Diamond Removal

Deconstructing Jewelry

  • Removing diamonds from gold jewelry

  • How to remove diamonds from gold jewelry

  • Mechanical diamond removal

  • Chemical diamond removal


From the point of view of a gold buyer such as me, gold gets refined and diamonds get re-purposed.

It is very common to have to remove diamonds from a piece of jewelry.  The thing is, it has to be done carefully, such that the diamonds remain in good shape.  Anyone can remove diamonds with a hammer.  However, chances are that that method will result in chipped or totally broken diamonds, which practically makes the diamonds worthless, or worth much less.  Therefore, diamond removal is more of a matter of “deconstructing a jewel”, rather than just “removing”.

There are two ways to remove diamonds (or other precious stones) from gold jewelry.  Mechanically and Chemically.


Important Diamond Fact

Diamonds are “hard” but not “tough”.  As such, diamonds are really hard to scratch.  However, they are not “tough”, so if they are hit hard enough, they can easily chip or develop a crack.


Mechanical Removal of Diamonds

This is more properly named “jewelry deconstruction”.  Deconstructing a jewel is the carefully taking apart of a jewel, using tools, so as to be able to re-use the extracted components.  For this, a goldsmith, by the use of adequate tools and exercise of proper methods, will break down a jewel into the individual pieces that make it.  Generally the purpose of deconstructing a jewel is to separate the diamonds and other precious stones.  However, other pieces, such as clasps and links, may also be re-usable if the gold jewel is in good shape.

Gold jewelry deconstruction, no matter how carefully it is done, is not without risks.  Here are some examples:

Diamonds may already be cracked prior to removal but still held together by the setting.  In this case, as soon as the diamond is separated from the setting, the diamond breaks apart.  This is specially common with colored stones.

Diamonds may be set in a way that, after they are mounted, it is hard to remove the diamonds without putting pressure on other diamonds.  This can happen in some types of channel and pave mounted diamond gold jewelry.


Chemical Diamond Removal

More than a strict diamond removal, chemical diamond removal is an on purpose created by-product of a gold refining process.  The desired by-product being loose diamonds.  This works better for doing large batches of gold and diamond jewelry.  It is impractical for only a few items, and does not even make sense for most single pieces.

Explained with vast simplification, this is how it works.  A large enough batch of gold and diamond jewels are collected for refining using the “aqua-regia” method of refining.  Aqua regia is a chemical mixture of mostly nitric and hydrochloric acid that dissolves the gold and platinum jewelry alloys.

A gold and/or platinum jewelry batch is thrown in a container of aqua-regia (0r vice versa).   As soon as this happens, a chemical process starts to totally break down all solid precious metal alloy.  The precious metal is suspended in the aqua regia.  Since now there is nothing holding the diamonds, the diamonds float free, and are fetched unaffected.  Then, by creating further chemical reactions, the precious metals are precipitated in almost pure form.  A few steps more, and the result is pure, refined gold, silver an platinum.  Learn more.


Diamond Removal Method Comparison

Both methods of removing diamonds are equally good.  Which one works best depends on the situation.  Here are a few of examples.

  • Single diamond solitaire in nice, re-usable setting.  Use mechanical removal.  Then refurbish and reuse the setting
  • Nice channel mounted 1/4 carat diamonds.  Mechanical removal if it is the only piece
  • Bracelet with lots of very small diamonds tightly placed.  Here it may be uneconomical to mechanically remove the diamonds.  If the piece is large enough, and the diamonds large and valuable enough, maybe remove chemically.  Best to put together with a large batch of additional jewelry
  • Large batch of diamond and platinum jewelry.  Definitely chemical process is best.  For economies of scale, chemical removal is hard to beat


Diamond Removal Methods Conclusion

The whole point of removing diamonds from gold and platinum jewelry is to be able to re-purpose the diamonds.  For smaller amounts of jewelry, or easy things, mechanical diamond removal is typically the first choice.  For large amounts diamond jewelry, it is much easier to remove the diamonds chemically because of economies of scale.