If you own gold pieces and you are looking for how to solder gold so you can join them, this guide will show you what to do.
Soldering gold may sound the same as soldering other types of metals. I used to believe they were the same thing. But they couldn’t be farther apart.
Therefore, it is important you know what tools to gather. And it may be wise to practice on less precious metals before going for gold.
Steps to Follow to Solder Gold
The following are the important steps to follow if you want to solder your gold:
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
The tools you will need are:
- Soldering brick
- Gold solder
- Precision torch
- Copper tongs and other holding tools
- Pickle bath and water bath
Let us describe what each tool does and why it is important
You use the brick to hold up the gold during the soldering process. Because of the heat involved, it is important to get the right type.
You have the options of charcoal, kiln and magnesia soldering bricks. These materials hold up well under intense heat.
Solder is a metal alloy that is built to melt as well as merge metals. However, most solders are not effective in joining gold.
Therefore, it is important you buy a solder specifically for joining gold and not just any type of solder.
You will find it in sheets, chips (1mm) and wire. It is better to buy them as large pieces so you can cut them yourself. This way, you will be able to control how much solder you use per time.
Use a solder with high gold content, even though it is higher to melt. That is if you have a large repair to make. Go for hard, medium or plumb solder. You can also go for a solder that has 14 karats or more.
But if you have a small repair, use one with smaller gold content. This is because it is easier to melt. Solder with less than 14 karats will do, as well as easy solder and repair solder.
However, if you are going to use rose gold or pink solder, read the label to be sure it does not contain toxic cadmium.
A high temperature or butane torch will serve this purpose if you can find one. But if all you can find is a tiny oxy-acetylene gas one, use it. Avoid using a soldering iron.
Get the right type of flux. A flux helps make the surface of the metal clean. This way, the process of soldering goes smoothly.
You may see it sold as brazing flux but be sure to get the right one fit to be used on precious metals. A flux may come as liquid, paste or powder that can form a paste if you add water.
Copper Tongs and Other Holding Tools
Copper does not corrode easily, even in a solution as acidic as a pickle bath. Apart from the copper tongs, find other tools you can use to hold down the gold during soldering.
However, the tools don’t all have to be copper. A pair of tweezers works well here. A vise or a clamp is good, too. But you need to handle it lightly so that it does not bend the gold.
Pickle Bath and Water Bath
Get a container and fill it with water. It can be any type of container, as long as it is deep and wide enough for you to cool and rinse the gold during the process.
Also, get a container and make a pickle bath or solution. The solution cleans oxidization away from the metal so buy one. It usually comes in the form of a powder that you can mix with water before heating.
Do not put the solution into a container made of steel or use a utensil of the same material to stir it. And for heating it, do not use a microwave.
It is important for me to point out here that you need to work in an area with good ventilation. It helps push potentially harmful fumes from the soldering away. If you don’t have such a place, use a fan.
But be sure that the breeze is not too strong. If it is, it will slow the soldering process down as the air will cool the heat.
Additionally, protect yourself. Use safety goggles and a thick apron. The goggles are to keep your eyes safe from possible droplets and the apron is to protect your clothes and skin.
If possible, avoid wearing long-sleeved clothes and if you have long hair, tie it back.
Step 2: Clean Your Gold
To join the gold pieces, you need to clean them. Soak the pieces in the pickle bath to remove dirt, grease or any other contamination on the surface. If you don’t do this, it may be hard for the solder to bind them chemically.
After soaking them for a few minutes, rinse them in the water bath to clean the acid off. You may use a mild soap for extra cleaning after this.
Some people tend to add baking soda into the water in order to neutralize the acid. But if you do the pickle bath right, you don’t need the baking soda for neutralization.
Step 3: Lay Out the Gold
Set the soldering brick and lay the gold pieces on it. Put them as close together as you can so that there is little or no space between them. If you leave a large gap, it may be hard to work with.
Step 4: Apply Flux
Apply a little flux on the areas you want to join in the process. It may help in reducing the solder that flows down to the wrong parts.
The job of flux is to remove extra impurities and keep the surface of the gold from discoloring. So you may want to apply it all over the gold pieces if you wish.
Step 5: Apply Heat to the Flux
Take the precision torch and apply a little heat to the flux. You will see the water boiling away and leaving behind only solids.
The solids keep copper oxides from forming on the surface of the gold. So if the flux is all over the gold, ensure you apply the heat all over. Do this before adding solder.
Step 6: Put Solder and Heat
Take a solder chip and place it on one seam end on the pieces you aim to join. Then, apply heat to it, as well as on the gold surrounding it.
Move the heat source slowly so that you evenly apply the heat along the seam. If the torch is the high-temperature type, you may not have to heat up all the gold. Heating the seam alone will do the trick.
If done appropriately, you will find the solder melting and flowing across the gold seam. The two objects will join.
Step 7: Treat with Pickle and Water
When the solder flows along the seam, make sure you heat the surfaces of the metal adequately to join the gold pieces.
Then, turn the torch off and allow the gold to cool. Give it a few minutes before you dip it into the water. Take it out of the water and hold it with the copper tongs.
Then, dip it in the pickle. Like the water bath, give it a few minutes. Doing this creates time for a lot of the fire-scale to be cleaned off.
Step 8: Make Other Adjustments
Take the gold out of the pickle bath and rinse it off inside the water. Inspect it to see how well it came out. There may be a need to clean off excess solder before you can see the joined seam.
Also, clean off any extra fire-scale so that the gold piece will not look dull. Voila! Your work is done.
Storing Gold Jewelry
The following are tips to use when storing your jewelry, especially gold ones:
Use a Soft-lined Jewelry Box
There is less chance of scratching the surface of the gold or even damaging it if you use this type of box. Hard jewelry boxes don’t serve this purposes, especially when the jewelry has gemstones.
Ensure that the box has enough space to store all the gold pieces. This way, they don’t rub against each other and scratch surfaces.
Hang on Hooks
If there are necklaces or other gold jewelry that can hang, it is best if you use hooks. Doing this eliminates the problem of kinking or knotting. Besides, picking them out from the rest is easier this way.
Keep Away from Extreme or Humid Temperature
If the weather is too cold or too hot, it may affect the gold in storage. You may find some discoloration on the gold.
Therefore, choose a place with good airflow and low humidity. And if there are gemstones on the gold, find out what weather works for each type.
To wrap things up, soldering gold is no mean feat. It takes a lot of work and concentration. Remember the steps:
- Gather tools
- Clean gold
- Lay out gold
- Apply flux
- Apply heat to flux
- Put solder and heat
- Treat with pickle and water
- Make other adjustments
Additionally, use all the safety measures which I listed here – proper ventilation and safety gear – to keep from injuries.
If you have any question, feel free to ask them in the comments section.