Palladium

I’m getting married in six weeks. It’s very exciting and a little stressful!

Neither my partner nor I are particularly enamoured of Gold, we couldn’t afford Platinum (even if I had the necessary equipment to work it, which I don’t) and because my partner is very tough on jewellery, we didn’t think that Silver would be strong enough to survive a lifetime of continuous wear. So I decided to take the plunge and try using Palladium to make our wedding rings. With a similar ‘silver’ finish to Platinum and harder than Gold, and considerably cheaper than both, it seemed like the logical choice.

I ordered the sheet pre-cut to the size I wanted to use (so much easier than trying to saw long strips of metal in a straight line!) and then after a bit of practice on some spare copper punched a very simple pattern into the length of the ring. Palladium work hardens very quickly, so I had to anneal it several times in order to hammer the ring into shape, but once done it held the shape really well.

Soldering the join however was a whole new challenge!

Prior to this I’ve only worked with copper, silver and white gold. All of these have a tendancy to melt rather quickly and so I’ve learned to take the flame off the metal very quickly when it starts to go red. First challenge to overcome – Palladium doesn’t melt when it goes red. Or orange. Or yellow! The soldering temperature is much higher than anything I’ve worked with previously. Also, the solder didn’t flow very well. The first application eventually went where it was supposed to, but adding small amounts to finish off the join, were very unsuccessful. Eventually I decided to ask for some advice. First up was a phonecall to Cooksons to double check that the soldering block I was using could withstand the necessary temperatures (and that I wasn’t going to blow up my workshop in the process). During this phonecall they also happened to mention that they don’t recommend using palladium solder, but that you should use platinum solder instead because palladium solder doesn’t flow very well … I couldn’t help but feel that is the sort of useful information that they could put on the website so that customers can make informed choices when placing an order … or alternatively even in the epic catalogue they supply with all sorts of technical information and hints and the front of it (needless to say it isn’t mentioned anywhere). A brief chat with a friend confirmed that palladium solder is ‘tricksy’ and recommended either platinum or 18ct white gold instead.

Now both of those solders come in a certain size from my supplier and would have ended up costing me more than the metal for the ring itself cost. Out of my budget unfortunately. However I am a stubborn girl at the best of times, and with the added advice of trying some flux to get the solder to flow, I persevered, and eventually got this join soldered to a point where I was happy with it.

The rest of the task was lovely and straightforward. Shape the ring, file down the join, sand the edges to smooth, and then polish. Palladium doesn’t need pickling, holds the shape really well and is an absolute dream to polish. I now have a unique wedding ring that I am really pleased with that will hopefully last a lifetime. Add to that experience with a new metal, and it has been a good week. Just my partner’s ring to make up now!

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~ by Silver Nightshade Jewellery on 27/08/2010.

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