J. S. Ellington
jsellington@cs.com


#5
These are Legendary settings from Rio. I have had so much trouble
with them being of poor quality 

I buy the cheapest prong settings I can find. They are great for
what I use them for. Building a small prong setting is a pain. I
merely use the setting as a form to build on. I solder square wire
to the outside of each prong and end up with a strong higher quality
mounting at a low price with much less effort than trying to build
from scratch.

As to retipping…You should probably look to someone else with more
experience; while I have done it, I do very little repair work.
That said, a solder pick with some sticky flux on it is a great way
to apply small pieces to the end of a prong. There are also tip
kits available that have solder pre-applied. I am sure that there
are many other possibly better ways.

Howard
Eagle Idaho


#6

Hi J.S. I’m sorry to break this to you, but what has almost certainly
happened is that you’ve gotten some boron containing flux on the
stone and heated it to the point where the flux has actually etched
the stone. This is possible with Corundum (ruby, sapphire). The
only remedy is to remove the stone and have it re-polished. It’s my
opinion that lab created stones are more susceptible to this
occurrence than natural stones, but others may disagree.

David L. Huffman


#7

Hello J. S.

 Now that the ring is beautifully finished, I notice an 	
imperfection that is hard to describe but I am sure it is from 	
heating the stone. It looks like some kind of watermark or 	 filmy
splotch on the surface of the stone. I cannot remove it 	 with Zam,
cleaners, etc. 

Whilst any corundum will survive heating by prong retipping extreme
care must be taken to avoid any borax containing solutions from
contacting the stone. When heated the borax will form a glass which
fuses to the surface of corundum and can only be removed by
repolishing the stone using faceting laps. Although the damage
appears as a fine film staining the surface it seems to also etch
very slightly. Acid removal still leaves a blemish on the surface.

Sorry about the bad news.
Tony.


#8
 I did the retipping with the created ruby in place as the Rio
personnel directed. "It will not damage the stone to apply heat."
Now that the ring is beautifully finished, I notice an
imperfection that is hard to describe but I am sure it is from
heating the stone. It looks like some kind of watermark or filmy
splotch on the surface of the stone. I cannot remove it with Zam,
cleaners, etc. 

Well, for my money, I’d say it would be worth asking the idiots at
Rio to get you another stone for free, since you followed incomplete
advice. They are correct in the statement that ruby can withstand
the heating required to retip a prong, if you’re gentle about it.
Apparently, they neglected to mention the important bits that you
MUST be sure there is no soldering flux on the ruby, and you need to
be sure that you don’t let a highly reducing (gentle) flame play on
the ruby.

Ruby is aluminum oxide.

Soldering fluxes dissolve metal oxides

Reducing conditions such as very reducing soft flames, played on
metal oxides, can reduce them back to metals, at elevated
temperatures.

the upshot of this is that in all likely hood, you had flux on the
stone, and at soldering temperatures, it’s etched into the stone.
The flame, too, can cause damage, though usually the effect of that
looks like an oil slick of iridescent surface color, and you can
sometimes polish that off more easily, as it’s a surface film, not
etched much into the surface. The stone’s polish won’t then be as
good, however.

If you need to polish corundum (ruby, sapphire), things like
cleaners, rouge, and zam won’t do it. You can try the specialized
platinum rouge that Gesswein sells. it’s a highly graded aluminum
oxide itself, and will slowly put a little shine on most hard stones,
including sapphire and ruby. Note that this stuff is quite
different (and IMHO, far superior) to other platinum rouge products
sold by others. At least in the case of the flame damage, it can
be enough, though I doubt it will work for flux etching. More
effective is a lapidary diamond polishing paste. A 14,000 grit paste
should work well enough, but for a facetted stone, the trouble is
that for you, at the bench, to polish out the etching will leave you
with a lousy facet when your done. The better part of valor here
is either to replace the stone if it’s cheap, or to have a lapidary
repolish it. In all probability, this will require unsetting the
stone, unless the damage is only on the table, and the prong tips are
lower than the table. Repolishing the table is likely to run you
somewhere in the ten to twenty dollar range, I’d guess, unless some
kind Orchid reader who does facet cutting jumps to your aid…

Hope that helps.
Peter


#9

I have had this happen too. Did you coat the piece with Boric Acid
and Alcohol? I was doing this. Then I have read somewhere that this,
the borax, is what is causing the surface" erosion". I have since
made sure the stone was very clean. That is washed well in the
ultrasonic then with alcohol and dried. I then firecoated the metal
and not the stone and did the soldering. I have not had anymore
surface defects since the change in procedure. Unfortunately, the
only way to fix the blemish on the stone is to re-polish the stone.
Sure would like to hear more about this.

