For many goldsmiths, repair work can be a major part of their day. Replace a missing prong here, fix a broken chain or a catch there, then replace a missing earring post, and there is never a day when we are not reducing and enlarging all kinds of rings. It’s all in a day’s work.
I’m sure I’m not alone with my brother and sister bench jewelers; my pet peeve, I call it “being married to it.” That is because some customers assume that once we accept a piece for repair (for example, a diamond tennis bracelet that has been worn 24-7 for nearly half a century), and fix one spot, now every time a link lets go from being worn through, it’s the jeweler’s fault because we “repaired it” a month ago.
Ok it’s time I shed light on a proven jewelry fact… most tennis bracelets have anywhere from thirty-five to fifty links connected by a hinge like system. You wear it for a quarter of a century or more, the hinges will wear out evenly. The first ones to let go are generally near the clasp so just repairing one broken link (hinge) does not make the whole bracelet all better and brand new again.
Other links will begin to let go weeks or months later. Now guess whose fault it is when it breaks in the future? Some bracelets I see are so far gone it’s actually less expensive and better in the long run to reset the diamonds in a new bracelet than have me spend three solid days of labor repairing fifty-two worn out hinges.
The same goes for expensive gold watch straps with rivets (hinges, once again!). Most Rolex’s for example, wear out and the strap comes apart, if the watch it hits a tile floor, and suffers even worse damage. Some are repairable, some are not if it’s too far gone. A new solid gold watch strap replacement will set you back several thousand dollars today. I have several clients where I patch up their straps to avoid them buying a new one on a monthly basis.
I’ve heard it all, it’s sentimental, or it means so much to me and I can’t live without wearing this, it goes on and on. It’s funny how sentimentality goes out the window when they find out it will be costly to remedy the problem. I’m the most sentimental person I know. I will try, I mean really try to put the Humpty Dumpty piece back together, but sometimes even a miracle won’t work, the ring or piece of jewelry in question is just too far gone, or worse a piece of junk.
Recently a lady was so upset with me. Besides her century old ring being as thin as a human hair, all prongs (or lack of them) were shot, which resulted in several missing diamonds. The fact is that after I completed the restoration nothing would exist of the original ring but three microscopic diamonds!
There comes a time in everyone’s life where you just have to let something go, toss it or pack it away. It ran its course and gave you more than you paid for it. I tried explaining that to a guy with a kaput fifty-year-old Timex watch. “Sir, you paid twelve bucks for it in 1962. I think you got your money’s worth, don’t you? It’s time to spring for a new watch!”
Last month I overheard someone giving my mom a hard time. (I may work in the back in a noisy workshop, but I see and hear everything!) When I came out to find out what the ruckus was all about, the woman said we sized her ring and now it doesn’t fit. She even produced the receipt, dated 2010, nine years ago! I assured her that the ring did not change sizes… she did! If you want it to fit properly, it has to be re-sized. That costs me time and my gold, so yes there is a charge. She clucked and squawked and reluctantly agreed to pay for the resizing.
Same goes for watches. I change a simple battery and I’m married to the watch for life! One lady blamed me for a stopped watch because I had changed the battery several years prior. It’s always my fault when the strap wears out or comes apart months or even years later. To protect myself, my money, and prove my innocence beyond a doubt, I practically have to x-ray everything before I accept it with some people. We have to point out problems, measure and mark on repair envelopes where breaks in chains are repaired to prove in the future it’s a different link or spot that broke this time. My question to these people is, if they have a garage replace their windshield wipers, do they come back a month later complaining the garage caused a tail light to malfunction?
What asylum are these folks escaping from?
Years ago, on hopeless cases I tried a strategy that I would repair it the best I could and return it to the unfortunate soul for no charge whatsoever. (I was young, naive and foolish.) I figured when it breaks again, they can’t complain because there was no charge. Sounds right? WRONG! That good deed will come back and bite me in the derriere guaranteed, because no good deed goes unpunished. So much for my good Samaritan act.
So now before me on my showcase is a once-beautiful diamond ring that took a long catastrophic spin in a garbage disposal. This is beyond hope, even if I had all the angels and saints in heaven assist me.
And she wants to know what time later today she can pick it up, fully restored?