Three experts offer their tips and tricks for bench work and repairs.

Did you know white gold is the metal of choice for 70% of brides? That’s a lot of rings needing rhodium plating. Whether you’ve been plating for one year or 10, a refresher never hurts. It’s time to don your apron, safety glasses, and latex gloves. Safety first!

- Mike Melvin,
Research and Development Engineer

Remember the golden rule of rhodium plating:

if it’s not clean, it won’t plate. Dark spots are often caused by pieces not being thoroughly cleaned. Though you can usually remove them using a soft buff with red rouge and light pressure, clean the pieces first to avoid the spots and save time.

If your rhodium bath gets contaminated -

Put two tablespoons of activated charcoal in the bath. Stir it periodically across an eight-hour period, and remove the charcoal from the bath with a coffee filter. 3. The anode for the Electro Clean (45-0312) should be stainless steel at a 2:1 ratio, and the anode for the rhodium should be platinized titanium at a 2:1 ratio.

Heat your rhodium bath to 100–110 degrees Fahrenheit -

When you take the piece out, rinse it in deionized or distilled water for 30 seconds. Steam dry to eliminate water spots.

Many jewelers call me with solder problems. “My solder’s not flowing” or “I’ve been using this solder for 20 years, and suddenly it’s not flowing.” I troubleshoot with them, and I encounter two things most commonly: dirty solder and large gaps.

- Angela Busby,
Former Master Bench Jeweler

With any solder — especially for rose gold —

Ensure a clean work surface. Keep a clean solder board, a clean mixture of boric acid and alcohol, clean parts, and clean solder. If there’s polish on your solder board, and you’re picking up or melting solder on that board, you’ll pick up rubber wheel bits and polish. This causes pitting and stops your solder from flowing.

When sizing, make sure your solder gap, -

Whether a butt tail or dove tail, has a tight joint. And don’t fill big gaps with solder. Solder is meant to join, not fill. If you’re filling a big space, the solder has nowhere to go but the gap. You fill and fill and fill, and then you’ve overfilled, your solder is too hot, and the first solder added erodes or pits.

I was having this recurring problem — my cuffs were a complete mess. The dry cleaners loved giving me a hard time over it since I had to see them so often.

- Patrick Mullins,
R.F. Moeller Jeweler | Edina, Minnesota

Here’s a simple, functional tip -

Cut the fingers off the glove you use for working with rouge. Of course, it’s not your hands that get dirty. It’s your cuffs, because the rouge shoots back six inches. I bought a nice, tight pair of gloves and cut out the thumb, index, and middle fingers. Now the local cleaners don’t see me as much — but my cuffs stay clean. It’s a simple tip, but it’s one that’s made all the difference for keeping my cuffs clean.

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