Can someone elaborate on the relation of “flux” to rubies and
sapphires. Diamonds are a whole different issue. This information
about the Boric Acid problem was in an article about heat treatment
of rubies and sapphires. I am thinking that the article may have
been in a back issue of JCK.

Bill


#10

J.S. It is possible that there was a small area of grease or other
contaminate on the surface of the stone and it ‘burned’ into the
surface. This sometimes happens with diamonds which are very
attractive to grease. This is why my previous post suggested
removing the stone. Yes, corundum will stand the heat…especially
created stones which have few or no inclusions are have a very
symetrical structure…but, things can still happen. Hopefully,
this is not the situation in your case. Try using a pumice wheel to
remove the splotch. It may be just some remaining flux. Pumice will
not damage the stone. Do NOT use craytex or other wheels that
contain corundum (silicon carbide)…it WILL damage your stone.

Hope it will clean up. Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio
in SOFL where simple elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2


#11

Sounds like a classic situation where soldering flux got on the
stone and, under heat, etched the surface. This needs to be polished
out by a lapidary, recut orreplaced.

Good luck, Andy


#12
 J.S. It is possible that there was a small area of grease or
other contaminate on the surface of the stone and it 'burned' into
the surface.  This sometimes happens with diamonds which are very
attractive to grease. 

Don, the situation with diamonds and heating is quite different from
corundum and heating. Diamond can burn, so it needs to be protected
from oxygen, usually with a coating of boric acid or flux. And
carbon sources like grease or dirt that can burn onto the surface can
also start the diamond reacting as well, making it easier to damage
if it’s not clean. Corundum, however is already an oxide, and a
pretty stable one at that. So exposure to oxygen during heating
won’t hurt it. Reducing conditions, on the other hand, CAN. And
the same flux which will protect diamond, can damage a corundum,
since the fluxes we use are intended to dissolve metal oxides.
Corundum is aluminum oxide, so the flux etches it.

Been there. Done that. Couldn’t afford the T-shirt 'cause I was
paying to repolish the damn stone…

Peter


#13

Hi,

I’ve seen similar “splotches” on sapphire after soldering. My
suspicion is that what’s happening is a kind of "vapor deposition"
with trace amounts of vaporized metal sputtered onto the stone.

The set and soldered sapphires were not my own work so I did not
need to rectify that problem. If it was me that had to, I’d proceed
on the assumption that the splotches are metal and try two
approaches, maybe combine both.

The first would be to reheat the stone in air to slightly below
soldering temperature on the assumption that this might oxidize the
metal; then cool, then coat liberally with flux and re heat, in the
hope that the flux would dissolve away the oxide formed in the
previous step.

The second would be acid treatment of the stone. Hot nitric (even
aqua regia if you take the stone out) I believe would be most
effective, but also dangerous due to fumes; I would do it outdoors on
a hot plate. I doubt you could do this with the stone in; no matter
how well you coated the piece with acid-proof resist there is a great
risk of the acid getting in under the resist to attack the piece.
Taking the stone out would be safer albeit time consuming.

I should emphasise that both these approaches are purely
theoretical. They are what I would do if confronted with the same
problem. I have never actually done it.

I’d be curious to hear the advice of other Orchideans, and what
method does finally turn out to work for you.

Cheers,
Hans Durstling
Moncton,
Canada


#14

Hi all.

In my recent reply to this thread, I made assumptions about the
given by Rio’s tech support folks regarding retipping on
rubies, that were probably incorrect. And I then proceeded to do
something I really should know better than to do. I called whomever
at Rio had given that advice, and idiot. 46rankly, I know better,
both on the statement itself, and the use of such language.

I’d like to apologize to the staff at Rio, as well as to this forum,
for that statement.

