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Soldering Silver Jewellery

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Soldering is joining together two pieces of silver by using a solder that has a lower melting point than silver.

Soldering is essentially the fusion or joining together of two pieces of silver by the application of heat melting a solder. When heat is used to melt together two piecs of silver without solder then it is welding.

  1. Annealing. - Make sure the silver is properly annealed. see annealing silver jewellery.
  2. Cleaning. - It is absolutely essential that before you begin the silver is thoroughly cleaned. Even very small amounts of grease or tarnish will ruin the soldering. Make sure that you have good flux and also ensure the solder itself is bright and clean as it will flow more quickly and easier.
  3. No Gaps. - It is also vital that there are no visible gaps between the two pieces you want to solder. This is to prevent the solder from running down one side of the seam. Solder has a capillary action.
  4. Flux. - The best and most cost effective flux is Borax. The purpose of flux is to help the solder flow and prevent oxidation.

grinding borax into a paste

Make a white paste by grinding the borax cone into a dish with a little water.

Brush on the Borax paste onto the two pieces you want to join. The photographs illustrate making a silver ring however the same method can be used for almost any item of jewellery that requires soldering.

fusing thetwo joins of a silver ring together

Cut out a small piece of solder. (paillon) For making this ring we are using easy solder as there is only one joint. For more complex welds start by using hard solder then apply medium and then finally the easy. Place the small cut just below or on the joint.

heating a silver ring until its red hot

Heat the piece gently using a titanium stick to occasionally reposition the item. make sure the solder stays in position. Make sure you direct the heat at the piece and not the solder itself which will naturally heat through conductivity.

When the solder has become shiny and run along the join, remove the heat and let the item cool for a few seconds.

silver ring being left to cool for a few seconds

For keeping awkward or large pieces together use binding wire. You can also use a long strip of solder instead of a paillon. This is known as stick soldering. If you want to prevent the heat from conducting to other areas of the item, for example chain making, then isolate the area that does not need soldering. One method is to leave that area in a dish of cold water. As regards gemstone set rings then generally the gemstone will have to be removed before soldering, otherwise the silver will conduct the heat that will damage the gemstone.

quenching a silver ring

Finally quench the item in a bowl of pickle and then rinse with water.

If you wish to solder chains or pendants, special consideration should be given to ensure the pendant bale or chain-link is sufficiently isolated to prevent it from fusing together.

Beside using binding wire, for larger pieces of jewellery such as bangles, you can try using staples or T-pins to hold the bangle down flat on a charcoal or soldering block.

silver sheet on a charcoal block

1. Borax Cone used for flux making

2. Strips of easy solder

3." Argotec" mixed with some methylated spirits. Brushing this onto the silver can help prevent fire stains.

Types of Solder for Silver

There are four basic grades:-.

  1. Enamelling - since it has the highest melting point (1490F) it is only suitable for pieces that need to be enamelled.

  2. Hard - strips of this solder are about 6mm wide and it is the first solder you should use for soldering heavy pieces together. Its melting point is higher than the other solders and consequently reduces the risk of accidentally dissolving the precious metal .

  3. Medium, about 3 mm wide and is used after hard but before easy. Not an easy solder to work with as it can be very sticky.

  4. Easy - melts at approximately 1240F and is generally about 3 mm wide. Used for soldering findings, jump -rings or where there is one simple joint to make.