Hello All, I have worked in only silver for my entire metalsmithing
life, 8 whole years, and I want to start working with some gold. I
was looking for some tips on which karat to use. I enjoy the color of
pure gold but know it is too soft so I would love a recommendation on
a karat which is comparable with color yet tougher. Also, does anyone
have any input on the best solder to use? There are just so many
options out there, it gets a little confusing.
Thanks in advance! Happy smithing!
Dear Kim, except for the price, gold is a dream to work on. I work in
mostly 22k because I love the color and it is so easy to work with.
Everything is easier. When you solder gold you don’t have to heat up
the whole piece, just exactly where you are working, much easier,
previously soldered parts don’t fall off. I use gold solder, 21k hard
and 18k, easy, med, and hard, depending how many pieces need to be
soldered, how thick the gold is. You will find your way. Have fun and
remember if you mess up just save the pieces and the next time you
reprocess it, it will probably have increased in price.
The basics are the same…heat all the surrounding area and then
concentrate on the joint area until the solder flows.
Gold alloys do not conduct heat as fast as silver does, so less
surrounding area needs to be heated.
9ct Gold alloy will melt at red hot. 9ct Hard solder melts just
before or at red hot.
18ct Gold alloys are stable at red hot, and 18ct hard solder must be
red hot before it melts.
Practise by soldering the ends of some bars or wires of your chosen
alloy together. For good measure, try to re-melt the solder after a
successful soldering. Re-melting the solder should reveal a very
useful phenomena…it requires a lot more heat to re-melt. Using
hard solder, you can make successive joins and with care the
previous joins will not melt while melting new hard solder.
Go straight to hard gold solders. Don’t mess with ‘easy’ or
’extra-easy’. These are messy and a hinderance to learning. 'Medium’
is very usefull, but the ‘easy’ solders must be reserved only for
Dive in, do some trial solderings, and gold will be yours no
When you solder gold you don't have to heat up the whole piece,
just exactly where you are working, much easier, previously
soldered parts don't fall off.
Margery gets it off to a good start. Otto Frei and Stuller both have
good solders, and I’ve used others that were fine. I use plumb
solder always (I have a piece of “repair” xtra easy for the
occasional need, though) James Miller said he likes cadmium bearing
solder, but I got metal fume fever once from cadmium (my own fault,
of course) and I won’t have it in the shop. I have never used medium
solder and have no need for it - easy and medium does the job.
One of the main differences is the behaviour of the solder itself
under heat. Silver solder, especially easy, tends to go splat - it
just turns to water and runs. Gold solders are much more easily
manipulated - slumped, pulled and pushed and directed as to when,
where and how they flow. That’s not so black-and-white in reality -
silver solder can be manipulated, too. It’s just that gold solders
are much more amenable to it. You can also weld many gold alloys in
ways you could never do with sterling silver.
I hate silver work. I worked hunreds of pounds of it (not
exaggerating) so I know it. But once you get up to speed with gold
you’ll never look back…
There are lots of experienced and intelligent folks here and I’ll
defer to them on what karat and solders to use. I can pass along two
observations I made years ago when I started working with gold. One,
lower karat golds (14K) don’t work like silver… to me they are
"stiffer". 18K works more like sterling and I have not worked with
higher karat golds except with keum-boo. I’ve never been able to
aneal 14k to the point it worked like silver. That is probably a
trivial observation, but if you have worked for years with sterling
it is noticeable. The second is that from my experience gold is less
forgiving under the torch when soldering. If you leave the flame in
place just a hair or too long with sterling it will forgive you…
gold will melt and make you say words that would make a sailor blush.
Been there done that. You just don’t get the visual cues that silver
gives you that you are about to do a boo boo. After you work with
gold for a while you get a feel for it… but the point is that gold
does work differently than silver, so be prepared.
Just my 2 cents…