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Ring repair advice


#1

Repairs to 9K yellow/white gold, opal and “white stone” ring

Dear Orchidland, I have taken in a friend’s ring for repairs. The
ring has a9K yellow gold shank, white gold stone setting, consisting
of 8 crown settings (sat on a yellow gold “ring”), which support a
top plate, into which arebead set 8 “white stones”. In the centre, is
a prong setting (8 prongs) forone 5 mm round white opal. My friend
originally sought the services of a jeweller because the central
(opal) stone has a large chip in it, which has happened recently. She
thought it was just a case of sourcing a new stone to replace the
chipped one, and setting the new stone. She was quoted more than she
could afford at the moment, and posted to a social media site out of
frustration. I responded, saying I would look at it for her, and see
if it was something I could confidently do.

She gave me the ring, and I took lots of photos of it before I did
anything else. I inspected it under magnification and documented its
condition. I thengave the ring a thorough clean and further
inspection. The back was full ofmud! The prongs “holding” the
central stone in place, are all different heights, the majority of
them not tall enough to hold the stone. The stone cameout very
easily! All the tips are extremely worn thin (and chisel shaped),
and some of the prongs are “waisted”, which to me suggested that
they may have had tiny cracks and been repaired. When looking in the
back of the setting, there are 8 rectangular pieces, which
correspond to the positions of the 8prongs. These are also at
different heights, protruding from the back of the white gold top
plate. They are also all surrounded by quite a lot of solder, which
is a slightly different colour to the white gold plate. I presumed
that these were the backs of the prongs, and that they were either
fitted previously as a repair, or were part of the original
fabrication of the ring. The ring looks fabricated to me, rather
than just cast bits soldered together, but I could be wrong. The
ring is her mother’s engagement ring.

It is obvious to me that re-tipping would not be a good enough
repair, so myintentions are to cut the prongs off, drill the bottoms
of the prongs out, and solder in new ones. I will then be able to
prepare the prongs and set thenew central stone, before finally
making sure that the surrounding white stones are still tight within
their settings. I got my friend to ask her mother whether or not the
ring had had previous work done, other than the obvioussizing seam
in the shank, also to identify the 8 white stones so that I knew
whether or not they were sapphires, so I wouldn’t encounter surface
etching problems (they are not sapphires), and to confirm the
fineness of the gold, as the hallmark is completely worn, to the
point of being unreadable. Her mom recalls that the prongs have
indeed had previous work done.

My instinct says that using solder paste to solder in new prongs,
would be abetter option than trying to fiddle about with pieces of
solid solder sheet, so I have ordered 9K easy white gold solder
paste. I want to position the new prongs using the paste solder, and
get in and out with the heat as quickly as possible, so as not to
melt any other solder in the piece.

I have a few questions:

  1. Have I made the right decision to use paste solder?

  2. What sort of prong shaping would be suitable for setting a
    cabochon?

  3. I have no immediately obvious method to remove the strange
    rectangular pieces from the back of the setting, but can’t see
    leaving them alone being a problem. Any input on this?

  4. Will the new prongs need hardening somehow, and if so, how would
    I do this once they’re in place?

My friend admitted to having worn the ring for everything. She is
extremely active, enjoying running and cycling and taking part in
marathons and triathlons, and recently took part in a "Tough Mudder"
contest, which involves literally crawling through mud! This is
where the mud cam from!!! She has promised that she will treat it
with special care once repaired, and only wear it for special
occasions.

I hope I’ve provided enough for the goldsmiths on here
to be able to answer my questions. Any additional that
would be helpful, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Helen
UK


#2

That sounds like your typical old style assembled ring. Sharp pointy
prongs that I will never understand why they did that. The blocks
underneath could just be the base of the center prongs. A cab needs
something to rest on, it’s probably those.

Are you a good tipper? you might be able to get away with that for
the side gems. Paste Flux has always been a pain to me just cause it
balls up wherever it wants to not necessarily where you want it to.
If you re prong you can put your solder on the wire first and you
could use 10k easy that you might have around. Otherwise If all the
prongs are shot just put new crowns all around. Now you are into that
(too much to spend) area though.

Sounds like an extensive job.

Can you just replace the Opal and leave the rest till she destroys
it.

Replace the gems as you go.


#3

Sorry. I see you said tipping would not be enough


#4
Sorry. I see you said tipping would not be enough 

That’s okay Shannon. I do tend to write rather a lot, in an attempt
to explain everything which others might need to know in order to
answer my questions.

Helen
UK


#5

Hi Shannon,

The blocks underneath could just be the base of the center prongs.
A cab needs something to rest on, it's probably those. 

That’s what I was attempting to explain. They are indeed the base of
the prongs, but they are not what the centre stone sit on. The seat
for that is separate, part of the top plate. This is what leads me
to believe that the prongs may have been replaced before.

Are you a good tipper? you might be able to get away with that for
the side gems 

I was hoping to get away with tipping, but the prongs are too
damaged for that. The side stones don’t appear to be a problem,
although they may need a bit of tightening. They are bead set, not
prong set. The setting comprises ofeight tiny crowns sat on a base
ring and supporting a top plate, which actsas an illusion setting,
into which are bead set eight stones.

