I am interested in starting working with Gold but am intimidated for obvious reasons, mistakes will be expensive. Any suggestions on some beginning projects with this medium and do you soldier gold the same way you do Sterling Silver?
The nice thing about working with gold is that you don’t have to heat the entire piece like you have to do with SS. Once your barrier flux and flow flux are dry and beginning to melt just go right in to your solder joint.
If you can solder Silver well you can also solder gold. Gold does not transfer heat as well as silver so where you have the torch will heat up much quicker then with silver.
Just remember with jewelry there are no mistakes only learning opportunities
Nothing to be scared about.
Just start out making a plain band with just one solder seam so that you can get the feel for it.
Gold is much easier to solder than silver. You don’t have to heat the whole thing as much as you do with silver. Gold solder is much more forgiving than silver solder. Be SURE to order Repair Solder and not Plumb solder. Also if you screw up, relax. Just remove any solder, melt the gold down, make fresh sheet and/or wire with it, and start over.
I do prefer to use paste flux for silver on gold rather than the thin liquid gold soldering flux. And be sure to dunk what ever gold you are soldering into a mixture of 50/50 powdered boric acid and denatured alcohol. Flame it off so that you have a fine dusty looking coating of boric acid on the metal before you add the flux and heat the metal. Granular casting borax will not do. And you need denatured alcohol. The grocery store stuff doesn’t work. Dive in, have fun, mess shit up and learn. The only reason I’m considered an expert at what I do is because I have f****d up everything there is to f**k up. Remember every mistake you make gets you one step closer to being an expert.
Thanks for all the tips!! I am feeling confident on trying a simple gold band. Also Jo, thanks for all the particulars. I certainly would not have known about repair solder, such a great tip. It looks like it has a cooler flowing temp which will make it just that much easier.
Good Morning Helen,
I have made a lot of jewelry. I have made good bit of gold jewelry. And I still am a bit apprehensive from the moment I accept the order to the moment the work is delivered. A gram of 14 k yellow gold according to google this morning is worth 29.72. A gram of sterling is worth .54. And this variable changes almost whimsically.
Hence the concern.
My Dad put me to work making bracelets out of copper. Not to make copper jewelry but to learn a process. To learn the tempo of making. The same process was used in making sterling jewelry with a few variations. The the fit of the joint, the application of heat, the type of flux, the type of solders. The same discovery applied to copper and silver also applied to working in gold. Take your time. Experiment where you can.
The bracelets that come from our family shops, Rob’s, mine, and now my son Greg’s often incorporate gold and silver. I only work with 14 k because in my experience it has some working similarities to sterling. At least enough similarities that they play well together. To begin I would suggest using gold for accents in your silver work. 2’ of 14 k .18 gauge wire is less of a concern should there be a failure than there is of 2’ of .10 gauge 14 k wire becoming a bubbled mess on the fire brick.
One bit of advice Dad gave me was this when building bracelets with gold accents: If the work is more silver than gold, solder the gold on to the silver with silver solder. Otherwise the gold solder
stands out against the silver and looks “off” and the silver solder seems to polish off the gold easier than gold solder polishes off the silver. Its also much cheaper.
Good luck Helen, have fun, don’t be so anxious that you don’t try something new.
Thanks for taking the time to leave such thoughtful tips. I love the idea of just working with gold accents for a while and will definitely stick with the silver solder. I will have to look up your work, I’m sure it is amazing.
Can I give an “Amen” to all that Jo and Don have said about working with 14K (or higher karet) gold. If I had more $$, I’d focus on that lovely gold. It’s more forgiving when soldering than standard sterling - gold sorta’ gives warning that the temp is closing in on melting point. If you play with it and watch how it acts when being heated, you’ll see that.
I would add that when I solder gold accents to sterling, I “sweat” solder using easy silver solder. When the solder flows on the silver base, it seems to trigger the solder on the gold accent to flow. Voila. Pull off the flame immediately, and Bob’s your uncle. Perfection.
Judy in Kansas, where temps are rising and it’s time to clean up the gardens.
I melted 14kt gold into a puddle the first time I attempted it, but you’ll quickly get used to working with it. I now frequently use 14kt gold accents on sterling silver pieces. I love the contrast between the two metals. I use sterling silver solder, not as a preference, but rather it’s what I have readily available and looks great against the sterling silver that I solder the gold on to.
