Top Tips for Jewelers Using Laser Welding and Laser Engraving

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LaserStar Tumbler On laser engraver
As a jewelry shop owner, looking for ways to differentiate yourself can be difficult. Adding to your services might seem simple enough, but the tools you’ll need to do that often require a significant investment of time and money.

Don’t let the challenge of learning laser welding or laser engraving put you off making business improvements. With the right equipment and the right support, you can make the most of your tools and see a great return on your investment.

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How is Laser Welding Used by Jewelers

Laser welding in jewelry has two primary purposes, to create and to repair. Both processes require a method that creates not only a strong and durable weld, but also doesn’t damage the integrity of the metals, while also not impacting the aesthetics.

The laser welding process involves using a high-powered laser beam to precisely weld two separate pieces of metal together, allowing for precision and growth potential. With this technique, even the smallest details can be incorporated into a piece with intricate designs. The work can range from barely noticeable joints or seams to large surfaces being melted down and joined together in one seamless piece.

When it comes to jewelry repair, the process often begins with the crafting of a small piece of metal in the shape and size desired for the jewelry repair. This piece may bridge gaps between two parts of an existing piece or to add new components.

The use of laser welding in jewelry repair has revolutionized how precious pieces can be restored or altered without compromising their original beauty or structural integrity. With this advanced technique, jewelers can craft intricate designs and repairs with unparalleled precision that would otherwise require considerable skill and effort when done manually with traditional tools. 

How is Laser Engraving Used by Jewelers

Laser engraving a piece of jewelry can go far beyond hallmarking. Jewelry manufacturers and retailers can use laser-engraving technology to personalize a piece or add design details that are impossible or time-consuming to create by hand. A laser engraving machine can create virtually any shape, texture, pattern, or text—whatever the designer or the client can imagine.
Further, with the right software, this process can be faster, easier, and more accurate than any other engraving method available.

As an added advantage, whereas hand engraving pushes metal out of the pattern it traces, a laser pulverizes metal into powder that is pulled away by the machine’s exhaust system and can later be sent for refining.

necklace made via laser welding
5 Tips For Getting the Most Out of Your Laser Welder

Not all metals are created equal. In fact, some metals, like platinum and silver can be quite difficult to work with. So understanding how to get the most out of your welder is key to providing the best work possible for your customers.

1. Mask the reflectivity of highly reflective metals. Let’s take silver as an example. It doesn’t play nice. It’s going to fight you every step of the way, so you have to know how to fight back. Silver’s reflectivity and surface tension make it more challenging to laser weld than other precious metals, but there are tricks you can use to tame the beast.

“Laser welding silver is similar to hitting a mirror with light,” says LaserStar’s Giles Pope, Director of Education and Training. “Don’t polish it before welding; leave the piece tarnished. In fact, you’ll want to rough up the area that’s to be welded by sandblasting, using an emery board, or use fine grit sandpaper.” You can also mark the area with a Sharpie or try wiping your finger across the weld zone. Oil and dirt from your finger will decrease the reflective nature of the silver.

2. Use the right settings. This is where training comes in handy. A small adjustment can make a world of difference, especially when working with particular metals.

Again, silver is a great example. The only way to break through silver’s surface tension is by using optimal settings on your laser welder. “The machine must be capable of 6 or higher kilowatts of peak pulse power for silver,” says Pope. And it generally takes longer to weld silver than gold or platinum. Pope suggests using 1.5 to 2 hertz and keeping the heat on the piece while you are working. “Avoid stopping and starting because the piece will lose heat, which is necessary for metal flow,” he says.

3. Choose welding wire wisely. According to Gary Dawson of Gary Dawson Designs in Eugene, Oregon, using a sterling silver welding wire with 5 percent platinum content when laser welding silver is the only way to go.

“This is my absolute number one tip for laser welding silver,” says Staley. “This wire welds beautifully, and the weld holds nicely and doesn’t have porosity.”

Similarly, when working on something like a box chain, the roundness of the wire will take more heat than the flat sterling on the box chain, and the chain will melt before the welding wire. Stark suggests flattening the welding wire thin so it has the same melt temperature as the chain.