People doing tech support of that kind can only work with the
they’re given. Asked whether it’s possible to retip a
ruby, the answer is yes. It CAN be done. One can discuss the risks,
the procedures, and recommend the safer alternative of unsetting the
stone, repairing the mounting, and resetting the stone. Tech support
folks on the phone have little real way to assess the expertise of a
caller, their abilities, or their equipment available, so this type
of “teaching by remote control”, over a brief phone contact, HAS to
be imperfect and fraught with the risk that the 'student" won’t get
all the info quite as presented. And the tech person has no control
over what the caller will then do with that info.

And I should have remembered that, as well as remembering all the
times I’ve had to deal, as the moderator of the rec.crafts.jewelry
newsgroup, with posters jumping off the handle and calling others
names without thinking it through.

So again, I apologize to this forum, and to the many fine and
knowledgeable folks at Rio, for my undeserved insult. You should have
gotten better from me, and I’m sorry about that. I really DO know
better…

Peter Rowe


#15
"splotches" on sapphire after soldering 

This might be a long shot but you could try getting some ruby
powder, moisten it on a piece of leather and try to hand polish the
surface area. Mark


#16

Peter Rowe apologized for his “idiot” remark and I wanted to pass
this on: The gentleman who advised me from Rio did clearly advise me
to swish the ring in flux and that there would be no possibility of
damage. There’s no question that we both understood what I was going
to do and how. He even said that if it hurt the stone that he would
buy me a new one–and that is just what he has offered to do (and is
doing, I think). I have never retipped a prong and the Rio person
knew that. He was so nice and tried to be so helpful. I was sorry
for both of us that it damaged the stone, because I could have so
easily taken the stone out first but he assured me that that was not
necessary. He said he had been doing this type thing for 30 years
with no problem. The only thing that I can think of based on the
posts that have been received is that maybe the created stone has a
different makeup than some of the stones that this gentleman worked
with–in other words, rubies used to be more safe to apply the torch
near? Anyway, he was sweet, kind, and helpful–especially so. If it
hadn’t been for his help, I might not have learned so much from this
experience.

J. S. Ellington


#17

Hi All, Just a note to go with this thread. There was a statement
made by Peter which is something the novices need to comprehend
fully…“Been there. Done that.”

What that means is stuff happens and many times not the way we want
or expect. I do sympathize with you that you were given advice on how
to tip a stone and had a problem with it. I too have “Been there &
done that”. Trust me, you will mess up other things not only as you
are learning but as a part of doing business.

My point: Accountability for our own actions or someday we all
might need disclaimers on everything we say…I hope not.

Mark


#18

Mark- You are right. I am the one who took and applied the advice.
No one forced me to do that. I have to take responsibility for it.
The great thing is that I have learned things that I would never
have happened upon without the mistake happening. The more I think
about this, the more I learn from it. If the Stop Ox was not the
culprit, then I surely must’ve gotten some Cupronil on the stone
without meaning to and without knowing that that would be a problem.

Anyway, the benefits of the lesson learned this time around sinked
in deep. I am grateful to all of you who responded and to the Rio
personnel for this interaction.

J. Sue Ellington


#19
     There was a statement made by Peter which is something the
novices need to comprehend fully..."Been there.  Done that."  What
that means is stuff happens and many times not the way we want or
expect. I do sympathize with you that you were given advice on how
to tip a stone and had a problem with it. 

The upside to problems and mistakes is that it seems to me, you end
up learning more from when things go wrong forcing you to examine
what you’ve done, what you could do differently, and why things went
wrong, than you learn when you just follow instructions and it works.
“negative reinforcement” seems a very powerful memory and
comprehension aid. All too often, in this field where there are many
people who’ll gladly tell you how to do a thing, we take the simple
route of asking for directions, instead of exploring and
investigating, and figuring it out for ourselves. Obviously, this
avoids much trial and error, and a lot of pain. But, it often means
we know how to do things only because we’ve been told to do it that
way, with little real understanding of why, or whether other methods
might work to. The things we learn from actual experience are much
more deeply understood than the things we know just because we’ve
been told so. The mistakes, while unfortunate, fill in a lot of that
untold that usual instructions don’t give you. And it
seems that no matter how well meaning teachers and instructors are,
and how thorough the instructions and books and videos, in the end,
there are some mistakes and disasters we’re all just going to
experience at some point anyway. No sense feeling too bad about it.
Learn from it, remember the lessons, and move on.

Peter