Back To School

I took a Blog Sabbatical over the summer but remained hard at work reviewing technology for jewelers. So here I am, back in the saddle again with plenty to tell from my adventures. 

One area of investigation this year was Palladium alloys that have been making their way into your local jeweler. Palladium is the last frontier in precious metals, being the only viable jewelry metal left in the Platinum Group Metals. ( PGM ) to explore. 

A colleague of mine was quoted recently as saying that PGM’s are like a bad Disney movie. Platinum behaves a lot like Mickey Mouse and palladium is more like Donald Duck. Mickey is pretty well behaved. He gets along with everyone even when he is hot. Donald on the other hand has a volatile personality and might just cause a scene when stressed. For almost three years now, we have been struggling to find the best pharmacology to keep Donald happy and sociable. 

For those who have been enjoying the availability of affordable men’s wedding bands, palladium has been a godsend. The alloys used for mill products like sheet, wire, and tubing are all very stable and satisfy that niche very well. It is when we move into casting, setting, and sizing of Palladium products that Donald makes himself known. Palladium has a gas problem…. It is sort of a digestive thing…. When heated it absorbs oxygen and hydrogen …..and a lot of it. These unique properties make it a very interesting metal for auto catalysts and hydrogen fuel cells but for jewelry it’s a real problem.

Some of the smartest people I know have been working feverishly to find the “best alloy” for casting but the solution has been elusive. Hardness has been an issue with some alloys nearly as soft as silver and others that are hard enough but crack at what seems reasonable setting practices. At Techform Advanced Casting, Teresa Frye has been testing them for several
years and recently started another round of tests on the newest alloys
available. .Let us hope she finds a solution.

In the meantime, those interested in Palladium should start thinking about appropriate bench tools and practices. While most precious metals love the lasers we use for jewelry, Donald doesn’t like them much at all. He also doesn’t like a torch either… remember he has this gas problem. We need to start looking at innovative tools and practices for the future. The answer
to this problem seems to be tailored TIG welding. Kevin Lindsey presented a white paper last year at the Santa Fe Symposium and has consulting with TIG manufacturers this summer. He hopes that these new products will be available soon and at very reasonable prices…. Have any input or ideas for Palladium, share your comments

All for now…… check back later this week for an update on CAD/CAM and my review of the new Solidscape T76 3D Printer.