AJM – Global Trade Magazine                                                           November 2001 issue


           With a flash of light, Mike Calcote of Hallmark Jewelers in Lafayette, Louisana, repairs tennis bracelet links without removing the stones or running the risk of solder flowing into the hinge and destroying its mobility.
                  Hagop Matossian, owner of Bostonian Jewelers and manufacturers Inc., formerly Hagop Settings, in Boston, repairs an antique enamel pin without damaging the enamel or leaving visible signs of the restoration work.
                 And Robert Aletto, owner of jewelry  manufacturer Aletto & Co. in Boca Raton, Florida, attaches earring clips in one step instead of the two necessary when soldering, making his line of 14k and 18k gold jewelry more profitable.
               The one tool that allows each of these jewelers to do their jobs better is a laser welder, a technological advancement that is becoming increasingly common in trade shops and manufacturing facilities.  By using a sharply focused beam of light to produce very high heat in a small area, lasers are allowing jewelers to routinely accomplish tasks that would once have been either impossible or too time consuming to be worthwhile.
             “It’s like performing microscopic surgery on jewelry,” says Matossian “We can work very close to heat sensitive stones without damaging them.  Because you are working under a microscope and because your able to adjust the laser beam from two-tenths of a millimeter up to two millimeters in diameter, you can keep completer control of where you are firing the laser.  We can work as close as a half a millimeter away from heat sensitive stones.”  
             With this ability, repairs that once took multiple steps-disassembling a piece, unsetting the stones, completing the repair, then re-setting the stones – can now be completed in a single step.  For example, says Calcote, emerald cluster rings can be repaired in about 5 minutes, as opposed to the hours it can take to remove and re-set the stones. 
            "Once you remove the stones from a piece of jewelry, your totally ruining the integrity of the piece, “ says Matossian “No matter how good you are, your never going to get it back together as it was before you started.  With the laser welder, your keeping the integrity of that piece by not removing heat – sensitive stones, and your able to keep the patina, the look that an old piece of jewelry has.  That patina tells a story, and when your trying to repair or restore that piece with a conventional torch, you lose it. The piece of jewelry gets oxidized, the colors change, [and] you need to polish the piece.  So now a piece that’s 200 years old, looks like a new piece.” 

Jewelers have long re-tipped gold prongs near diamonds, without removing the diamonds
from their settings.  This technique can be chancy with platinum prongs and impossible with heat sensitive stones such as emerald and opal.  The laser’s concentrated heat, however, makes it possible
to use this technique with almost any setting.

                “There is a fine line between where platinum melts and the maximum temperature a diamond can take, “ says Matossian.  “With a torch, you can easily go over that link just enough to frost up that diamond. [With a torch], the only way to build up is to melt solder to build up the prong, or to add a piece of platinum using lower temperature solder to bond the joints.  With the laser welder, I can actually melt [platinum] right onto that prong and create prongs that look just like the day the ring was made, even though it may be 80 or 100 years old.”

Repairing stainless steel. 
“One thing we just couldn’t do well before [laser welders] is [repair] watches with deployment buckles, where the rivet holding the strap piece on has come off.  Most are stainless  steel, and stainless steel is difficult at best to solder,” says Leigh “Now we can put the rivet back in and just use the laser to tack rivet on both sides.”

            Matossian has found that he can repair stainless steel watch bands that once would have needed to be replaced.  “In the past, when we had links that separated, we had to call the manufacturer and order a whole new bracelet,” says Matossian.  “Now we are able to weld components back together.”

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