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  1. #1
    Slraep
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    Default Unglueing pearls

    From time to time I am given some silly piece of jewellery which demands the removal of a pearl or two. I am actually having to do this for a friend at the moment. It is a necklace with a pearl pendant, plus a pair of dangle pearl earrings.

    Normally I just heat up the metal part near the post with a fine tipped soldering iron and the glue gets soft enough for the pearls' removal, but these things are not budging. I've never had to use any type of solvent but I think I will have to in this case.

    Is acetone really safe to use? Help, I'm scared. The pearls are awful dull grey Tahitians but the owner thinks they are simply fabulous so I can't hurt them.

    Slraep
    Last edited by Slraep; 06-02-2007 at 04:32 AM.

  2. #2
    The Pearl Outlet
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    You can use an acetone, which is for use with pearls. But you may want to try the microwave trick first. Put the pearls and setting in a small cup of water, with the water fully covering the pearl and setting by a full inch. Then heat it up. The water keeps the metal from reacting in the microwave, and the pearl and setting are heated evenly, thus avoiding any damage to the pearl. The pearl should easily come off after about 45 seconds.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    Hello?!?!?!?! How long have you known about this method? Does it really work? Are you certain that there is no damage to the nacre if the piece is set with a bead nucleated pearl? I am going to try it on Monday. Hours in vigor is standard for us...

  4. #4
    The Pearl Outlet
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    We've been using this method for the last year with no damage to any kind of pearl, including bead nucleated. The only drawback is that the glue still must be cleaned off the metal, and it is a bit gummy.

  5. #5
    Slraep
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    Hi Terry,

    While I greatly appreciate your answer, I think I will wait for Jeremy to try it too. When I was a lot younger, my brother assured me that nothing would happen if I heated a lightbulb up in the microwave.

    I somehow can't seem to get THIS scenario out of my head --- first, the liquid "super boils" and causes a water bomb which at the same time shatters the container. Second, due to the metal attached to the pearl, a "St. Elmo's fire" developes and progresses to the "blow torch" stage. Third, that is when, mercifully, my microwave shorts out and prevents the house from being burned down.

    Yup, I'm waiting for Jeremy to try it.

    Slraep
    Last edited by Slraep; 11-01-2008 at 06:27 PM. Reason: grammar

  6. #6
    purepearls
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    It seems that putting pearls in the microwave would cook the nacre of the pearls leading to a more brittle pearl. Have you done any testing on what the long-term effects are of this? I do find your method very interesting. I'm very interested to find out how you came about this technique

  7. #7
    The Pearl Outlet
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    With regard to metals in microwaves, the arcing occurs because the air next to the surface of the metal becomes electrically charged or ionized. When completely submersed in water, there are no air particles, thus no ionization, and thus no arcing. (I wouldn't recommend bringing the water to a boil though!)

    I'd be more than willing to set up a series of experiments for those interested in this technique. Would anyone like to purpose a set of tests that could be refined here on the forum before commencing?

    Sorry, there was no accidental "oops, I nuked the pearls" story to tell behind the technique. Another jeweler passed it on to me. It affects the consistency of the epoxy, thus making removal of the pearl a simple task.

  8. #8
    Slraep
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    Hi Terry,

    This morning I nuked the pendant and earrings. One of the pearls from the earrings came off very easily but the other two did not budge.

    I nuked them another time and no success either. On the pendant, the metal cap attached to the pearl got very dark, as if suffering from fire scale. After the third nuke, the pearl came off the pendant along with the metal post. I suspect the post was already broken and stuck in the pearl when glued. The pearl from the second earring will just not move.

    At what power are you nuking and for how long? I used P100 for 49 seconds.

    The nuked pearls are none the worse, from what I can see. They even have a bit more luster, if that's possible.


    Slraep
    Last edited by Slraep; 11-08-2007 at 10:58 PM.

  9. #9
    The Pearl Outlet
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    I'd recommend using a solvent, "Attack" is what I use, on the stubborn one at this point. I've never pushed this method to the max, which is something I'd like to do after feedback from others on this forum. I've had other jewelers put them in for 10 minutes and boil them, though I've never taken it to this extent. If you go to this extent, make certain you use enough water; you don't want to boil it all away and be left with metal in a microwave. Thus far I've used this method on Akoya, freshwater, and Tahitian pearls extensively. It seems to be a lot less harsh than "Attack". Also, the Attack seems to affect the metal to some extent and, although I've never had the "Attack" visibly affect a pearl, you've got to wonder about it since it is such a harsh chemical.

    The darkness on the metal cap is probably some sort of residue that was already there and darkened with heating, since this method will not affect gold. I haven't used it on silver though...

  10. #10
    purepearls
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    Who new that we would have chemistry experiments on the pearl forum The metal probably turned dark because it oxidized from the heat.

  11. #11
    Slraep
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    Well, the damned pearl finally came off the earring.

    After nuking it several times and the water almost coming to the boiling point, I thought, why not just pour water, heated in a pot and brought to a rolling boil, over the damned thing. Success! The pearl develped a white bloom, but I rubbed it on my forehead and voila, it was once again restored to its ugly self.

    If this seems a bit tramatic for the pearl, I'm sure it's still not as bad as soaking it in a toxic organic solvent for hours.

    Slraep
    Last edited by Slraep; 11-08-2007 at 10:59 PM.

  12. #12
    Pearl Knotting & Wire Expert Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert knotty panda's Avatar
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    Wow!!!!!!!!! Finally a solution to my glue problems! I'm so happy!
    Pretty Panda pic by nlerner on her U.S. excursion last year, San Diego Zoo.[/SIZE][/SIZE]

  13. #13
    xeresana
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    Microwaving pearls and METAL? The very thoght makes my knees weak. Putting metal in the microwave is like breathing underwater. Something I've always heard is impossible. Of course, if had some pearls that I needed removed from the setting, I'd be the one paying someone like y'all to do it. Just never tell me about the microwave part.

  14. #14
    Renee
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    I have had to "unglue" many pearls from finished jewelry and I use Attack solvent. It dissolves cured epoxy and polyester resins. I purchased this at a jeweler's supply store in Atlanta. I let it soak overnight and it is safe to use with pearls. It not only unglues the pearl, but it removes the rest of the rubbery goop.

  15. #15
    DFrey
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    Rather than use some such solvent as Attack I have found over the years that pure rubbing alcohol ,or isopropyl alcohol ,is excellent for removing glue from pearls . Of course that is if heat cannot be apply to the piece which is a goldsmiths first choice for removing pearls from posts. The isopropyl alcohol may take a little longer than Attack but it is way less toxic to use and always works for me.

    Dfrey