Platinum Safety

With platinum becoming so popular, I am greatly concerned about the health and safety of our service people who start to work with the metal without knowing the dangers to eyesight or the possible damage to the skin.

The trade is careful not to tell of the permanent eye damage that occurs without the use of proper safety-tinted welder’s glasses. Without proper glasses, the ultraviolet rays will cause irreparable sight loss. Also, the infrared radiation can cause burns on the face, neck, and hands with prolonged exposure.

I receive several calls each week from jewelers who do not know that when we work with platinum the temperatures are listed in Celsius. Therefore, 1,500-degree platinum solder is really 2,732 degrees Fahrenheit. Most people see the number on platinum solder and think it is the same as gold and silver. It is too late to learn proper platinum procedures after the damage has been done.

Our customers who have platinum jewelry deserve to have it repaired properly. Many jewelers are ruining platinum jewelry because they do not know how to work with platinum.

Platinum becomes contaminated easily by other metals. We must use files, hammers, etc. that we have set aside for platinum work only. We must pickle platinum in nitric acid to remove other metals before we solder or weld; otherwise, the damage from contamination has been done. We must use proper torch settings with no carbon contact, and we must not use acetylene. The jeweler must use tweezers and solder picks made of tungsten and never handle hot platinum with steel tools or the item will become contaminated. It is too late to learn the proper platinum techniques after we have destroyed a fine piece of jewelry.

I have taught platinum work for more than 25 years. With the new alloys on the market today, jewelers must learn the correct way to work platinum.

– Homer L. Holland, Master Platinumsmith, Holland Jewelry School, Selma, Ala.

Jurgen J. Maerz, manager of technical education at Platinum Guild International USA, responds:

As Mr. Holland correctly points out, there is a UV radiation that can damage the eyes of the jeweler when soldering or welding without protection. However, his statement that the trade is careful not to reveal this is simply not true.

In the Platinum Guild International video The Platinum Expert, safety is stressed on several occasions. My paper “Fearless Platinum Repair Techniques,” which I delivered at the Santa Fe Symposium in May 1997, talks in detail about safety. On the cover of the Johnson-Matthey handbook An Introduction to Platinum, a jeweler is shown wearing safety goggles during a welding operation. Welding, soldering, and even the melting of platinum are very safe operations when proper eye protection is used. Just as one would not stare into the sun, looking into a bright melt without protection makes no sense.

In dozens of seminars and demonstrations all over the country, I have made safety the focal point of the presentation.

The aforementioned video also covers the fact that platinum solders are grouped by their melting temperature, which is indeed in Celsius. PGI discusses and explains the issue of contamination on the video and gives direct answers to platinum questions in trade publications; through our hotline, (949) 760-8882; and on our technical Web site, www.pgi-platinum-tech.com.

The fact that one should not use acetylene and dedicate tools for platinum is well known. We at PGI offer comprehensive educational programs, and fine schools such as the Revere Academy, Fashion Institute of Technology, Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology, and Gemological Institute of America are offering programs to educate the bench jeweler.

I do agree that with the popularity of platinum, the development of new alloys, and the expansion of the industry, more education is needed, and we will do our best to provide it.

Clarifications and Corrections

The item entitled “Thanks for the Memories” (Fashion Facets, JCK, September 1999, p. 56) contained an incorrect telephone number for FOPE. The correct number is (877) FOPE-223 or (212) 869-4111.

In “Mystery Diamond Treatment Dominates GIA Symposium” (JCK, September 1999, p. 104), we reported that Dr. Kurt Nassau said synthetic, near-colorless diamonds will not be commercially available because they are too expensive. He actually said they will not be commercially viable.

In the article entitled “Making Pierced Earrings Easier to Wear” (Fashion Facets, JCK, August 1999, p. 44), we inadvertently neglected to identify the source of an illustration and background photograph. Both depict the Lobe Wonder, a product of the Bradvica Co., P.O. Box 660422, Arcadia, CA 91066.

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