It seems like a lot of laser repairs involve emeralds. I recall the Indiana Jones movies where “Indy” comes face to face with a snake (or snakes). “Snakes, I HATE SNAKES!” Have you ever been overheard saying, “Emeralds, I hate emeralds!” Only the bench jeweler would say this. Let me qualify that statement… only the bench jeweler who does not have a laser, or access to a laser, would say this.
Trying to do repairs in close proximity to emeralds or other stones that are heat sensitive can be, at best, a challenge to most bench jewelers, even the most experienced. Though lasers do not remove ALL risk in repair of these items, they do make the prospects of a successful repair much greater. This is another example of what you can do with a laser.
Here’s the problem. Your customer gives you an emerald ring that has some prongs in need of repair. The ring is 18k yellow gold and the emerald is substantial. You could attempt to remove the emerald and repair the ring using traditional torch/solder methods. If you do remove the stone, there is a risk you might chip or break it during the removal or resetting process. If you use a laser, in this instance, you can leave the stone in place and you can do the following.
As with ANY repair, ALWAYS inspect and document any problems with the item. One really good way to document a repair take in is to take a close-up photo of the piece.
I took some pictures of the ring and used my photo-editing program to identify the problems of the ring. Notice that I indicated the location of the karat stamp. If a ring is symmetrical, it is important to give a point of reference wit h regard to the location of problems in case questions a rise later about your work. In this case I numbered the locations as well.
After an estimate of the cost to do the work and the approval of the customer, I began repairing the ring.
The first priority when laser welding an item like this is to consider how you will protect stones and finishes. If you have seen previous articles on this subject, you know several approaches can be used. In this case I chose two particular approaches for protecting “my interests.”
The first approach is the high polished sterling silver template. Notice the reflection of the stones on the template. Since laser pulses are light, and silver when highly polished is highly reflective, it is a good protective device. Just be sure to keep the silver template polished and free of oxidation or you will run the risk of welding the template to your ring. (I outlined the template in red to show you its shape.)
The other approach to protecting the stone is using Plasti-Tak. This substance is good for protecting surfaces and stones and is quite versatile. I use these two items 95% of the time when welding items with sensitive stones or finishes. One advantage of Plasti-Tak over the sterling template is that you can use both hands to do the work; with the template you only have one hand free to hold the item and the welding wire.
Once you have protected the stone you can begin welding. The comer of the baguette diamond and one side of the round diamond in the center of the picture is in need of prong work. Using 30 gauge gold wire, I rebuilt the prongs in their proper place.
The area enclosed in the red ellipse is the place where the prongs were rebuilt. This picture was taken prior to finishing and polishing.
Notice how close the weld zone is to the emerald.
The repair is completed. Your customer is elated. As for the snakes… well that’s for the sequel!