Can you just replace the Opal and leave the rest till she destroys
it. 

That’s what the job is - to replace the opal. But the prongs are
shot! It’s the opal prongs, not the bead set stones, which is the
problem. Most of the eight central prongs are not tall enough or
even thick enough to do the job they need to do.

Helen
UK


#6

Helen- I’m a pretty experienced repair trade shop gal and I would
run away from this one. It sounds like it has already been repaired
with low temp solder. We used to call that sort of piece that has
already been repaired “stepped on” I’d be afraid that the moment I
hit it with a torch that the whole piece would fall apart and puke
all over my bench.

I learned the hard way when to say “No”.

My rule of thumb is to repair or re tip prongs just once. After that
it’s all new crowns. Also you do not know what the white stones are
or what karat the metals are.

The best solution for this in my book, regardless of the sentiment,
would be to offer to remake a new ring.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#7

I have been thinking about this repair since you first posted it.
From your description it sounds like a nightmare, or what we call a
Pandora’s Box repair. once you start you may be married to this
nightmare for a long, long time.

Unseen, I am hesitant to make too many suggestions, and would want
to examine this piece very closely before touching it.

Basically though, yes, I would want to remove the old prongs, and
drill to fit in new ones, but because of the old low temp solder,
and unknown stones that may not take the heat of the torch, I would
lazer weld the new prongs rather than solder them. Because of the
old solder, even lazer welding has to be done with a degree of
hesitation, and I would want to remove as much of the old solder as
I possibly could before starting to weld.

Some times the very best service you can offer your customer is to
just say NO, this is too far gone to repair correctly, and to put
their money into a new piece that they will be able to wear for years
to come, rather than be constantly afraid the old piece will only get
worse with wear. Fool that I am though, I too often will go ahead and
at least attempt to do such a repair, if the customer truly wants me
to. We both need to know before I start that I am not guaranteeing
results, and that we are exceeding safety margins by trying.


#8
The best solution for this in my book, regardless of the
sentiment, would be to offer to remake a new ring. 

Hi Helen. Jo’s advise always lurks out there when doing repair work,
especially if it’s not some major heirloom piece. Some thoughts,
though - 9kt, or 10 kt here in the states, is brass. That’s not
snobbery, it IS brass and it acts much like brass. It can be tricky
to solder, especially in fine details. The rule is that all
structural work should be done in hard solder - all rules are broken
at times, of course. That means basic construction, sizing, prongs
and tipping. I think I have a pretty good image of the style of ring
you have and I’m guessing your opal is in the 6-8mm range in a
general way. Trying to solder 8 prongs down inside the setting plate
in 9kt using easy solder is going to be a daunting task, mostly
because easy solder flows so quickly that as you solder the next
prong the one before it will move, and so on and so on.

The elegant solution is to not do that at all. You can’t really buy 8
prong settings, usually, but you can buy 6 prongs. Depending on the
budget your customer may prefer to pay for a 6 prong finding or have
you make a new 8 prong setting. This would be what’s called a single
gallery setting, which is a wire base with prongs attached - no
windows, no under bezel, just a wire seat. Either buy one or make one
first - soldered in hard solder - clean out everything in the center,
fit in your new setting and just install it. Easy… John D.


#9

I would do this with the laser. I would break out the Opal and
rebuild the prongs and whatever else needs ro be done and reset the
new Opal. I have a hard time saying no, especially if I can see a
way.


#10

I was asked to repair a rather nice ring; three diamonds in white
gold. It was clear that it had been repaired several times before and
I wasn’t at all confident that a satisfactory repair was feasible or
worthwhile.

I recommended remaking the ring in platinum. The customer was
delighted with the result, which is shown on the left in the
following photo; the cracks in the claws of the original are clearly
visible.

The remake was entirely fabricated - I don’t have casting
facilities.

If your repair is in a similar state maybe you should consider a
remake too.


#11
Some thoughts, though - 9kt, or 10 kt here in the states, is
brass. That's not snobbery, it IS brass and it acts much like
brass. It can be tricky to solder, especially in fine details. 

Sorry, I disagree. It is not brass, nor does it act like brass.
Aside from jewellery, in which I work a lot in 9ct, I do a lot of
model engineering, and use a lot of different types of brass. Brass
is quite different to 9ct gold.

Also, in my 50+ years of experience, it is not more difficult to
solder 9ct than the higher carats, even in fine details.


#12

Your advice is probably very wise Jo, but I’ve already committed to
it and spent some of the money on gold, solder, etc. I bought two
opals so I could choose the best out of the two, but they are the
worst opals I have ever seen, so they are going back! They just
looked like two white plastic discs, with no play of colour
whatsoever! They weren’t even the same size - in any dimension!!!
They were inexpensive, but I thought I’d try them first, as the
supplier is where I buy all my bullion and most of my tools from. I
now have to go hunting for a half decent stone that won’t break the
bank!!! I’m havingdifficulty finding a 5 mm round white Australian
opal with decent fire, butstill have a few options to try.

I’ll give it my best shot. At worst I may have to rebuild it. At
best it will have new prongs and a new stone and be polished up to
look like new.

Helen
UK