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. I’m also proud to say we rarely repair jewelry that has been purchased in our shop.
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 and get lambasted because of it. Remember now, they asked me to “look at their jewelry” to make sure everything is ok. And when it is not, it’s as if the sky is falling or something. “I’ve had that ring for over 30 years and my mother and grandmother wore it before that. I never had a problem with it!” Key word here is worn 30 years, plus two more generations.
Any piece of jewelry worn 24-7 for years on end is going to need attention. Gemstones scratch, chip or even shatter, and this includes “unbreakable” diamonds. Yes, diamonds chip, break and even get turned into diamond dust. If you were unaware of this fact you probably read too many Superman comics when you were a kid. 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 it, such as smacking against hard objects like car doors, shopping carts, granite counter tops, pots and pans, or your husband’s hard skull because he refuses to do the dishes.
By the way, it is not a good idea to expose valuable rings to the damage that can be caused by working on cars, boats and motorcycles, or even simple gardening. Just a suggestion, ignore it, and I’ll be seeing you soon.
The accompanying diagram explains the jargon for the parts of a simple stone ring. Besides the prongs, lower ring shanks and under galleries wear out, especially if worn with other rings, such as an engagement and a wedding band. The constant friction of the rings rubbing together will eventually take its toll. 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) never charges for a simple cleaning and thorough inspection.
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, which 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 checkthe 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. 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 and have as many as fifty links that need attention. Nine times out of ten, 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 you have a problem making a simple decision – it will not be the proper size and will have to be readjusted, because you insisted and you were wrong. Sizing gold or platinum rings is not an inexpensive process, and is all labor intensive; you will most certainly be charged 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). All rings are tight in summer months and loose in colder environments, that’s a fact of life. Rings get tight after a weekend fried-food feeding frenzy, and from many salty foods. (Once again, lay off the bread! I’ve tried, I can’t). It’s not the ring that changes sizes; it’s the person wearing it. Large knuckles present a problem fitting a ring properly. (Go online to see my article on the subject a couple of issues back, entitled “Knuckle Island”).
Last but not least, proper jewelry repair is a lost art and can be expensive. Not everybody 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 have your jewelry looking like it did 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 of Marco Island. Working on the bench with his son Andrew by his side, creating and repairing jewelry with more than half a century in combined experience, they are well known for their expertise and professionalism in the art of jewelry restoration here in Southwest Florida and abroad. We welcome your questions about “all that glitters.” You can reach us by phone 239-394-9275, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website www.harborgoldsmith.com