Michael, one of the problems in moving from Silver to Gold is the
thermal characteristics of the metals. Silver is a much better
conductor of heat compared to gold. It wants to be the same
temperature all over, where gold is quite happy to have hot spots
and cold areas. As a result, the gold solder doesn’t flow like the
silver solder does. With silver, the whole piece is near the flow
point of the solder, and the point of the torch pushes the
temperature up just enough so that the solder flows to the heat.
This lets you walk the solder around a path, just using the torch.
When you try this with gold, it doesn’t work well. The gold doesn’t
conduct heat as well as silver so the surrounding areas are not
nearly as hot at the point of contact with the torch. As soon as you
move the torch, the metal cools and the solder quits flowing. If
you try to bring the whole piece up to temperature as you do with
silver, you get the melt-downs you describe. This has driven me
nuts over the years making bezels for opals. I have found that
using a solder pick to drag the solder along the seam seems to help,
rather than waiting for it to follow the torch. You still might
have a gap now and then, but you can re-solder them.
Don at Campbell Gemstones