Soldering heavy silver

I have cast a 62 gram cuff bracelet in silver. I would like to solder
small gold pieces on to it. Will I ever be able to get this up to
soldering temp.? I have a midget torch with tips up to 7 and also a
rosebud melting tip. I am even considering the possibility of using
my BIG melting torch, with bigger hoses and higher pressure. Any help
would be appreciated. Net

When I solder gold on to very heavy silver I often create an "oven"
using charcoal blocks, surrounding the piece on 3 sides. This holds
the heat in and enables the silver to heat up to soldering
temperature. I use a miget torch, a 5 or 6 tip. Jan
Wonderful Gemstones set in unique handcrafted designs of silver or gold.

I don’t know about the midget torch you can only try it! I would use
Pripps flux for one thing so you don’t get firescale and despite
hating easy solder for silver work this is one case where you should
use easy. Don’t know what karat gold you’re soldering on the gold with
but if you’re doing 14kt and use medium or hard solder chances are
you’ll end up having the gold actually sinking into the silver. Easy
solder is the way to avoid that. Your melting torch might be ok just
don’t go too fast, maybe solder in a darkened room, watch your metal
color…easy solder should melt before it gets too red anyway. I use
a Smith plumber’s style torch which uses air/acetylene, your melting
torch is probably oxy/acetylene and is pretty hot, just turn it down,
you should be ok…Dave

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Soldering on heavy silver can be challenging for sore. I dont prefer
the type of torch you are using for large silver pieces. A multi-
orfice tip is good use lots of boric acid and achohol first to prevent
oxidation and a multi orfice or larger melting flame. The key is heat
a very large area not just were you are placing the inhancement’s.
This will help the heat tranfer problem your facing. I like on this
type a work to use lot’s of heat, multi office and a somewhat soft
flame not a “hissing” flame. Give it a try… Chip Stone (yes thats my real name)

This situation presents a number of issues that would be next to
impossible to resolve with normal jeweler’s equipment. Even with big
torch set ups, you will still have problems getting the large silver
bracelet up to soldering temperature while attempting to solder on
small pieces of gold.

Soldering gold to silver is tricky even under more ideal conditions:
The temperatures have to be very tightly held. Too low and you won’t
get a bond. Too high and the gold will alloy into the silver and
completely disappear.

One way (and the only way that I know of) to overcome the problem is
to use a small scale forge set up. Make one from a large tin can like
a 2 lb coffee can. Cut an air inlet about 2" sq in the lower part of
the can. About 1/3 of the way down from the top punch holes and run
wire from coat hangers accross to make a screen to hold charcoal.
Attach a stove pipe to the can and cut a hole big enough to allow you
to work on the bracelet. Load the top part of the can with charcoal
and start the charcoal on fire. Hot air up the stove pipe will create
a draft through the coals from the air inlet below. You can regulate
the draft by adjusting the air inlet opening. Place the bracelet
in the coals, use maximum draft and heat to get it up to temperature
as quickly as possible, then close down the opening some to keep it
red. Now position your prefluxed and tinned gold pieces on top of the
red hot bracelet and watch carefully for the tell tale solder lines to
appear at the edges of the gold pieces. You might also find it
effective to use a blow pipe to blow more oxygen to specific areas
under the bracelet to raise the temperature slightly higher at those
points and get more control that way.

Good luck, and let us know how you did.

Riccardo Accurso
Ricco Gallery of Contemporary Art Jewelry
125 W German St /PO Box 883
Shepherdstown, WV 25443-0883

I just realized that I said that I use a Micro Torch to solder larger
silver items, when I use a Little Torch. I know there is a big
difference! If you use the multi-orifice melting tip on the Little
Torch, the temp. that it reaches can melt up to 3 ounces of silver or
gold, according to the catalog description. So this torch is able to
get a piece like yours up to soldering temperature. Like I said,
focus on the silver, heating the piece evenly. Don’t focus on the
small gold parts, or the solder will only flow onto them. There is
no doubt that this is a challenging soldering operation. It just
takes patience and you have to perform some pretty fancy torch-work!
I wouldn’t recommend using this torch for this job if you are a
beginner. You definitely should feel very comfortable with it.


Thanks for the info on soldering gold on my 62 gram silver cast
bracelet. The ideas about making a charcoal oven, or using a coffee
can to create this heat surround leads me to this idea. Could I use
my kiln to bring the bracelet up to the soldering temp, then bring it
out and quickly add more heat with the torch to solder? Maybe a
combination: use the kiln, then bringing the bracelet to a heat
surround thing. Also I am looking to add back issues to my Ornament
Magazine collection. I’ve got all the back issues that Ornament
offers now and I am looking for all issues previous to volume 13,
No.4.Thanks all you Orchidites! Contact me at: @ReaDwoW

Yes you can solder these smaller gold pieces on.Sweat the
solder(easy) on to the gold pieces. Polish the silver surfaces to a
rouge finish before you solder the gold on to it. Heat the flux on the
silver until the bubbling stops,place the gold piece on and heating
from underneath the silver will melt the solder for a good bond. Make
sure the top surface is level otherwise the gold may skid off and fix
on where you don’t want it. Having used oxy/acetylene for all of my
jewellery life (16yrs) I have changed to oxy/propane and am really
enjoying it. I use a blowtorch for light work and a larger torch
purchased from House of Jewellery in Sydney for heavy metal work and
melts. The latter I would recommend for this job. After all the
soldering is done you can cyanide strip the piece and clean up the
gold surfaces etc with a rouge polish (depending on whether you have
adequately tripolied everywhere beforehand. (Having never heard of
anyone recommending the use of cyanide on this website I look forward
to a heated discussion). Hope this helps, regards, Johnny the Jeweller.

