Thursday, December 7, 2017

Cecile Raley Designs: Jewelry Laser Surgery: The Alternative to Solder

Cecile Raley Designs: Jewelry Laser Surgery: The Alternative to Solder: Many of you have heard me talk about lasering jewelry, or laser soldering, over the years.  Time to devote some blog space to what this act...

Jewelry Laser Surgery: The Alternative to Solder

Many of you have heard me talk about lasering jewelry, or laser soldering, over the years.  Time to devote some blog space to what this actually means, and what is possible or not possible with laser soldering.
What is laser soldering? Laser soldering is a high tech, low heat, alternative to regular soldering.  Laser soldering uses solder, but instead of heating it with conventional methods, it is heated with a laser beam and then literally “shot” onto the area that is to be soldered together with high precision.  The heat used is below 450 degrees Celsius (below half of regular soldering temperatures).  Laser soldering is achieved with a laser solder machine which currently costs in excess of $5000.  Its original use is in computer technology (to solder together components of circuit boards) but it is now widely used in the jewelry industry as well.
What are the advantages of laser soldering? The advantages are precision (adjacent components like gemstones are not affected by the technique) and the heating source is not near the item to be soldered so that any components that are sensitive to heat will not be affected.  So for instance, if an earring post falls off of a stud earring, it can be lasered back without the gem having to be removed.  There’s also no risk of melting the components themselves, which is a great advantage if the components are very tiny, like a small jump ring for example.  Laser is also just about the only technique that works for channel wire because your soldering joint is directly next to the gem.
Examples of application: very tiny joints, such as adding a jump ring to a pendant or earring.  Ring sizing of rings with gemstones, or ring and pendant repair where the gem should not be removed.  Repairs of earring posts, conversion of stick pins to pendants. Laser soldering can also be used to fill porosities in a casting.  Porosities are tiny air bubbles or pockets that can occur during the casting process and that can “open up” during pre polish if they are just under the surface (mostly that is where they are).
Here you can see the imperfection at the top of the jump ring prior to being soldered:  

Below is the pendant afterwards:

What are the disadvantages? The soldering joints are small and use very little solder.  That means they are less secure than conventional solder.  This is not a big deal when you size a ring because you can just “shoot” many little bits of solder onto the joint – see video.  But earring posts, which have to take a little bit of pressure when you put them on, but are otherwise pretty tiny, are best soldered with conventional techniques.  With earring posts, lasering is a plan B only.  Another disadvantage, or rather, a risk is that if you have a tiny soldering joint right next to a gem, is that you can “miss the target” (see below for photo example)and hit the gem instead.  Then you “fry” a little hole into it.  Channel wire joints are notorious for that happening, that’s why it is so expensive.  It takes great precision and patience.  There also seem to be some gems, or gem colors, that attract and divert the laser beam.  We’ve had that problem a lot with red garnets, which is why I stopped wrapping them in channel wire.
What does laser solder cost? As mentioned above, the cheapest machines available for laser soldering, or laser welder, start at about $5,000.  Really good machines can cost up to $50,000. Correspondingly, when you get some work done with a laser soldering machine, the costs are higher because the costs of the machine have to be absorbed in addition to the time spent soldering.  A simple laser joint (attaching a jump ring) retails at $10-12 in my shop. Ring sizing actually costs ME more than what I charge you.  A small change in size costs me $25-30, a larger ring can be $50-60.  When I sell rings I partially absorb that cost through the price of the ring itself.  So when you go to a jewelry store and they tell you its $100 for ring sizing, that’s not an unfair price.  Doing a good job also takes at least a half hour (cutting metal, adding metal, shaving to make it match, repolish, plus gold costs if needed).  Downsizing is easier but can still change the curvature of the ring and open up settings, which then have to be rechecked in turn.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Are you Getting Ready for the Holidays? We Are!

Yes, it is almost here.  As I am publishing this blog, it is a mere six weeks till Christmas.  I have ordered the Thanksgiving Turkey, planned my space for the holiday tree - it’s going into the rec-room slash office space in the new place so that all of Cecile Raley Designs can enjoy it – and we have ordered gift packaging, calendars, for VIP client and vendor gifts.
Time, therefore, to share with you what is new – and old – for the upcoming season. 
Gift wrapping: for an additional $2, we now offer gift wrap.  You’ll get an organza bag, a polishing pad for tarnish removal and a sunshine polishing cloth for shine.
Calendars: our 2018 calendars are ready as well. They will come to you upon request, or with any purchase over $200.  All of our VIP’s will receive one, as well as a little thank you gift from us.
Gift Wrapping Package

Gift Certificate: these can be purchased again in my Etsy shop this year.

And here are some budget-conscious gift ideas from our shop:

Gold chains:  We stock those for the holidays and offer them in 16, 18 and 20 inches whenever possible.  Our green gold chains go with yellow gold, and I especially recommend any of our two toned chains. 

Beaded necklaces: They have been selling very fast lately but we have been restocking.  Prices are $90-$170. 

Moonstone, Labradorite, Burma Spinel Necklace available HERE

Earring jackets: Our flower petal jackets are only $45 and now come in a larger size for $50.

White Diamonds Jacket for stud earrings available HERE

Stud earrings: Our star studs make a cute holiday gift.

Sapphire Hexagon Stud Earrings available HERE

Gems: Give the special gift of a gem (maybe a birthstone) that the recipient can set to suit their own style.

Sapphire pair September Birthstone available HERE
And don’t forget to check our Specials section for anything that’s 20% off.
Shipping: We’ve actually upgraded our shipping policy, we are now shipping all orders over $400 Priority, and starting on the 15th of December until Christmas, all packages will go out priority.  The last day to safely order for priority shipping is Wednesday December 20th.  But we are happy to do overnight shipping until Friday the 22nd upon request.  If you are ordering an item that needs sizing or any other modification, we can ship it first and you can have sizing or modifications done after the holidays.  Other than that, anything in the shop is ready to ship on the same or next day.
Returns: just a reminder that our return period is two weeks.  Thankfully, we have very few returns, but we do understand that the holidays can be an exception.  So if you are not sure about a gift, make sure you let the recipient know that a return or exchange is not a problem.
And when do we have our holiday sales?  Our “Thanksgiving Sale” event starts Sunday November 19th with 10% off the shop until Sunday December 3rd.  Expect a larger flash sale of select pieces on Cyber Monday and a 3-day sale some time closer to the holidays.  For our 15% off semi-annual sale, you’ll have to wait until after the holidays. 
Happy Shopping!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Guest Blog: A traveler's report on the world of gems

Manhattan’s 47th Street rightfully deserves the name “Diamond District": shops for jewelry, precious stones, and all kinds of precious metal products line the street.  The bustle on the sidewalks feels like a foreign bazaar, even if the most exotic clothes are the black suits of the orthodox Jews. For tourists, it may seem superficial....

To read more please visit our website at:

 Photo of Diamond District NYC from 6th Avenue

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What Does "Recycled Metal" Really Mean?

This blog entry is prompted by a couple of recent questions about working with recycled metals.  Etsy now offers a new category – “recycled” – that I can click on before I publish my listing.  And since the metals I cast in are recycled, I click “yes”.  And now that this category is visible to clients, they want to know what it means. Of course the word “recycled” can be used to describe a variety of processes.....

To read more please visit our website at:

Taba Casting here pouring pure silver metal "beans"

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Rare Gemstones - A Seller's Market

Anecdote:  in late summer I got a call for a 4+ carat lagoon tourmaline of a very specific cut and color, not too dark, etc etc.  Unsurprisingly, the potential buyer couldn't find such a stone anywhere.  I asked the buyer if they were serious about the purchase because it would be expensive and hard to find.  I come across about 100 lagoon tourmalines in that size a year at best and I know who imports them and the source.  I know Tiffany likes those stones too and they pay good money for them.  Out of those hundred or so stones, which is probably most of the annual production, 99% are not the specified color and cut.  Well maybe 98%.  But you get the idea.  Anyway I borrowed 5 stones to show to the client that came close.  No luck.  Again another stone, no luck.  It took at least a full day......

To read more please visit our website at:

This Cobalt Oval Spinel is old stock, there's currently almost no production

Monday, September 11, 2017