Professional Jeweler Archive: Reconstructing Worn Illusion Settings

August 2002

Professional Bench/Defining Quality

Reconstructing Worn Illusion Settings

Knowing how to reconstruct a worn box-style illusion setting demonstrates another aspect of quality in your shop

Over the years, box-style illusion or fishtail settings on engagement rings wear thin at the base of the assembly from constant friction with the wedding band. The standard solution involves removing the center stone, replacing the box illusion setting and resetting the center stone. Most often, however, customers want their setting reconstructed for sentimental reasons and design preferences.

Inspection and Job Analysis

After inspection and discussion, the customer has selected to reconstruct her setting because potential replacement pieces don’t resemble her original design.

Hermanson notes the base of the setting is worn because of friction between the wedding ring and the box-style illusion setting, both 14k white gold. Wear would diminish if the two rings were soldered together.

The box-style illusion setting is severely worn at the base, sharp and uncomfortable to wear.

Preparing for the Reconstruction

Even though the ring was cleaned at the time of the first inspection, Hermanson cleans it again. Any dirt or residue on the diamond or gold will create problems if it is not removed before the re-construction and soldering process.

Hermanson prepares the worn portion by filing the side of the illusion setting flat and squaring the top of the worn area. He fits a piece of white gold flat stock over the worn area and makes adjustments for best fit and solder joint.

Positioning and Soldering the Flat Stock

The joint between the head and shank was assembled using easy solder. Hermanson uses a laser welder to spot-weld the joint on each side of the head; this “locks” the assembly so the head and shank don’t shift when soldering the flat stock into position. He uses a small ball bur to make a shallow indentation precisely at each joint and 28-gauge white gold wire to perform a small and inconspicuous weld. He gets more than a surface weld by burring slightly into the joint and building up with the 28-gauge wire. His laser welder is set to 240 volts with a focus of 10 at 3.3 milliseconds.

Next, Hermanson spot-welds the flat stock into position using the laser welder. With easy solder, he solders the piece without having to use a holding device. The overall size of the flat stock is slightly longer than the width of the illusion setting and extends below its base.

Shaping and Finishing

Hermanson files away the excess flat stock. Using a pointer tool, He scribes the design of the illusion setting onto flat stock. Next, he drills small holes to thread his saw blade through and then he pierces the design. Using his saw, gravers and small escapement files, he finishes the detail of the setting. Last, he pre-finishes the two rings.

Soldering the Wedding Band to the Ring

Hermanson lightly files each ring at the bottom portions where they come in contact when placed together. This increases the resistance and ensures better tack-welding results. Using his ABI Tack II set at 35 to 40 volts on the high-energy setting and the bipolar tweezers attachment, he tack-welds the rings together, solders them using easy flowing solder, then pickles and rinses.

At the joint between the wedding ring and the base of the illusion setting, he files a deep narrow notch. He welds the joint using his laser welder and 28- gauge white gold wire. Making a deep narrow notch allows him to weld the complete joint, not just the surface. He used the laser welder to avoid oxidation and flowing other nearby joints. All that’s left is the detailed finishing and rhodium plating.

Procedure Summary

This procedure takes Hermanson close to two hours to complete and typically doesn’t require the removal of the center stone. He must remove heat-sensitive gemstones and is careful that diamonds are not fracture-filled because this procedure would cause the filling to be released.

The process of removing the center stone, replacing the illusion setting, resetting the center stone, finishing and rhodium plating takes about one hour to complete.

– by Mark B. Mann

Technical contributions by Steece Hermanson, JA® Certified Master Bench Jeweler™ and shop manager at Galloway & Moseley, Sumter, SC

Illustrations by Lainie Mann, Visual Communications
©2002 – Visual Communications

Fine Jewelry Craftsmanship Quality Guide

Professional Reconstruction of an Illusion Setting and Attachment of the Wedding Band

Professionally Reconstructed Illusion Setting and Soldered Wedding Band

A. The reconstructed box illusion setting is proportionate and evenly shaped and has no visible solder joints.

B. The design elements are crisp, sharp, even and consistent with the design of the original setting.

C. The two rings are the same size and evenly soldered together.

D. There are no file or tool marks on any portion of the reconstruction and assembly.

E. The rhodium plating is even and has a high luster.

Potential Problems to Watch for

The design detail does not match, is crudely reconstructed and has visible solder joints.
The rings were not sized and one is larger than the other, resulting from errors in workmanship.
The box-style illusion setting was not aligned properly before reconstruction. When reconstructing jewelry, always identify and correct previous errors in workmanship and be sure to charge appropriately for the time.
The rings were not prefinished properly before assembly, resulting in visible errors in workmanship. Rhodium plating does not cover poor quality finishing, but rather emphasizes it.

– by Mark B. Mann

Illustrations by Lainie Mann, Visual Communications
©2002 – Visual Communications

This series sponsored in part by Jewelers of America

Copyright © 2002 by Bond Communications