I love pearls and use them quite often in my projects. Normally, glueing pearls onto the piece would be the very last step in these projects. Selecting good quality epoxy and careful work in glueing were everything I’d care about until I started the project I am working on now. My client brought me in an old pearl brooch to be made over as something else. It was made in 14K gold with cultured sea pearls. This time, an initial move that I needed to make in executing this project was to remove the pearls from the piece.
The fastest and easiest way to do the task would be purchasing a chemical solution that dissolves the cured epoxy, which I was already aware of. But, it’d never hurt to research more if there is any better resolutions to do the job. Google had led me to stumble upon numbers of articles regarding the subject which could be narrowed down suggesting two methods.
First, use indirect heat to detach the pearl. Pearl is extremely susceptible to heat so that we all know we may never apply direct heat on pearl, such as torch, heat gun, etc. So, most articles recommended either using microwave oven or boiling in a pot until the pearl gets loose. The tricky part is how do we know when it’s the right time to fish out the jewelry in the boiling pot or microwave dish with water, and check the pearl is loose. What if we overheat the pearl and damage it? Especially, using microwave oven didn’t convince me getting the job done at all knowing microwaves change molecules. They may affect the molecules in pearl and result in damaging it.
The next option was a well-known method using dissolvent. Acetone is one of the dissolvents to free the pearl attached on jewelry. The only setback of this trick is that acetone may take away luster on pearl’s surface. So, after spending a couple of hours conducting research, I drew a conclusion that I should go ahead and place order ‘Attack’ from Rio Grande.
‘Attack’ is an adhesive remover which is mainly Dichloromethane. It dissolves cured epoxy as well as polyester resins. The same chemical is widely found in paint stripper products and also used in food industry to decaffeinate coffee and tea. As ‘Attack’ is classified as a hazardous material, it had to be shipped separately from other items and only ground shipping. The container is too much secured in my opinion which I had a hard time just opening the lid. (Maybe it was just mine) The solution was clear and turned purple as the glue was dissolved in. It took me about 12-14 hours to successfully detach the pearls on the brooch. I think it’s because whoever did the job applied too much glue on the pearls. Another piece I tried took me less than 12 hours to complete the task. So, I would say the pearls’d be free after submerged in the solution about 12 hours.
The detached pearls kind of felt sticky, so I gently and quickly rinsed them in acetone and then warm water with soap. They are ready to fulfill a new purpose.