Resetting pearls on vintage earrings?

tabubilgirl

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Oct 14, 2017
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I've come across a pair of vintage mid-century silver mikimoto earrings - milgrained swirls with sprays of small (3 and 4mm) akoya pearls. I love the style and the pearls are gorgeous, BUT the glue has yellowed and unfortunately, on a few of the pears, the yellow is very visible.
I have experience in gluing modern pearls into new settings, and I have been reading through the pearl-guide archives and have found some information on removing glue either with solvent or brute force-

Does anyone have any experience with working with mid-century pearl jewelry? With Mikimoto in particular?
Does the glue need to be chipped off?
In doing so, is there a risk in damaging the setting? And once I have the pearls removed, when I re-set them, will they reset cleanly? Or do they tend to sit aske and change the look of the piece?


In short, is rehabilitating an old mid-century piece worth the time and energy, or is this the moment to say "gorgeous, but pass on and wait for a piece that you don't have to take apart?"

Thank you for your advice!
 
Oy vey! This is quite a job you have ahead Tabubilgirl! I actually feel a bit afraid to share a course of action and have you fail at it (breaking a setting or damaging a pearl).
I have no experience in that particular jewelry, but maybe some photos would be useful for our experienced forum members, and they would be happy to share tips with you.
One method I particularly like to use to remove a pearl affixed to a jewelry piece is to heat the metal so the glue "melts" (there is a great thread here on our forum about removing jewelry settings from pearls, I recommend you check it out! Click here and also HERE).

I would say -to answer your question- that it would all depend on the item and on your opinion of it, regardless of anyone else's. But if you share some photos we could appreciate your project much better.

:)
 
Get a miracle substance called gel glue remover. Splodge it around the edges of the setting and wait...wait wait..re-apply..wait. Put the piece in a ziplock because the glue dissolver evaporates. Sometimes it takes a week or longer but the pearls will loosen and can be removed. Clean the pearls and setting of all glue by wiping, using more remover and drilling the holes clean again.
Under no circumstances use brute force. You'll just break the pins and ruin the piece. (P36,P48)
 
I agree with pearlescence brute force will only bring woe and misery :(
 
Here is my recommendation: Attack It is an industrial strength solvent that is not harmful to pearls or precious metals. It is however, highly toxic so please take proper care when using!! Use in a very well ventilated room (garage or outside!!) and if you can find one, use a respirator mask. Basically you want to submerge the entire piece in Attack. A jelly jar with an aluminum foil barrier does well. Attack will dissolve any plastic, rubber, or resin so the foil is key. In a glass container, pour in just enough Attack to cover your item. Cover the top of the glass with the foil, and if you have a screw top lid loosely put it on top. Let the piece sit for 15 minutes. Do not remove the lid! Do a visual inspection, swirling the liquid. If the pearls come loose, great! If not, soak for another 30 minutes. Keep checking, without removing the lid. Some epoxy resins will take a few hours. Once separated, carefully pull out the pearls and findings (i use disposable chop sticks) and immediately immerse in water. Once rinsed and dry you should be good to go!

You can also try an overnight soak in 100% acetone. That won't harm the pearls (unless they are dyed) or metal. But if the epoxy is especially strong, you may still have to use Attack.

Acetone is readily available at the hardware store; Attack is available on Amazon.

ETA: never, ever, never...chip off a glue or epoxy from a pearl or other soft stone. Chances are that you'll take a chunk out of the nacre or chip the stone.
 
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Thank you so much for all of your advice. It is sounding rather like a project that probably won't be worth the headaches involved! I am attaching a couple of photos sent the vendor, in case that affects your sound advice.
 

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I have used aceton to remove pearls from their setting. It usually works well. I wouldn't want that yellow dry glue in my jewelry either.
 
You could try pinging that glue off with a needle point. Dig and flick.It might just crack off where it is visible.
 
Here is my recommendation: Attack It is an industrial strength solvent that is not harmful to pearls or precious metals. It is however, highly toxic so please take proper care when using!! Use in a very well ventilated room (garage or outside!!) and if you can find one, use a respirator mask. Basically you want to submerge the entire piece in Attack. A jelly jar with an aluminum foil barrier does well. Attack will dissolve any plastic, rubber, or resin so the foil is key. In a glass container, pour in just enough Attack to cover your item. Cover the top of the glass with the foil, and if you have a screw top lid loosely put it on top. Let the piece sit for 15 minutes. Do not remove the lid! Do a visual inspection, swirling the liquid. If the pearls come loose, great! If not, soak for another 30 minutes. Keep checking, without removing the lid. Some epoxy resins will take a few hours. Once separated, carefully pull out the pearls and findings (i use disposable chop sticks) and immediately immerse in water. Once rinsed and dry you should be good to go!