Dear Net,

I primarily fabricate my pieces in 18k and Sterling. I use a
propane and oxygen micro torch. For larger silver items, I use the
melting tip and place the piece on a charcoal block. It is possible
to use the # 7 tip, but I think that the melting tip is a little
easier to use on larger projects such as yours. Just don’t turn it
up to a sharp oxidizing flame, like you are actually trying to melt
something! You want a large reducing flame. Make sure that you
cover your piece in an anti-oxidizing hard soldering flux. Gesswein
has a terrific one. Heat the bracelet evenly, don’t focus on one
point. As the flux turns from a frosty white to clear, you start to
focus the torch around the gold pieces and the solder. It helps to
quickly move the flame under the bracelet and over the area that you
are trying to solder as the temperature reaches the solder flow
point. If any area turns red you are heating it too much, back off
with the torch. I always start off with a hard silver solder when
soldering gold to silver. If I have to do several solders, I use a
medium-hard silver solder. Obviously, don’t over-heat the solder or
it will sink into the gold. Treat the whole piece as if it were all
silver. Don’t solder it like you would with gold. If the bracelet
starts to look dirty and the solder isn’t flowing, pickle it and try
again. I haven’t had good luck using gold solder when soldering with
sterling. If any of the gold solder wanders or gets too hot, it
makes a real mess on the silver. I hope this helps!

Good luck,

I’ve got a question for this thread. What solder do you use on a
heavy silver bracelet with 18K enhancements on it? Currently I’ve been
using easy silver solder.

toni tischer

   The ideas about making a charcoal oven, or using a coffee can to
create this heat surround leads me to this idea. Could I use my kiln
to bring the bracelet up to the soldering temp, then bring it out
and quickly add more heat with the torch to solder? 

The answer is that this will probably lead to failure. The basic
issues are these: sterling silver has copper in the alloy which tends
to come up to surface as copper oxide. The oxide impedes the flow of
solder and this is why flux is used–to hold back the oxide formation
by preventing oxygen to reach the surface. This only works to a
degree, as we all know, and the more heat that is applied, the faster
the oxides will build, and the more time under heat, the worse it

Your case–a heavy silver bracelet with small gold pieces–
exaggerates the problems: you have a large piece of sterling which has
a high tendency to oxidize and small pieces of gold which will have a
tendency to melt if accidentally hit by a large torch flame. The
problem is that the size of the torch to heat the big bracelet will
simply be too big to have control over the solder of the small gold
pieces. Another problem would be that you will be fighting to keep
the bracelet evenly heated. As you get one area hot enough, areas
nearby will be cooling off. No matter how big your torch. What will
happen then is that you will be fighting oxide buildups which will
further complicate the soldering of the gold pieces.

With the charcoal kiln idea, which is as old as prehistory in
metalworking techniques, you have several advantages. One is that the
charcoal surface is a reducing environment, meaning that it is oxygen
poor. The oxygen is consumed as it burns. Thus, one of the key
factors is oxide build-up is removed at the outset. Another advantage
is that you have an even source of heat, and one that is massive in
terms of total calories available to heat the large piece of silver so
that instead of struggling to keep the piece evenly hot, you get that
automatically, and faster than you would with even a big torch. Note
further that the torch will be applying oxygen in the fuel mix to the
piece, which adds to the oxidation problem. Another advantage is
that the charcoal kiln is cheap and easy to make. The torch is just
another piece of equipment you will have to buy, and how many of these
big silver bracelets with small gold pieces are you going to make?

What I am still learning, after almost 30 years putting metal
together, is that the gentle way is the best way. We have a tendency
in the West to want to force things, to dominate nature. If you
understand the material, you won’t need to force it. You simply allow
it to do what it wants to do.

Riccardo Accurso
Ricco Gallery of Contemporary Art Jewelry
125 W German St /PO Box 883
Shepherdstown, WV 25443-0883

I asked the first heavy silver bracelt question so I’ll answer this
one. Right now I’m soldering 18k on silver rings and smaller items.
That bracelet is still waiting. I use silver solder in easy and
medium paste. I’m self taught so I don’t know what is correct, just
what works for me. Net

toni: boy, I’ll bet you’ll get ten different answers to that one.
I’ve heard it recommended to use easy in that case, but then make sure
you don’t use too much solder as easy tarnishes alot faster than
sterling and looks ugly then. If you use just enough easy solder to do
the job it should be fine. Easy would be more important to use with
14kt gold since 14kt has so much copper in it, its likely to sink into
the silver more. If you can do all the soldering in one go you might
use medium. You COULD use hard solder but if you overheat you risk
sinking the gold into the silver. After having many pieces of gold
sink into my pieces I’m more using easy these days and being careful
to not have it slop out the edges…Dave

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Featured in Lapidary Journal this month September!
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