We repair a lot of jewelry here at Jewelry Creations. Over the years we have seen thousands of pieces and have obviously learned a thing or two along the way. For this article we sit down with Tom and Kendra, our resident bench jewelers (aka goldsmiths), to get their take on the most common repairs and what to keep an eye out for so that you can keep your jewelry in the best shape possible.
This article is also available in a longer version with description of how the repairs are done.
The most common repair, by far, is ring sizing. We can size rings in half and even quarter sizes to make sure your little beauty stays right on your finger.
What to Look Out For
To keep you and your fingers safe we suggest remembering to take your rings off every now and then. We prefer nightly, but some people can’t bear to have them off that much. Your ring should be relatively easy to slide on and it should take a little "wiggling" to come off.
If you're having a hard time getting your ring off your finger, we do not suggest licking your ring and finger - think about the germs on that! A quick and handy trick is to simply take some Windex and spray down your ring and your finger. It will act as a lubricant. Once sprayed, work the ring back and forth and see if you can free it.
If you still can't get the ring off, then come on in and see us and we'll help you get it off. While you're here we can talk about whether it needs to be sized to better fit or if there's something else at play.
The worst-case scenario, of course, is that the ring may need to be cut off. While this sounds daunting and scary it really isn't. We have a specific tool that cuts a small line in the bottom of the shank (the shank is under-side of the ring). This allows us to spread apart the ring just a little and then free it from your finger. The good news is that we do that while sizing the ring anyways, so it simply removes the first step of the sizing process. See? Not scary at all!
While not strictly about sizing, one last thing to note here is that sometimes when you have multiple rings like a wedding set that are worn together, they can rub against each other and prematurely age the rings. We have a simple solution for that and that is to solder those rings together. This will also prevent the rings from spinning around your finger all the time.
Broken Shank Repair
You wouldn’t think it, but we see it a lot. When you think about gold, platinum and other metals you often think about how hard it is to break, and that’s why we use it in jewelry. But your jewelry does take stress and it does wear. Over time that stress and wear, along with some pressure, can cause a fracture. Nine times out of ten that fracture will happen at the bottom of the shank.
What to Look Out For
It’s hard to see this one coming. There isn’t generally visual evidence of a fracture until it happens. There are some things you can do to help prevent it, however.
The first is to not work out in your jewelry. When you’re pressing weight from a metal object like a dumbbell against the metal of your ring there’s a good chance it’s going to break because the ring is much thinner than something like a dumbbell or weight bar.
The same goes for all kinds of hard objects. Gripping and applying a lot of pressure on a ring can potentially cause a fracture. You’re a lot more powerful than you realized right? It seems counter intuitive that your grip can create enough pressure to do that, but it can in some cases.
We also caution people to never wear their jewelry in the pool or hot tub. Some are surprised by this, but the chlorine in pools and hot tubs can make the gold or other metal in your jewelry brittle. This will make breaks much more likely to happen and can ruin prongs (we’ll talk about this later too). Chlorine can even eat away at some gemstones, so please take your jewelry off before enjoying these activities.
We have silicone bands that you can wear in place of your rings. People often get these at the same time they get their wedding sets so that they can still wear a ring while working out or swimming.
Broken or Flat Prongs
To show your gems in the best possible light (literally), jewelry designers often use “prongs” to hold a gemstone in place. With wear, the metal holding the gemstone in place becomes thin or breaks off. When we repair this, we call it “prong re-tipping”.
Prongs work kind of like a bunch of little fingers that grip and cradle the gem. Each prong has a small notch in its side called the “seat”. The “girdle” of the gem rests in each of these notches. Above that notch is the “tip” of the prong. This tip should be nicely rounded, like a little bead. See the illustration below.
What to Look Out For
Prongs wear over time and “flatten”. When this happens the top of the prong that should be rounded has worn down and is flat. This means that less metal is holding your gem in place and your gem could potentially fall out if the prong gets hit or wears away completely.
Sometimes you can get away with riding out a flat prong for a little while, but it will eventually catch up with you. Make sure to keep an eye out for it – especially on older pieces or pieces that you wear every day.
This type of wear is generally visible by just looking at the prong, but to see the effect fully it’s best to see it under a “scope”. We have one here at Jewelry Creations and would be happy to walk you through it and show you your prongs under the scope anytime. Cleanings and inspections are always free at Jewelry Creations.
Loose Gemstone Repair
Over time a gemstone may become loose and start spinning within its setting or bouncing back and forth. This can also happen if your jewelry takes a hit from something or you hit it against something hard.
What to Look Out For
Sometimes a loose gemstone can be noticed by moving your finger across the piece. Sometimes you can only notice it’s loose when you look at it under the scope. If you do see it, however, then it’s a “red alert” moment. Put your piece of jewelry into a plastic bag and keep it there until we can get it fixed up. You should not continue to wear your jewelry if you notice a loose gemstone because there is a chance the gem could fall out.
The need for this repair is often noticed when you come in to get your free “clean and check”. Every time you bring your ring or other jewelry in to be cleaned our jewelers take a careful and close inspection. We look at it under the scope and we use a probing tool to investigate the setting to ensure that there are no loose stones, that prongs are in good shape, and much more.
Chain and Clasp Repair
If you’re a Mom or a Dad, you know all too well how much kids love to grab onto chains. Sometimes that yank can be damaging, and the clasp can break or even the chain can break. Even if you’re not a Mom or Dad, you can imagine there are all kinds of ways for a chain to get caught and pulled. Clasps also wear over time and can just stop working as well as they used to.
What to Look Out For
This one is generally obvious to the naked eye. The chain will either break and come apart, or the clasp will break and stop working. One of the less noticeable effects is that the “jump rings” on a chain will stretch and the necklace won’t necessarily “break” at first. The jump rings are the small circles that hold the actual chain to the clasp, and these are often very thin so can stretch on occasion.
Jewelry Creations is Here to Help!
We are always here to guide you through the process, and to help repair your jewelry so that it can continue to be worn for generations to come.
We can’t stress enough how important it is for you to conduct “regular maintenance” on your jewelry. So, how do you do that? It’s easy! Just bring it in to us.
We have never, and won’t ever, charge for cleaning and inspecting your jewelry for you. Simply bring in your jewelry any time we are open (no need for an appointment), and we will take a look at everything under the scope and give it a good clean and polish while we're at it.
It’s a win-win – you get the peace of mind knowing your important piece of jewelry is in good shape, and you get it clean and sparkly at the same time!