Brass is a very common metal used in jewelry nowadays, especially by popular artisans on Etsy and Instagram! While they make for beautiful pieces, it can be difficult to find a jeweler willing to resize them. But why? Read on to learn more about brass ring resizing.
What is Brass?
Brass is a yellowish metal that is an alloy of copper and zinc. It’s been used since antiquity for jewelry and decoration purposes due to its resemblance to gold, and is currently used by costume jewelry manufacturers to cut down on cost. Because it tarnishes and is relatively cheap on the market, brass does not qualify as a precious metal.
Why won’t my jeweler size my brass ring?
Brass ring resizing can be quite complicated, and many jewelers turn down brass pieces when they’re brought into the shop. Here are a few reasons as to why:
- Low Heating Point: In comparison to precious metals, which are known for their durability and malleability, brass does not take to heat well. When exposed to a jeweler’s torch or laser machine, brass has a tendency to “implode,” making it difficult to work with. This also poses a risk to the item itself, as the heat can damage the structure or any stones set in it.
- Unpredictable Consistency: To veer towards the more technical side, working with metals is a science. Precious metals such as sterling silver have a standard of content; to qualify as sterling silver, the metal must contain 92.5% silver. This means that sterling silver is reliable to work with, as it will never vary in consistency, and it will always react the same way to heat and other methods the jewelers use in repair. However, brass, like most base metals, comes in a wide range of consistencies; there is no industry standard for it as it is not a precious metal. This means that some brass items will have more copper than zinc, or more zinc than copper. It may also have traces of other metals such as lead, aluminum, and manganese. As such, every brass item may react differently to the repair process. Jewelers shy away from working on these pieces, as they cannot predict what will happen to the jewelry and they want to avoid damaging a customer’s item.
- Lack of Matching Materials: Jewelers use components such as solder and wire to add metal to a piece of jewelry during repair. Most jewelers will have silver, gold, and platinum materials on hand, as these are standard jewelry metals. Brass, on the other hand, is less commonly stocked. As a result, jewelers will have to resort to using silver wire and solder to fix a brass item, causing a visible spot of discoloration at the area of repair. For ring resizing, this can translate into a noticeable sizing line, especially if the ring is going up in size.
- Inability to Plate: Many brass pieces are plated with rhodium or gold to enhance the look of the jewelry. During repair, this plating comes off, and many jewelers will not be able to reapply the plating. This is due to the fact that they are unwilling to submerge a brass item into their plating tanks. These tanks contain a solution of metal salts and usually hold silver or gold items. By placing an item of another chemical structure into the tank, such as brass, it will contaminate the tank and render it unusable. If they cannot reapply the plating and restore the original look of the piece, the jeweler will turn the item down.
Sizing A Brass Ring
Given all the previous information, you may be wondering; “Well, how can I find someone who does brass ring resizing?” The answer is simple; take it to someone who has the capability. A jeweler who has the proper equipment and materials (like us!) will be able to size your brass ring. Here’s how the process works:
- Evaluation: The ring is taken in by the jeweler for an assessment. As brass is commonly used in costume jewelry, the jeweler will take note of any stones that are set into the piece. Some of these stones may actually be plastic or glass, which can be a potential disaster if exposed to heat. If it’s artisan jewelry, some natural stones that are not commonly used in fine jewelry may also be too soft or weak in structure to handle the repair process. These stones include fluorite and apatite, two colorful yet atypical minerals with a very low durability.
- Stone Removal: Before the repair, the jeweler will carefully remove all of the stones set in the design to avoid any issues with heat exposure. This can involve removing glue, which is a common way to set rhinestones into brass. The stones are then set aside for resetting after the repair.
- Ring Sizing: Once the ring is prepared for sizing, the jeweler starts by testing the alloy. Brass comes in many forms, and all of them react differently to heat, so the jeweler will try out one spot on the ring with the laser machine for precision. If the ring reacts well enough to make it suitable for metalworking, the jeweler proceeds with the sizing. They cut open the shank, and add or remove metal if they’re sizing up or sizing down. The jeweler then seals the cut shut, ensures the ring is in the correct shape by lightly tapping it as the ring rests on a mandrel, and then sends it off to polishing. If this procedure is done properly with brass solder or brass wire, there should be no visible area of work.
- Stone Setting: If the ring contained stones, the jeweler will now reset them back into the design. This work involves either jeweler’s epoxy, an industry-grade adhesive that is water-resistant, or actual metalwork for prong and bezel settings.
- Polishing: After the repair, the brass ring is sent to polishing. The polisher removes any rough and bumpy patches in the metal, and gives the ring either a standard high polish, or a special finish such as a matte texture.
- Cleaning: When polishing is finished, the jeweler cleans the piece in an ultrasonic cleaner. This tank of water uses agitated bubbles generated from sound waves to knock the dirt out of crevices that cannot be reached. It also removes any metal residue from work and polishing.
- Plating: For rings that are plated, the jeweler will set the items aside in a tank that is suitable for plating brass. The brass ring has to be polished and cleaned prior to plating; any irregularities in the metal will be visible under the layer. The ring is immersed in the plating tank solution as a current of electricity runs through it. This causes a chemical reaction that deposits the gold particles in the solution onto the surface of the ring, restoring the plating that was removed during work. Some jewelers may prepare the brass for plating with a preliminary plating of nickel or palladium; these metals will prevent any discoloration in the brass from showing up in the gold plating.
While brass ring resizing can be a complicated process, this is the best way to get your jewelry to fit properly. The work itself isn’t difficult; it’s simply a matter of finding someone who can do it. If you have a piece that you’d like to size, check out our ring resizing services below.
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