Flip Your Lid

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By Shawna Kulpa

Every jeweler’s had it happen: You get a ring in for repair, fix it up nice, and drop it in the ultrasonic for a quick clean. Everything’s going along swimmingly—until, that is, you pull the piece out and discover that it’s now missing several small stones. You look in the ultrasonic and, sure enough, there they are, dotting the bottom of your tank and waiting to be fished out.

Many jewelers get around this problem by placing the piece in a Ziploc bag filled with cleaning solution. But what if you don’t have a bag handy? The answer may be as close as your washing machine.

Judy Willingham in Manhattan, Kansas, recently had a eureka moment about this problem that she was eager to share with the Orchid e-mail forum. “Look at bottles of liquid laundry softener or color-safe bleach,” says Willingham. “You want a lid that looks a bit like a top hat on the bottle. When removed, there should be an extension...that protrudes down into the bottle neck.”

As Willingham explains, when you turn the lid upside down, the bottom of the extension inside the lid forms a well. Put the piece to be cleaned into the well, add your choice of cleaning liquid, and float the lid in the ultrasonic—the “brim of the top hat” will keep it upright. “Because the well is suspended below the surface of the water in the ultrasonic, the contents are subjected to the ultrasonic action,” she says.

This trick allows the piece to be thoroughly cleaned, but also prevents anything that comes loose from floating to the bottom of the tank. However, as with the Ziploc bag trick, it’s not for every job. “Obviously there is a limit to how much weight and cleaning liquid can be held by the lid,” says Willingham. “If the metal is really heavy, the lid won’t float. However, smaller items float well.”