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Soldering charms problem

Hello folks, I’ve been soldering charms onto sterling silver bracelets
over the last few months without encountering any real problems until
now. Today I’ve ruined two bracelets. They’re the same bracelets as
before, and I use a very soft solder - it ‘melts’ at 650c. I haven’t
changed anything as far as I can think of, but these last two now
have bubbly, reticulated links. My charms and jump rings are just
fine. My guess would be that I’ve over heated the pieces - my
soldering skills aren’t the greatest, and I tend to over heat the
metal, but if so, why is this happening now? Your advise is, as
always, greatly appreciated. In fact, ANY advise in general on
soldering charms onto bracelets would be appreciated as I really
struggle with it and lose a lot of time. Cathy Icardo

Cathy, are you sure that the bracelets are sterling? Sounds more like
you have run into a plated piece; rhodium or silver over base metal.
I have been caught by this before. Have even had pieces stamped 14K
Italy and plated over pewter as well as silver plated over pewter and
stamped sterling. What I would give to catch the sellers! I would
expect a sterling link to melt before it had a chance to bubble up or
leave a reticulated type surface. Have the bracelets tested for metal
ID. I am curious.


Cathy-When soldering jump rings(any metal) I take a piece of
wire,flow so lder onto it, Touch it to the joint,heat the "tinned wire"
and jump ring together. When the solder is molten it will flow
smoothly into the gap. The “bubbly” look is from silv er jewelry that
has been “super plated” as an integral part of the finishing process.
Try a s mall torch tip and try to only heat the jump ring. For top
quality charm bracelets try the L umin Company.
They also have an extensive line of charms. Doug

Hi Doug. When you were telling Cathy how to solder, you referred to
superplating. Would you kindly explain what that is and how that is
integral to the finishing process? Thanks. Randy

If The silver on your bracelets is bubbling when you solder charms to
them and you did not produce the bracelets, More than likely,
whomever you bought them from had them silver plated .This does
happen . Daniel

Cathy, I think what you have is ster. silver that has been rhodium
plated. And it bubbles up when put under torch. You can solder it ,but
then getting all the rhodium off will be a real chore. Perhaps
someone else will have a solution from there. Thomas

for all it matters, it may be bumper chrome, some silver pieces are
plated with copper, nickel, and wither chrome or rhodium. It really
does not take that much heat to produce the bubbly effect you talk
about. The only solution is to sand and craytex to the base silver.
In some Projects that is all but impossible. I have been fooled by
numerous pieces, usually this plating is hard, as .925 silver will
scratch with my rough fingers and the plated piece a saw blade will
skip on. In the future if you suspect plating on a charm bracelet,
it may be a cop out but I use tix solder on the JR ringdoc

Hello Cathy: Sounds like the bracelet is plated. Some manufacturers do
this to keep the piece from tarnishing so fast. When heat is applied
on or close to the piece the plating bubbles and cannot be buffed out
very well. Have you thought of using silver split rings instead of
soldering jump rings? When I solder a charm on a bracelet I hold the
jump ring in my third arm tweezer and let the chain and charm dangle
from it. I use medium-hard solder. Maybe you should use a slightly
bigger jump ring to get your flame a little farther from the

Michael R. Mathews Sr. Victoria,Texas USA

Cathy, One possibility is that the bracelets/charms have been plated.
A lot of commercial sterling silver pieces are plated with nickel and
then rhodium to prevent tarnishing. If you hard solder them the nickel
will blister and do the nasty things you describe. A solution is to
not solder plated stuff, replace the jump ring with an unplated one,
and don’t get the bracelet or charm hot. It is possible to strip the
nickel and everything above it and then re polish everything but this
involves a lot more time than a charm soldering justifies. Always
approach repairs on other people’s work with caution, future repairs
might not have been a concern in the original manufacturing process.

Jeff Demand

it could possibly be the tough coat that alot of manufactures are
using now. It is very similar to a clear coat they put on cars. They
put this on silver to eliminate tarnishing. I could be wrong since no
one else has suggested this and I have only read the responces and not
the original letter.

I agree with the group that those jumprings sound like they were
plated. You might be able to tell if they are before hand by the very
bright white, even finish. If I notice this, I remove these
jumprings, and made my own out of matching sterling wire. Trying to
polish the ring after the plating has bubbled is not worth the effort
and time. Just make sure that you keep the torch away from the charm
to avoid discoloration or worse.

Hello Cathy, Instead of soldering the silver charm jumpring, consider
using a split ring. Very durable and can easily be removed and
placed on another link. Having the proper pliers makes this a quick
job, so spend a few bucks on the proper tools if you decide to do
this. I began using the split rings a few years ago when a customer
brought me a collection of charm bracelets, with the charms to be
removed and put on a neck chain. Her husband had soldered several
of the charms with lead-based solder, getting some solder on the
charms in the process! No way was I going to solder on that mess.
The split rings were the answer and now I recommend them over
soldering. Just a safer, convenient way to secure that charm. Hope
this helps, Judy in Kansas

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Extension Associate
221 Call Hall Kansas State Univerisity
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-1213 FAX (785) 532-5681

ringdoc, I do the same thing with the TIC solder. It is about the
only option I have found that works resumable well. I do bevel both
ends of the joint if there is enough material to work with (scarf
joint). This increases the area for adhesion. If the joint is well
fitted, the seam is very hard to see.


When I started working on the bench for a trade shop a couple of wars
ago, my principle responsibilities revolved around soldering very fine
chains, charms and repairing all types of bangle bracelets.

The way that I was trained to solder charms, was to hold the charm’s
jump ring up and out of the way so that a flame would not be applied
to any part but the jump ring. Many charms included paint, plastic
parts, paper or some other combustible and many charms were, in fact.
pot metal. Holding the charm in my left hand with tweezers, I would
apply flux and solder with my right. Now with the assembly still in
hand, I would adjust my torch with my right hand and fire it up. Next,
a quick quench in the pickle. Often, tweezers are not even necessary,
as the only part that is being heated is the jump ring and it is
possible to jam the bracelet, charm and jump ring together so as to
hold the jump rigs opening on top. Since I was in early training, I
was allowed to use only medium flowing ten karat solder.

We were being trained for speed and were discouraged from using the
"third hand" as it was generally shown to be an unnecessary waste of
time to use it.

Silver charms were treated in essentially the same manner. The only
difference was the flame required to accomplish the solder without
heating up the rest of the jewelry. We used Hoke torches and I became
accustomed to using an oxidizing flame for this purpose. The trick is
to apply the heat from the underside of the joint while the pallion of
solder sits on top. We used a medium flowing solder for this

Using this method, there is really no excuse for burning up a
bracelet or charm. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. Soldering
thousands of charms in a year is going to create a few headaches.I
remember a gold disk type eraser charm that I burned the brush
bristles on. Paint did a disappearing act from time to time. Pot metal
charms were hard soldered and only rarely was there a rebuild
necessary. There was an early mistake when I was soldering a gold
charm and burned up a hollow link the became a problematic repair.

My mentor used to say “There was never a jeweler that didn’t get in
trouble, but it takes a good jeweler to get out of it”.

Good luck and try to have fun.

Bruce Holmgrain
JA Certified Master Bench Jeweler