February 19, 2019 / How To

Jewelry Soldering Techniques in the Studio

Learn about jewelry soldering techniques including pick soldering, gold soldering, and sweat soldering ...

Learn about the top three jewelry soldering techniques used at the bench to create stunning jewelry designs.

Jewelry soldering is a key skill to add to your jeweler's repertoire. 

Essential Supplies for Jewelry Soldering

Jewelry Torch

The jeweler's torch is the center of a soldering set-up that you can build at your jeweler's bench or nearby in your studio workspace. We recommend taking a course on soldering basics and safety prior to experimenting on your own.

A jeweler's torch is used to heat metal and solder to permanently join two pieces of metal together. The solder flows across the join and holds the pieces together once it hardens. A jeweler's torch is different than a laser welder, which fuses the metals together without solder.

If you're just getting started metalsmithing, don't be intimidated by the jeweler's torch. It takes a little getting used to, but it quickly becomes like an extension of your arm. It makes so many things possible in the jewelry studio that you'll soon become comfortable with the flame and excited about what you can do.

Jewelry Solder

You have several choices when it comes to the solder itself. There is silver solder paste, sheet and chip solder, or wire solder. Base metal brazing solder is also available. For 14kt solid gold or gold-filled, you use gold solder. In the Halstead Studio, we use all the different types, depending on what is best for the jewelry design.

Paste solder is a tacky mixture of solder and flux. It's perfect for small things like jump rings. Chip (also called "pallion") solder is easy to control because the pieces are small and similarly sized. You can easily maneuver pallions with the tip of your soldering pick. Wire is versatile: you can cut what you need and flatten it with a hammer if necessary.

Easy, soft, medium and hard refer to the melting points of the solder and the mix of the alloys. As you plan your jewelry design, you'll want to think about how many times the piece will need to be soldered. Use the hardest solder necessary for the first join, then work your way down the scale.

Top 3 Jewelry Soldering Techniques

There are three main soldering techniques and each one has its place. Learn the best method to choose for each soldering job. 

1. Standard Jewelry Soldering

Standard soldering
Standard jewelry soldering

Flux and then place the solder underneath or on top of the join itself and then heat until the solder flows up.

This is the basic way to solder that is most widely used for different kinds of jewelry pieces. We take a deep dive on learning this technique in our blog How to Solder Silver

Top Jewelry Soldering Tips:

  • Make sure your metal is clean.
  • The metal must be touching.
  • Use flux to help the solder flow.
  • Concentrate the heat on the metal, not on the solder.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

 2. Sweat Soldering Jewelry

Sweat soldering
Sweat Soldering

Sweat soldering is a technique used extensively by jewelers. It allows the artist to join very small pieces together without reaching the melting point that would distort the components. When you sweat solder you have more control of the solder, the heat, and there's less clean-up. This technique will quickly become a favorite of yours if you're just starting out. Sweat soldering is a two-step heating process. First, flux and melt the solder onto the first piece of metal then pickle and quench it. Second, place the 1st piece of metal (solder side down) onto the second piece of metal that you'd like to solder it to. Heat both pieces until the solder flows and joins the two metals together.

Sweat soldering is ideal for joining an embellishment to flat metal sheet or other jobs where you don't want the solder to be visible on the jewelry piece. Below we dive into two example projects to explore the possibilities of sweat soldering jewelry.

Sweat Soldering Wire Embellishments to the Surface of Your Jewelry Designs

Sweat soldering jewelry wire

In this project, I sweat soldered 14kt gold wire pieces onto a round 20 gauge sterling silver blank. The key when soldering wire is to control the amount of solder because if you use too much you'll have a lot of tricky cleaning to do at the end. Soldered wire accents allow you to create geometric designs with a line drawing feel. But, soldering thin wires onto sheet metal is a challenge.

What you'll need:

  • Ruler
  • Wire cutters
  • Torch
  • Pickle
  • Pickle pot
  • Quench bowl
  • Soldering pick
  • Tweezers
  • Copper tongs
  • Soldering board
  • 3rd hands
  • Flux
  • Sandpaper (800 grit)
  • Easy 14KYH gold easy plumb solder (pallion chips) (9 pcs)
  • 20ga sterling silver blank (1 pc)
  • 20ga, 14kt gold wire (2 3/4in)
  • Letter stamping set (optional)
  • Hole punch or drill bit (optional)
  • Finishing tools
  • and most importantly safety gear (apron and safety glasses)

Prepping is key to getting a great solder join. Not only do you need to remove all of the oils and dirt, but you also need a tight connection. If I'm working with round wire, I always flatten one side by running it back and forth across 800 grit sandpaper. This will allow a wider soldering surface between the join.