You can also try an overnight soak in 100% acetone. That won't harm the pearls (unless they are dyed) or metal. But if the epoxy is especially strong, you may still have to use Attack.

Acetone is readily available at the hardware store; Attack is available on Amazon.

ETA: never, ever, never...chip off a glue or epoxy from a pearl or other soft stone. Chances are that you'll take a chunk out of the nacre or chip the stone.

This is REALLY GOOD JerseyPearl I loved your process description...many will find it useful I am sure :D
 
I am shocked to read that blunt force has been recommended - that’s a No no no!

The pearls have yellowed glue residue with age, this indicates that epoxy glue has been used. To remove the glue without using chemicals boiling hot water does the trick for epoxy glue.

Patience and a gentle hand is needed. I put my pearls in a sieve then put the piece in question into the boiling water. I use tweezers and pliers to grip and manoeuvre, and to avoid the heat :)

Different epoxies soften at different heats, the quick setting epoxies will also quickly soften at lower temperatures, it’s why I prefer the 24 hour versions as they need a higher temperature before they soften and lose their grip, sometimes it can take a couple of goes at heating before the pearl or bead releases
 
BeadersSecret - after the pearls are removed from their settings, when you reset them do they tend to sit as neatly as before they came off? Or do they ever sit a little tilted and change the lines of the piece?
 
They should sit - or be able to sit, in the same way as pre-removal.

If there are issues showing when you do a dry run (without the glue) it would be an indication that some remnant of glue remains inside the pearl.

you could clear that with a drill bit in a pin vice - this way with really no risk to go wrong.

what size drill bit? It’s not possible to put a number on it as there are too many possibilities -slightly smaller than the hole is all you need, there should be no need to force or use heavy pressure. Light touch of the fingers and the pin vice will give you feedback as it’s clearing the glue remnants.
 
Thank you all very much for your assistance and advice!

Since my original post, I went ahead and I did purchase the earrings. When they arrived, I found that the crusted yellow epoxy was not actually visible - I couldn't find it with my naked eyes or with my reading glasses on - it seems to have been an artifact of the camera's extreme macro lens!
After all of your helpful advice, however, I was ready for something that I've wanted to do for ages. I picked up a couple of pairs of mid-century akoya earrings with the idea of removing the pearls so that I can convert the screw-backs (which I find painful) into post style earrings.
Attack isn't available where I live, but so far I have had great success with the hot water technique - soaking the earrings as described and periodically tugging gently on the pearls with a pair of silicone-padded pliers.

Which leads me to another question -
One of the pairs of earrings I purchased was a set of double baroque akoya pearls. The tarnished settings were pretty clunky, (you can see in the vendor photo the difference in spacing between both sets of pearls) but the pearls were GORGEOUS.
When they arrived I gave them a bit of a polish and under all the tarnish, I found quite a surprise - the Mikimoto M-in-clamshell logo. I doubted the mark at first, but I've since seen another Mikimoto pair in the same style, so it appears that the provenance is solid. Either way, I now have two matched pairs of very pretty blue baroque akoyas. And they can't go back onto that ratty old setting!!

So my question is - do you have recommendations for nice solid post settings for 8.5-9 mm pearls?
On etsy I seeing flimsy things for tiny pearls, and I find the rio grande website very difficult to navigate.
I'd prefer gold or gold-filled over silver - but I'd mostly just like to get them set and wearable.
I would appreciate any advice!

(First Photo - vendor image.
Other photos - mine.)
 

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Those baroque pearls are indeed GORGEOUS!
Anyway, there are quality producers out there (Murao comes to my mind) but they will not sell just a pair...they sell wholesale. I would go to a local jeweler to have him/her find me some good posts or buy some other pearl earrings to remove the pearls and place these instead.
 
Since you said Attack was not available in your area you must not be in the USA. I would go to your local jeweler and look though their settings available in the catalogs they buy from. You will have a shorter wait time and they may do custom too.
 
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