Monday, January 24, 2022

Jewelry Common Sense

Jewelry Repair
All That Glitters


I’m a goldsmith and own a jewelry store and that means we make our own jewelry and also repair jewelry that people break, yes sad but true, jewelry breaks, wears out, gets mistreated and then needs repair. It’s a fact of life that everything, even a diamond, can get chipped or even break in half. I don’t suggest you do this at home, but I had a customer many moons ago who wasn’t the brightest crayon in the box, who hit his recently purchased two carat diamond ring with a five-pound sledge hammer (he was a stone mason by trade) to prove his horribly incorrect theory that diamonds are indestructible, so… bang, crunch, and there you have it… two carats of diamond dust! 

I can’t count how many times when inspecting people’s jewelry with my trained eye and see problems that are present or about to occur, I get lambasted because of it. Remember now they asked me to “look at their jewelry” to make sure everything is okay. And when it is not, it’s as if I’m the villain here. “I’ve had that ring for over thirty years and my mother and grandmother wore it before that, I never had a problem with it!” the key words here are worn thirty years plus another two more generations wore it! Any piece of jewelry worn 24-7 for years on end is going to need attention. All gemstones scratch, chip or even shatter and this includes “unbreakable diamonds” Rocco proved in the previous paragraph. Oh, I forgot to mention he demanded a refund because I sold him a “soft diamond”.

This does not include the wear and tear of the mounting that holds the gems or diamonds. The settings or prongs that hold the gem wear down with age to absolutely nothing. Prongs simply get broken off by what life throws at them; smacking it against hard objects such as car doors, shopping carts, granite counter tops, pots and pans or your husband’s hard skull because he cooks and refuses to clean up afterwards. By the way it is not a good idea to expose valuable rings to the damage that can be caused by heavy housework, working on cars, boats and motorcycles or even simple gardening, just another suggestion, you can ignore it, I’ll be seeing you soon enough. 

For those of you unfamiliar with jewelry terminology the diagram explains the parts of a simple stone ring. Things besides the prongs need attention, such as lower ring shanks and under galleries wear especially if worn with other rings, such as an everyday engagement and wedding band set. The constant friction of the rings rubbing together will eventually take its toll, simply tacking them together will keep them centered and reduce the wear immediately. Having the jewelry you constantly wear inspected every six months or so will insure against valuable stone loss. My shop, The Harbor Goldsmith, right here on Marco Island never charges for a simple cleaning and thorough inspection.

Submitted Photos

Neck chains, bracelets and anklets are also in need of repair due to constant wear. Spring catches fail regularly here in Southwest Florida – this is mainly caused by wearing them in the pool or swimming in salt water that will rust and corrode the steel spring inside most catches. I have mentioned this numerous times – chlorinated pool water will damage your jewelry making it irreparable. All the small connecter rings (jump rings) can wear and fail causing the loss of the entire chain and whatever you have hanging on it. And don’t forget to check the loops or bails on the pendants or medals themselves, they can also wear through and drop off.

Earrings should be checked for security, friction backs should fit tightly, especially diamond stud earrings. If your earrings are really valuable have screw backs or other special backs installed for peace of mind. Always remember this: “easy on, easy off and it’s gone!”

Worn or broken diamond or gemstone tennis bracelets are constantly being repaired in my shop. They are a problem because they are generally in bad shape especially if they are worn constantly – they have as many as fifty links that need attention. I find it is actually more cost effective to remove the stones and reset into a new bracelet. It is important to make sure the clasp and safety catches are snapping closed and functioning properly to prevent loss.

Ring sizing is an everyday occurrence in the shop but there is some common sense involved; never get a ring sized while you are pregnant, dieting or after physical activity, and especially if it is very hot and humid or that rare cold day. A ring sized here in paradise on a warm day will most likely not fit well once you are back up north. One of my pet peeves is there are some folks who are part of the THEM crowd (see one of my previous articles about the THEM people). They have a problem taking advice from someone who sizes rings on a daily basis for over fifty years and insists on having it their way and the most likely result is… it will be sized wrong and will have to be re-adjusted, all because they insisted I was wrong. Sizing gold or platinum rings is not an inexpensive process anymore and it is labor intensive; most jewelers will most certainly be charging THEM to do it over again. 

There is no such thing as making a ring a little larger or a smidge smaller (honestly…listen to the jeweler sizing your finger – he or she has done the process thousands of times and knows what he or she is doing.) Rings get tight after a fried food feeding frenzy weekend, and from many salty foods (once again lay off the bread! I’ve tried I can’t do it!). It’s not the ring that changes sizes; it’s the person wearing it. Large knuckles present a problem fitting a ring properly (see my past article on the subject with the title “Knuckle Island”).

Last but not least, proper jewelry repair is a lost art and can be expensive and not everyone who calls themselves a jeweler is skilled at doing it correctly, so if it is done quickly and cheaply… BEWARE! The cut rate repair job can cause more damage to your cherished piece of jewelry than helping it; the result is a more expensive bill to remedy the cut rate “jeweler’s” damage. A properly executed and finished jewelry repair should look like the day you bought it or received it, shiny and happy. If it doesn’t, find a better jewelry repair shop.

Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith and owner of the Harbor Goldsmith, Marco Island’s Jeweler, and has been working on the bench with his son Andrew by his side creating and repairing fine jewelry – between the two there is more than half a century in combined experience. They are well known for their expertise and professionalism in the art of creating jewelry and restoration here in Southwest Florida and abroad.

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