Once again, I feel like jumping in where I might better minding
my own business. Come to think of it, jewelry is my business.
Just about thirty years ago, I was taught how to size rings. I
was taught in a shop that did trade work for 150-180 accounts
year round. In order to maintain these accounts, the owner of the
company thought that it would be a good idea if we knew how to
size rings competitively. Fast and cheap. No broken stones. No
thinned shanks. No loose stones. No pits. No visible seam. No
comebacks. If a job came back, it should come back because we
were instructed to size it to the wrong size. First we’d check
to see if stones poked thru the inside. Then we’d check the
size. If sizing down, we’d cut out 2.5mm for each size down.
Then close up the shank and run a saw thru again to insure a
close fit. Holding the ring in our fingers, flux the join, heat
from the inside and pull the solder thru. Quenching quickly in
sulfuric acid. Neutralizing the acid in a solution of baking
soda. Wipe. File the inside. Round on a mandrel. File and emery
the outside, chech the stones and send on for finishing. Total
time less than two minutes. Soldering isn’t done with an
oxidizing or reducing flame but with what welders refer to as a
neutral flame. Complete combustion of carbon and no excess
oxygen. At the time we used Hoke torches with natural gas and
oxygen. Since, I have used midget torches, water torches, little
torches, oxy-propane and oxy-acetylene. All of these worked
fine. Today I don’t use sulfuric acid. It was fashionable to
party in rudely tattered Levis in those days and I had the
rattiest. Holding the ring in our fingers was not stupid. It was
not dangerous. It was a disipline that allowd the jeweler to
experience better what was happening while working on the job.
While holding the ring I knew when I was overheating the ring. I
didn’t need to wonder if the spit wad, drywall mud, wet cotton
or commercial heatsink was drying out. I knew personally when I
was spending too much time heating the shank and when was a good
time to quench it before overheating the stone. This method
doesn’t work well with heavy (5-6mm) shanks. It also doesn’t
work with silver rings. It will carry you a long way with
platinum, however. With gold I tend to use hard solders and I
weld the platinum. I also learned to solder silver charms with
silver solder this way. I have even silver soldered lead, pot
metal and pewter charms onto silver charm bracelets this way. I
have seen way too many lead soldered charms.
This has been too windy and maybe on another ocaision I'll tell
you about sizing up.
P.S. I have never burned my fingers with this method. Only a
moron would hold a ring long enough to do that.
P.S.S. I have seen people break stones using the mud packing
Bruce D. Holmgrain
Maryland’s first JA certified Master Bench Jeweler