Here’s a 14kt gold sweat soldering video I did about a year ago. https://youtu.be/X3HK525yteI
Hi Jo! Good advice! I was looking through the several posts here in Ganoksin about barrier flux. I wish I could remember who suggested it but I guess I could research it again. He suggested adding a small amount of borax to the boric acid/denatured alcohol. He has a “recipe” but I just added about tsp of borax to about a 1/8 cup of boric acid. I like it! It seems to make a more uniform coating when the alcohol burns off. Be sure not to add too much borax! My first attempt I bought a box of borax and thought that I’d just shake a little in. It was probably 50/50. Left a heavy coating but the next day I couldn’t chip it out of my jar with a hammer!
Just a quick question: if you’re using borax from a box,
would it be 20 Mule Team and if so, should it be ground
to a fine powder before adding to the boric acid and alcohol?
I’m sure that it would work. Honestly, it didn’t occur to me! I’m pretty sure I have an old spice grinder I’ll dig up and try it! Mixed in with the powdered boric acid without trying powdered borax. It leaves a more uniform coating on the piece without grinding it. it’s hard to tell. Now that I have plenty of time to check it out I’ll play with it. I’m also going to find the original post on Ganoksin. I’ll let you know.
Borax is not soluble in alcohol. Boric acid is soluble in alcohol this is why you use boric acid not borax to male a fire coat. Borax is soluble in water so if you want a water based flux use borax or a mix of boric acid and borax as both are soluble in water.
Ha! iI love your line about not being able to chip it off with a hammer. Been there, done that.
Hop you and yours are safe and healthy.
I agree with everything Jo mentioned. I got my start working on gold at a wholesale repair/manufacturing shop about 44 years ago - lucky me. So I was taught how to do repair work with repair solder on gold, silver, platinum because you never know who else has worked on the piece before you, so it’s safer. Not as likely to have your piece wind up in a puddle of goo on your bench. There are several types of repair solder for each type of karat (i.e. 10K, 14K, 18K, etc.). There is high, medium, easy flow, and extra easy. If you are working on a piece and don’t know its history (e.g. what other work has been done on it by some other jeweler), then start with medium flow repair solder. After you get used to soldering on gold a bit you could try using the high melt gold repair solder. This is a good rule of thumb if you are soldering on a piece that you didn’t make, but is sounds like you are getting ready to give making your own new stuff a try. Good for you.
What I have found working with new stuff is this: if you are making something - and after you have gotten the “feel” for soldering on gold, you can use plumb solder. Using plumb solder is more like fusing (welding) the joint in your piece. I generally only use plumb solder when I’m soldering a shank or similar large joint. I still use the hard (high melt point) repair solder when soldering settings or small parts on pieces I am making. As with silver, so with gold: small parts being soldered to larger parts will super heat and reach the melt point sooner than the larger mass of metal. So my tip for this kind of operation (and this is what I teach my students) is melt a small amount of solder on the little piece by itself, then do the same with the larger piece before joining the two together. Then heat the larger piece until the solder is just about to flow, and bring the smaller piece into the field of heat. Solder is designed to melt at a lower temp that the metal it is used for. So the reasoning I use with my students is this: "Which will melt first, the solder or the metal? Answer: the solder every time. Just be sure to quickly take the heat off the solder joint as soon as you see the solder flow.
And lastly, I also tell my students “don’t be afraid to melt something up. There’s only two kinds of goldsmiths in the world: those who have melted stuff, and those who will.”
Happy soldering. You’re going to love working in gold.
Mike I love this …“don’t be afraid to melt something up. There’s only two kinds of goldsmiths in the world: those who have melted stuff, and those who will.”
So true. One of the biggest hurdles for beginners is getting over their fear of fire and of melting things. So I always start them out with melting an oz of silver and pouring, forging, and rolling out an ingot. Then making wire and sheet out of it. Then I just have them jump right in and start soldering. That way the learn right off the bat what metal feels like and it’s limits. I tell them that the only way to get better is to just jump in and make a bunch of mistakes right away. I always start my classes with “Failure is not an option in this class. It’s a requirement.”