I chose to use gold plumb solder in this case. Plumb solders are a color match for 14kt yellow gold items so I knew the colors would match perfectly, however, using gold solder in this instance also created a longer cleanup where the solder flowed out from under the wires. But, I prefer to clean the gold solder off of the sterling silver blank than clean the silver solder off of the fragile gold wire embellishments.

If you choose to use silver solder with sterling silver wire and sheet, I would still suggest cleaning the solder off of the sheet rather than possibly damaging the jewelry wire.

Note: I'm using an air/acetylene torch with a Smith set-up and the #0 torch tip. This #0 torch tip is very small so I can focus the heat better on the tiny wire embellishments on this piece.

Soldering wire embellishments to the surface of your jewelry designs can really get your creative mind flowing. Whether it's geometric or organic, round, straight or zigzag, wire shapes can add some fun to your designs. Soldering wire can be intimidating at first. Some wire is thick and difficult to shape while other wires are thin and fragile; however, it's rewarding to feel the satisfaction you'll have after finishing a piece successfully. Nonetheless, there are certain things you should be aware of when adding wire embellishments:

  • The wire must lay flush against the sheet's surface.
  • You cannot use rotary tools with abrasive wheels on the wire. It removes parts of the wire in seconds and can quickly damage your piece.
  • Sweat soldering works great especially on the thinner wire.

Since wire embellishments are so narrow I recommend using solder chips. Silver solder wire would be too much. After choosing the type of solder, I still had to choose the melting temperature and since I had used medium solder previously for the ornament, I used soft solder for this round. Our soft solder melts at 1325 degrees, which is quick enough to protect the wire pieces yet low enough to avoid reflowing the previous join under the ornament in the center. I took the smallest pallion chips in the studio and used one per piece of wire

Soldering Steps

Note: Adjust any of the materials above for the item you want to create. These are very specific steps for the sunburst pendant shown above.

Step 1: Use the ruler to measure the lengths of wire. I cut two = 1/2" pieces, two = 3/8" pieces, two = 1/4" pieces, two = 3/16" pieces and one = 1/8" piece. Cut the 14kt gold wire using wire cutters.

Step 2: Take each piece of wire and using the 800 grit sandpaper, slightly flatten one side of each piece.

Step 3: Place the 14kt gold wire pieces on a soldering board about 1 inch apart. Flux them and place one tiny pallion chip in the center of each piece of wire. Light the torch and put it in your non-dominant hand. With the soldering pick in your dominant hand slowly focus on heating one piece of wire at a time.

Tip: Keep your torch moving at all times running it back and forth along the length of wire. and at the same time, move slowly in with the torch, to heat the flux at a distance. By doing this, the flux will slowly dry which will prevent the pallion chip from bubbling off.

Step 4: Remove the flame as soon as the pallion chip melts and flows across the wire.

Step 5: In the next step, you'll want to heat this from underneath not from overhead. This is important. You can achieve this by using a tripod or a 3rd hand tool. Since the solder moves towards the heat source, you want the solder to flow down off the wire and onto the blank. If you were to heat it from above, the solder would run up and over the wire possibly skipping the blank altogether.

Step 6: Flux the blank and place each wire where you would like it in your design. Next, light the torch and this time heat the piece from underneath with the flame hitting the bottom of the sterling silver blank. Carefully move the flame in slowly to prevent the flux from bubbling up and moving your wire pieces. If any of the wires move out of place, use the soldering pick to nudge them back into place before the solder flows.

Step 7: Once the solder flows, let the piece air cool for a couple of minutes. Once it's cool, drop it into a pickle pot using the copper tongs. When the sterling silver blank is clean of firescale, pull it from the pickle pot with copper tongs and quench it in water and then dry it.

Step 8: You can now use finishing tools. To remove any extra gold solder from the blank, use a flex shaft with 3M bristle disks or a sandpaper set. Be careful not to touch the wires because it just takes a little bit of sanding over the 14kt gold wires to deform them.

Step 9: Add a punched hole for cold connecting your piece as a pendant or link and/or stamp it now, if you'd like.

Sweat Soldering Gold to Sterling Silver

Adding 14 karat gold solder ornaments to your silver jewelry adds a mixed metal pop of color. The contrasting metals look beautiful and it also adds perceived value to your jewelry designs. Jewelry artists have more pricing latitude on designs that include gold. The combination of these benefits truly makes it worthwhile. The solder and supplies for this jewelry soldering technique are the same as the wire embellishments example above. Below are the steps on how to solder gold elements to silver.


