We repair a lot of jewelry here at Jewelry Creations; in fact, it's the majority of what we've built this business on. We've seen tens of thousands of pieces over the years and have 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.
FYI, this article is a bit long, so we have created an abbreviated version right here.
The most common repair, by far, is ring sizing. We do these all day long. Like, Lionel could write a song about it, all day long. The task is just what the name suggests, we determine what size finger you have, and we make the ring fit to that exact size. We do these in half and even quarter sizes when necessary 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 easy to slide on and 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. 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.
How It's Repaired
The first step for our goldsmiths is to cut a small opening at the bottom of the shank. See the illustration below. The second step depends on whether the ring is going up or down in size. If it's going up then we spread the shank open to the right size, add the appropriate amount of metal, and then flow that metal into the ring using our soldering tools. If it's going down, we remove the appropriate amount of metal and then solder the metal back together. We then shape and polish as needed.
And that's it! It's a lot easier than you thought, right?
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.
How It’s Repaired
If you think back to the sizing discussion and you’ve already figured it out, and you’re on your way to becoming a goldsmith! It’s the same thing as the sizing, but the first step of cutting the shank is already done. We form the ring back into “round” (to the correct size) and then we use soldering tools to flow the metal back together. We then shape and form the shank, polish it up, and make it good as new!
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. To simulate this, take a small ball and hold it in your hand without using your palm, and instead just using your fingers. Your fingers, in this case, are the prongs.
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.
What to Look Out For
Prongs wear over time and “flatten”. We often use a not-so-technical term called “pancake prongs” to describe this. 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.
Keep an eye out for it, but don’t stress about it if it happens. If you have prongs, they will wear over time and they will flatten over time. It’s perfectly normal. All you have to do is keep an eye out for it and bring it to us regularly. Cleanings and inspections are always free at Jewelry Creations.
How It’s Repaired
The repair depends on the damage to the prong, of course. In the case of worn or flattened prongs we simply ball up a small piece of metal, heat up the prong that is being repaired, and solder the new metal on, shape the seat and shape the tip. Sometimes just one prong needs to be repaired, but often times more than one will need to be repaired because they will generally all wear together.
In some cases, the entire prong, or majority of the prong, needs to be replaced. In that instance we will use a piece of metal that is the same dimensions as the prong, cut it to fit the right size and then heat and solder it to the damaged prong. We’ll then shape the seat and tip.
In rare cases where all of the prongs are really worn, or the piece of jewelry took a hit hard enough to break multiple prongs it is more cost effective to replace the “head”. The head is the part that works like your hand did in the example of holding a ball used earlier.
We use our industry connections to purchase a head that is the same style and size as the one on your ring and then we cut off your ring’s head and solder the new one on. So, now when you hear us saying “off with your head” you’ll know what we mean!
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
If you notice a loose gemstone, 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 and we don’t want that to happen.
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.
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.
How it’s Repaired
Sometimes with a loose stone we simply have to tighten the prongs. The goldsmith will use tools to bend the metal back to its original position and ensure that the gemstone sits in the seat properly and that the prong is tight to the gemstone.
In some cases, the prong is worn, and we have to re-tip one or multiple prongs to get the gem to sit snug. In other cases, a prong is worn enough that it will break during the tightening process in which case we are back to the re-tipping process outlined above.
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. 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.
How It’s Repaired
If the chain itself breaks, then we repair the break using the same type of metal that you have in the chain and solder the chain back together.
If the clasp is broken, we take the old clasp off and put on a new one. This is a good time for you to decide if you like the style of clasp that you have or would like a different style.
In the case of a broken, or stretched thin, jump ring we take out the worn jump ring and put in a new one. We solder the jump ring closed rather than just tightening it, to help prevent future damage.
You’re still here? I’m impressed! That was a whole lot of information to take in, so don’t worry if you glazed over a bit of it. Just know that we are here to guide you through the process and 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.
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!