When it comes to sizing a ring, Derek Katzenbach of Katzenbach Designs in Farmington, Maine, advises chamfering the edge where the two sides meet and filling in the area with welding wire. “Otherwise it has a hollow seam and breaks later, particularly the next time you hit it on a ring mandrel,” he says.

4. Consider the work piece. Because every job has different requirements, choose your laser welding approach based on the work piece. For example, with a repair, you may want to take a few low-power test shots on the joints before starting work, suggests Stark. For example, “Older silvers and their solders can be of different alloys with a lower melt temperature, and the standard setting could blow a hole right through it, maybe destroying a stone beneath it, or splatter back and make a mess.” 

5. Get the right training. As a jeweler, you have a wealth of knowledge about your materials. You need to get know and get the same from your tools. To get the most out of your laser welder, you’ve got to find a laser welding system supplier who can provide you with the education and training you need. LaserStar offers LaserStar Academy to all customers who purchase their laser system through us.That means ongoing support and access to some of the most knowledgeable laser welding technicians in the country.

Copper Helix Ring laser engraved
5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Laser Engraver

Laser engraving can provide a significant return on investment, but that means maximizing its, and your, potential. Consider these tips for laser engraving in your jewelry business.

1. Start with training. “I strongly recommend that everyone has a laser training from the laser’s manufacturer from the start,” says Kathi Bogenschutz of Fable Designs in West Jordan, Utah, who says that her company experimented with its laser engraving system for four months, trying to figure it out through trial and error but coming up short. After a dedicated session with a LaserStar Technologies trainer, they were up and running in no time.

2. Level up. To make an even line of text or a pattern around the outside or inside of a ring, grab a mini-level to guarantee accuracy. “Place the level on top of the scan head housing to make sure it’s level, then the ring will engrave correctly,” says Bogenschutz.

3. Stop reflection. When you are trying to center a ring in preparation for laser engraving, all of the reflection coming off the metal can make this step tricky. To cut the metal’s reflectivity, Bogenschutz’s laser technician suggests placing a non-glossy piece of paper where you will be engraving. “We use a business card for this purpose and it works well every time,” she says.

In addition, reflected light from the laser can damage colored stones, so take care when engraving or marking a finished piece of gem-set jewelry. “For example, if you have a stone-set ring and someone wants to put a date inside the shank near the stone, protect the stone with basic poster putty,” suggests Dana Smith of Pieter Andries Jewelers in Southlake, Texas, another LaserStar customer. “You can use the putty over and over again.”

4. Test in brass. If you’re going to invest in a laser engraving machine, add a bunch of brass blanks to your shopping list. “Sometimes we create different .jpg files and need to test them to make sure we have the correct power and that it will mark deeply enough,” says Smith. “Instead of practicing on the real thing—especially if it’s a customer’s piece—we test it on the blank to make sure it marks correctly.”

5. Consider future sizing. When laser marking your logo inside of a ring, think ahead so a future sizing won’t destroy it. “When I mark a logo, I make sure it’s in a spot where someone will never have an issue with it down the road,” says Patrick Scis of Mavito Fine Jewelry Design in New York City. Mavito Fine Jewelry has owned a LaserStar marking system since 2010.

When marking the inside of a ring, verify that the laser is focused, and then double check. “If it’s not in focus, it’s not going to mark it correctly,” says Smith. “The mark may have a doubling effect or be blurry.”

In addition, check the inside diameter of the ring in two or three spots before laser engraving, as rings are seldom perfectly round. “If it’s a plain band, it’s generally the same all the way around,” says Smith. “But if it’s a very intricate ring, the diameter may vary. In that case, you should average the measurements and cut all marks at one time. If you try to make one mark, remove the ring, place it back, and then make another mark, they will not line up.”

The bottom line is this– you’re making an investment when you purchase a laser welder or laser engraver for your jewelry business. At LaserStar, we understand that. Like you, we want to make sure you get the most out of it and to do so, we help make sure you have the resources to support that goal.

That’s why, in addition to LaserStar Academy and our proprietary engraving software, we provide you with access to our technicians and service team members. Your relationship with us only starts at the sale, that’s not where it ends. Reach out to our team and let’s start the conversation.

Portions of this article originally appeared as MJSA Tech Sheet 35/36, sponsored by LaserStar Technologies Corp. Written by Shannon L. Brown for MJSA.



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