Step 1: Clean your pieces with the 800 grit sandpaper, this process will remove any oil and dirt. You will want to sand in the areas where the solder will be. In this case, the solder sits in between the sterling silver blank and the soldering ornament charm. So lightly sand the top of the blank and the bottom of the ornament. Make sure you don't touch the sanded areas after you're finished cleaning them.

Step 2: Place your ornament upside down on top of a soldering board (clean side up).

Step 3: Flux, then place a small piece of medium solder in the center of it.

Step 4: Turn the torch on and begin to heat the piece slowly by moving your torch in a wide circle around the ornament. This will prevent the solder from popping off while the flux dries. If it does pop off just nudge it back into place with the soldering pick. Once the flux turns white, bring the flame in and heat the ornament, keeping your flame moving the entire time.

Note: Always hold your torch in your non-dominant hand, and hold the soldering pick in your dominant hand.

Step 5: Once the solder melts (don't allow it to flow yet), remove the heat and let it air cool. If you are soldering a sterling silver ornament, go ahead and pickle, quench and dry it at this point.

Step 6: Place your sterling silver blank into a 3rd hand (sanded side up) and raise it high enough to heat it from underneath (a tripod works well, too).

Step 7: Using the tweezers, carefully place the ornament (solder side down) onto the sterling silver blank. Make any adjustments to the ornament by using your soldering pick. 

Step 8: Once the solder flows, you will see the ornament drop flat down onto the sterling silver blank or you will see the solder flow just under the ornament.

Step 9: Let it air cool.

Step 10: Drop it into the pickle until the firescale is removed and the sterling silver is clean, remove it using copper tongs. Quench it in water and dry.

3. Pick Soldering Jewelry

Pick soldering
Pick soldering

Heat the piece of solder until it melts into a ball, pick it up using your soldering pick, place the ball of solder on your join and heat it until the solder flows.

Pick soldering is ideal for delicate pieces that you could overheat or melt all together.

Understanding Pick Soldering

I pick solder jump rings, earring posts, chain links, and any other fragile findings. This is a great technique to learn and one that will really help with delicate pieces. Since the melting of the solder is done off to the side, this process keeps the majority of the heat off the finding itself. Because the heat is directed away from the metal, this is an excellent soldering technique for fragile pieces. When you pick up the ball of solder and move it to your piece, keep the heat on that ball of solder the entire time. That keeps the solder from cooling down and once you place it on the join, you don't need to heat up the material too much before the solder flows.

Steps to Pick Soldering

At the bottom of this post, you'll find a video that will show you the process overview. However, there are a few steps I'd like to cover with you first:

Step 1: Be sure that your metals are thoroughly clean of all oil, dirt, and grime. A light wiping using an 800 grit sandpaper at the soldering points will work just fine, however, refrain from touching the areas once they've been sanded clean. Body oil from your fingerprints can interfere with solder flow.

Step 2: The pieces being soldered must fit together tightly. It's imperative that they touch or you won't get a secure, soldered connection at the join.

Tip: Since flux acts as it's own barrier, use a small paintbrush to dab the flux directly on the join prior to soldering.

Step 3: Keep the heat on the ball of solder after you pick it up with the soldering pick, then lightly heat the metal around it so that the solder will flow quickly.

Step 4: Use the smallest torch tip or flame size that you can. That pinpoints the heat more onto the ball of solder rather than the delicate findings that you may be working with.

Pick soldering will work with almost any type of jewelry solder whether its pallion chips, wire or sheet. When the solder melts, regardless of the shape it started in, it will ball up. Keep in mind that you'll still want to use the appropriate amount of solder so clean-up is at a minimum during the finishing process.

Watch the video below, to see pick soldering in action!

Read the articles below for additional jewelry soldering tips, tricks, and instructions!

5 Steps to Start Silver Soldering

3 Torch Tips for Soldering Jewelry

6 Steps to Soldering Earring Posts

Got questions? Email our studio coordinator at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you. Sorry, studio support is not available by phone. Emails only, please.

Written By: Erica Stice
Erica is the former Studio Coordinator at Halstead. She spent 14 years with the company across a variety of departments but fell in love with metalsmithing. Erica's top tip for new metalsmiths is: "Practice! Be patient with yourself and have fun with it. Don't be afraid to ask questions. All of us at Halstead enjoy helping people whether it's questions on products or technical help in the studio. We're here for you."

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