Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Repair it and wear it!

Richard Alan

Richard Alan

By Richard Alan

Not much lasts forever, unless it’s a diamond, unfortunately the piece of jewelry it’s set in doesn’t last that long.

I’m always amazed at people’s reactions when I notice discrepancies while inspecting customer’s jewelry. There can be prongs or even stones missing, cracked and damaged mountings, and their reaction is usually surprise or shock.

I like to use the comparison of what happens to an ordinary pair of shoes when you wear for 15 or 20 years without taking them off every now and then to resole them. It’s only a matter of time before your toes touch the asphalt. Its simple wear and tear so constantly wearing jewelry is no different.

Prongs can wear out faster than you think, the design of the ring can be a factor especially if the center stone is set in four prongs and set high (I always recommend six prongs.) also prongs that are to the left and right of center wear more quickly. It’s also true some ladies are tougher on their jewels than others.

Many gemstones are held with prongs; especially engagement rings. Most manufacturers use 14karat white gold, a stronger metal than yellow gold. Go ahead and check out the yellow gold engagement ring you’re wearing now, the head or prongs are most likely white gold. Yellow gold prongs wear much quicker than white and if they are 18 karat yellow gold even faster when worn day in and day out.

My busy workshop does hundreds of repairs a month and the most common repair is prong replacement. It’s quite simple, no prongs no diamond. The small investment you make in repairing worn or missing prongs will insure you don’t lose that very important and expensive center diamond(s).

Most ladies wear their rings 24/7 and expose them to whatever life throws at them such as knocks on car door handles and dings from pots and pans and marble countertops. The worse culprits are harsh cleaning products that contain bleach and the hours spent wearing your jewelry in freshly chlorinated pool water can literally corrode your jewelry and make it brittle and often un-repairable. The chemicals weaken prongs, gold chains and clasps. Such things keep my goldsmiths very busy.

You can do your own home jewelry inspection with a simple magnifying glass. Always check for missing prongs and severe wear. A proper prong is raised and prominent on top of the diamond or gemstone, a worn prong is a mere sliver of metal that often snags on cloth and if it is a four prong setting the loss of one worn prong can result in that stone falling out.

If your eyesight is impaired or you are not sure what to look for, bring your rings to my shop and I can give you a free inspection for your peace of mind.

The types of repairs we perform can be quite extensive such as on antique pieces that require keeping the piece authentic by replacing missing diamonds with diamonds cut in the same era and set with the same techniques and skill as bygone days. The work must also look like it never occurred and that is the sign of a professional bench jeweler/goldsmith!

Rings can crack or break from the stress of constant wear, pin catches wear out, earring posts snap off, pendant loops wear through and the chain clasps fail that hold them.

Where you have your jewelry repaired is as important as getting it fixed. A non–professional can do more damage to your cherished piece making it worse off than the reason you brought it in the first place.

I constantly restore “repaired” jewelry. Any pro will tell you there is nothing worse than trying to repair a poorly repaired piece of jewelry. It requires a complete teardown of the piece to restore it to original condition, a tedious and time consuming process that will cost you big money. Simply put, you leave your precious jewelry with a cut-rate repair joint, you reap the consequences.

Many styles of bracelet links quickly wear out and fail from constant wear such as diamond tennis bracelets and tight link hinged movable designs and simply adding safety chains doesn’t guarantee security. If a link breaks in the middle it should not be “frozen” but flexible as it was originally.

There are also repair alterations such as making rings or chains larger or smaller. A professional shop knows that gold is added to rings to enlarge them keeping the rings the same thickness as when you brought them in. It is the right way to perform that service. A “hack-shop” (as I call them) will hammer or thin out the bottom of your ring and stretch the ring to the larger size thus ruining your ring. What I love is they also charge you to destroy your ring!

Also remember some rings cannot be sized such as those with invisible set diamonds or with hollow construction. Many antiques can be damaged by trying to enlarge or reduce to drastic sizes. Sometimes it’s just too risky!

Two years ago I advised a couple against sizing an expensive diamond filigree ring they purchased from an auction. it was being reduced too many sizes and I knew stone loss and structural damage would occur. They persistently insisted but I politely refused. A year later, here they are again before me with a crumpled, broken ring, burnt diamonds and a look of embarrassment on their faces. They had “a guy in N.Y.” attempt the sizing, the ring was a total loss and the “guy” was sorry.

In my forty years “on the bench” I thought I had seen everything, yet it never ceases to amaze me what people will do to cherished and expensive jewelry to save a buck. Only recently a woman brought in a $25,000.00 antique diamond and platinum ring repaired with silver and lead solder. The diamonds are the only things I could salvage. (Great Grandma would be rolling in her place of eternal rest if she could see what happened to her ring!)

Sadly, the cost saving practices used to manufacture jewelry nowadays have resulted in what I call an era of disposable jewelry that’s too light weight to hold up to day to day enjoyment, so choose your new purchases carefully and ask questions about wear-ability and repair-ability.

Richard Alan is the owner of the Harbor Goldsmith of Marco Island and has been creating and repairing jewelry for over thirty five years and welcomes your questions about “All That Glitters” 239-394-9275 or harborgoldsmith@comcast.net

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