Sunday, December 5, 2021

Drama-less Jewelry Inspections



Richard Alan

It’s something most people rarely think about… the present condition of your fine jewelry; and that can include that expensive watch you have been wearing nonstop for a couple of decades or so.

I am the first stop when something goes terribly wrong. For example, the loss of the important and highly cherished center stone in your engagement ring or the metal or leather strap on your favorite watch falls from your being during the frenzy that occurs at airport security or the luggage carousel.

I’ve heard it all… Folks will tell me again and again, “I have been wearing it for over 50 years and I’ve never had a problem with it before!” The key words here folks are: 50 years of wearing it every day! Gold prongs, ring shanks, jump rings, catches and connecting links on diamond tennis bracelets wear severely in only 10 years of consistent wear.

I annoyingly preach to my clientele to have me inspect their important jewelry at least every 6 months to catch any problems before they happen. Replacing one or two worn or missing prongs is far less expensive than replacing a missing one carat diamond!

Jump rings or bails are the gold or silver ring components that connect catches or charms and/or pendants to your chain or charm bracelet. They wear to a certain degree as time marches on; if you ignore them they can wear through and fail and fall off whatever they are connected to.

Chain catches or clasps such as spring rings or the common lobster claw catch have a very short lifespan here in Southwest Florida due to the constant bathing in salty Gulf of Mexico water or chlorinated swimming pools – they all contain steel springs that corrode and fail. They have to be replaced constantly if you wear them while swimming.

Did you know swimming in heavily chlorinated swimming pools with your fine jewelry is the worst thing you can do to it? Chlorine is beach and is extremely corrosive; it literally dissolves and weakens every piece of jewelry you are wearing. You may look stunning in your new two piece, laden with baubles galore, but it’s not worth the damage it does.

It severely affects earring posts, wires and thin chains, What’s worse is it compromises the strength of the prongs that hold your important gemstones by making them weak and brittle, thus accelerating the wearing process.

Hey, don’t take my advice, half of my business is repairing or mostly replacing the pool bound corroded jewelry. And the money is good!

Diamond stud earrings should have either screw safety backs or heavyweight friction backs – especially if you swim with them for security – but even they have to be inspected periodically. The threads can become worn or stripped causing the backs to fall off, and there goes one diamond earring into the Gulf. Standard light weight friction backs are a sure way to lose an earring; friction backs should be tight or snug when taken on or off. It is a simple adjustment to tighten or invest $30 or so to upgrade to better quality backs. Better to be safe than sorry!

Expensive solid gold watches, such as Rolex or Omega, have wear and tear issues too. The gold screws or connecting links wear out and eventually fail; spot checking these areas are important. Ignore it and you could lose it overboard while fishing or leave it in the rough on the golf course. The all18-karat gold bracelets with years of wear require pin replacement or reinforcement.

With current economic conditions affecting the high price of gold many large jewelry manufacturers need to control their bottom line, so they are always trying to find ways to cut costs. I have noticed horrendously light weight clasps and catches on multi-thousand dollar pieces where no amount of tweaking or adjusting causes them to function properly and loss of the piece in the near future is inevitable if not replaced with a good quality catch.

Pearls and expensive beads need to be checked for the integrity of the thread or silk cord they are strung with. Most good quality pearls are strung with knots between each pearl to prevent every pearl from hitting the floor and resulting in 52-pick-up if the strand breaks. If the knots are soiled and fraying or the pearl slides back and forth or over the knot, it’s time to get them professionally restrung.

Another great thing you can do for your jewelry is get them professionally cleaned and polished like new every once in a while.

In my shop we offer our Primo cleaning service for a small fee; your pieces are thoroughly inspected for wear and tear, gemstones tightened if necessary, then ultrasonically and steam cleaned. All scratches and nicks are removed and the piece is carefully hand buffed and given a high polish. The result is a brand new out of the showcase look. A simple while you wait inspection and ultrasonic and steam cleaning is always complimentary!

In my 40-plus years in the jewelry business it saddens me that a lot of pain, suffering and anguish from loss could have been avoided by just having one’s jewelry inspected every now and then. This includes the paranoid psychos who give me the, “I never let my diamonds out of my sight!” story. (I simply offered to check and clean their disgustingly scum-caked ring for free.) They will always insist on coming behind my counter and stand behind me at my bench while I perform the tightening or cleaning their precious diamond… Not gonna happen!

They don’t trust me? What makes you think I am going to trust these two perfect strangers behind my counter? My reputation and honor has been untarnished for more than four decades, I know nothing about them! These untrusting breed of humans believe every jeweler in the world is a drug crazed terrorist and diamond thief just hiding in the shadows waiting to steal their… What in many cases is the worst looking diamond I have ever laid my eyes on. I don’t even have a diamond half as ugly as theirs! What do they think I’m going to do? Switch it for a better one? These types should lighten up and understand their jewelry is going to need cleaning and maintenance too, and these untrusting souls can save me the pain, suffering and unnecessary drama they bring into my world by simply avoiding me and my establishment. Clean jewelry is happy jewelry!

The names of untrusting souls were not mentioned to avoid hurting their feelings and making them uncomfortable around that tiny circle of friends that they imagine actually exist.

Live, love, laugh!


Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith with more than 40 years experience in the jewelry business and is the owner of The Harbor Goldsmith of Marco Island at the Island Plaza. He welcomes any questions you may have about “all that glitters” at 239-394-9275 or

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *