The Savvy Shopper's Guide to Jewelry Repair
When you invest in fine jewelry, you expect it to last a lifetime. If you want your treasured pieces to endure the elements so they can be handed down to the next generation, you'll need to adopt a proper maintenance regimen that includes appropriate cleaning, storage, inspection, and repair. We've created this guide to answer all of your questions about jewelry repair and help you preserve the rare beauty and incalculable sentimental value of your most cherished jewelry.
Signs That It's Time to Repair Your Jewelry
All jewelry requires maintenance if you wish it to prevail against the regular wear and tear of everyday life. While the pieces you wear every day are subjected to more of the elements and potential for damage, even your special occasion pieces, which enjoy less time in the public space, require consistent upkeep.
So how do you know your jewelry needs repair? There are a few telltale signs you should be on the lookout for, but some others may not be so immediately obvious.
Inconspicuous Indicators That Your Jewelry Needs Repair
Clasps that don't close securely - If your clasp gets stuck open or stuck closed when you put it on, this is a telltale sign that it's in need of repair. Wearing it without repairing it may lead to losing it entirely.
Discolored knots between pearls - The silk string holding your strung pearls together is in contact with environmental elements as well as body oil, and over time this builds up and shows itself through discolored knots. Not only are these unsightly, but they also leave you vulnerable to potential breakage.
Knots being pulled into drill holes on pearls - If the knots between your pearls slip in and out of the drill holes, this is also a sign that it's time to restring. As the thread stretches and pulls into the drill hole, pearls come in direct contact with each other, which can lead to wear and other damage.
Thinning or bent shank (the part of a ring that rests near your palm) - This is the part of your ring that comes in contact with hard surfaces the most, and if it shows signs of erosion or weakness you should schedule a repair before you wear it again.
You don't properly store your jewelry - Fabric lined jewelry boxes aren't just for show; they serve an essential purpose. Metals can scratch, erode, and fatigue when stored improperly. Silver jewelry, for example, should be stored in tarnish proof cloth where it cannot be exposed to air or moisture. Proper storage is a necessary element of jewelry care for all fine jewelry -- your jeweler can help you identify the best storage options for each piece.
You wear your jewelry while swimming, bathing, or showering - Chlorine, salt water, shampoo, conditioner, and even sunscreen can all wreak havoc on your metals and gemstones. If your jewelry has taken a dip in the backyard pool or you find that you often forget to remove your rings before you get in the shower, you may have unseen damage in need of repair.
For more information on identifying the symptoms that your jewelry is in need of repair, read: When to Repair Jewelry
Common Jewelry Breakages & Repairs
In addition to the potentially unseen signs listed above that hint at the need for jewelry repair, many visible and common breakages will make it evident that a piece can't be worn again until it's been repaired. A qualified certified jeweler can inspect your items to determine the best approach to fixing these common breakages, as well as others.
Observable Signs That Your Jewelry Needs Repair
Loose gemstones - If you see or feel a gemstone that is loose in its setting, you should not wear it until the stone is secured to ensure it isn't lost.
Missing gemstones - If your stone is already lost, you'll need to both replace the stone and repair the setting before you can securely wear it again.
Chipped gemstones - If you notice a chip in your gemstones, you should know that there are some options to recut or reset your stones to consider before opting to replace the stone entirely. Your jeweler can examine the piece and tell you what options are available.
Broken or bent prongs - A prong that is broken or bent can also lead to missing or damaged stones.
Uneven gaps between strung pearls - Pearls strung on silk thread need to be restrung over time.Uneven gaps between each pearl are one of the most common signs that your pearls need to be restrung.
Stretching of silk string in pearl necklaces and bracelets, evidenced by added length or looseness - If your pearl necklace is hanging lower or your pearl bracelet isn't as tight as you remember, it's time to restring the piece.
Other Functions Performed by Jewelry Repair Services
Cleaning and Inspection - While cleaning your jewelry at home is necessary to uphold its beauty and integrity; professional jewelry cleaning is unparalleled in its ability to clear away the dirt and grime that conventional cleaning options leave behind. This also allows your jeweler to inspect your jewelry for any issues that may need repair. Frequently, professional cleaning and inspection are provided at no cost by the jeweler who sold you the piece.
Rhodium plating - You may notice a lack of luster or yellowness in parts of your white gold jewelry , which is a natural and expected process. To restore white gold to the bright white finish it held, your jeweler will re-plate it on an as-needed basis.
For more on the typical repairs your jewelry may require, read: Typical Breakages & Repairs
Adjusting Your Jewelry for Size
Beyond repairs, jewelry resizing is a common need not just at the time of your purchase, but throughout the life of each piece. Whether due to weight loss or gain, rings, watches, and bracelets may require resizing for comfort and security. Necklaces may also be adjusted or resized for changes in taste and style or due to metal fatigue and erosion.
Whatever the reason for resizing your jewelry, a professional resizing is the only option with consistent, reliable results. Temporary sizers are available for short-term needs, but to ensure you can confidently wear each piece without sacrificing the look or possibly losing or damaging it, you should consult with your jeweler to discuss permanent options.
To achieve a comfortable and secure fit, one of several options for reducing or increasing the size of your ring, or to keep it from spinning, may be appropriate.
Sizing beads - Since your knuckles may be wider than your finger where your ring will sit, it's not uncommon for rings to feel slightly large when you're wearing them. To remedy this, sizing beads may be soldered inside the shank of your ring to secure your ring and keep it upright on your finger. Spring inserts or foldover devices are other sizing options to ensure a proper fit and upright positioning of rings.
Sizing up - If you need to increase the size of your ring, your jeweler can cut the shank and add a bridge, soldering the extra metal to the existing ring. Some rings may also be stretched without the addition of extra metal, though not all rings are candidates for this approach as the durability and appearance may be impacted. Only your jeweler can help you decide which method is best for your piece.
Sizing down - Similar to sizing up your ring, a ring may be sized down by cutting the shank and soldering together the ends. If your ring is an eternity band, you may have been told that it can't be resized. This isn't true: while resizing of eternity bands may require adjustments or replacement of some stones, and will include more steps than resizing a plain metal band, an experienced and trained jeweler can resize your eternity band. If your jeweler does not have the experience to feel comfortable doing so, ask if they can refer you to someone who may.
Other Jewelry Resizing
Resizing services aren't limited to solely rings. You may have bracelets , necklaces, or watches that need to be modified for either comfort or style. Many jewelers offer resizing services for free within a specified time frame after purchases you make at their store and may offer quick resizing on items like linked watches for a small fee if you purchased the item elsewhere.
Learn more about jewelry resizing here: Guide to Jewelry Resizing
Should You Repair or Buy New Jewelry
With certain damages, you may wonder if it's worth it to repair a broken piece of jewelry or if you should buy a new piece. There are several factors to consider when making this decision.
Why You Might Repair Your Jewelry
If the sentimental value of the jewelry is just as significant to you as the monetary value, you might opt to repair rather than replace your damaged items. Many a heart has been broken by chips and cracks in diamond engagement rings . Diamonds may measure the highest on the Mohs scale of hardness, but they're not indestructible. If your diamond has been damaged, you can discuss the options with your jeweler to determine the course of action for you that makes the most sense.
If your diamond or gemstone is large enough, it may be possible to recut and reset it. The stone will lose some of its carat weight, however, so this may not be an option if you prefer not to sacrifice the visible size of the stone or if your insurance covers the cost to replace the stone. Additionally, not all diamonds and gemstones are candidates for recutting.
Why You Might Buy New Jewelry
If your diamond isn't suitable for recutting, you may choose to replace the damaged stone. You may be able to exchange the damaged stone for a reduced rate based on its new clarity rating to offset the cost of your new stone, or your insurance may reimburse all or a portion of the replacement stone's price. You'll need to confirm what your policy will cover, if anything, and discuss your options with your jeweler before deciding to add a new stone.
Engagement and wedding rings aren't the only jewelry you may attach emotional value to, and the decision to repair these other items should similarly weigh your attachment to the meaning each piece holds as you make your decision.
Read more about repairing vs. buying new jewelry here: Should You Repair Your Jewelry or Buy New?
Buy or Sell Broken Jewelry
If you find yourself with an unfixable piece of jewelry, or jewelry you don't care much for, you may consider selling your damaged jewelry to help offset the cost of new purchases. Damaged jewelry won't fetch the same price as intact items, but you'll still want to get a fair price. Here are some things to consider:
What's it worth? Before you look to sell your broken jewelry, find out what it's worth. Appraisal by a member of the American Society of Appraisers, International Society of Appraisers, or the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers can let you know what your piece is worth, and whether you should sell it for scrap or as-is. Even damaged jewelry may be worth the price of restoration if it is an antique or estate piece in a timeless style. Even newer, high-quality pieces may be worth restoring to buyers who might not otherwise be able to afford to own a similar new piece.
How much of your time is it worth? The quickest sales will frequently be the least profitable, so you need to decide if you want to hold out for the best price, or if you want the best price your piece can fetch in the shortest period.
Where to Buy and Sell Broken Jewelry
Pawnbrokers - If your jewelry is damaged, but worth the cost of restoration, a pawnbroker may be a good option for quick payment. Remember that you'll be negotiating for the best deal for both parties, so you'll need to concede somewhat on the price since your sale also transfers the responsibility of repairing and reselling your item.
Jewelers - Your jeweler may be willing to offer credit against your new purchase in exchange for your damaged jewelry. If you plan to purchase a new piece of jewelry to replace your damaged piece, ask if this is something they offer or would consider.
Scrap dealers - There is no shortage of companies advertising high payments for scrap jewelry. While some of these companies have a reputation for offering consistently fair payouts, the price you can expect to receive varies wildly by the buyer you choose. Do your homework before you go, check the reputation and experiences of past clients through the Better Business Bureau and user-driven review sites such as yelp , and make sure you know what your jewelry is worth before you take this approach.
Read our complete guide to buying and selling broken jewelry here: Buy or Sell Broken Jewelry
Should You Repair or Modify Broken Jewelry?
If you need to repair your jewelry, it's also an excellent time to consider any modifications you might wish to make to it. Whether you'd like to upgrade a center stone, fuse your wedding band and engagement ring , or repurpose diamonds or gemstones into other pieces of jewelry, you can discuss these options with your jeweler when you visit them for jewelry repairs.
You may also have inherited estate jewelry that is in poor condition which you'd like to repair or modify, bringing new life to them by creating new styles you're happy to wear.
When to Repair Jewelry
If you wish to restore a piece that you love to its original beauty without any changes to its appearance, jewelry repair is the first option you should pursue. If an article is drastically damaged and repair isn't feasible, a recreation of the piece from new materials or incorporating salvageable materials may be possible.
When to Modify
If you have bought or inherited jewelry that isn't quite your style, modification may be precisely what you need. While many heirloom pieces are timeless in their style, others can be dated or just not in line with your taste. To maintain the sentimental quality of these pieces, you may be able to modify the style or repurpose the stones and metals into an entirely different piece of jewelry.
You may also have jewelry you or a loved one bought for you which, while you enjoyed at the time, doesn't align with your preferences as it once did. Modification is an option for this scenario, as well, which allows you to maintain the essence of the jewelry you've loved but which style you've outgrown. This cost-effective, environmentally friendly approach will let you preserve the emotional elements of each piece while restyling it so you'll be pleased to wear it again.
Learn more about repairing and modifying broken jewelry in our complete guide here: Repair or Modify Broken Jewelry
Jewelry Repair Turnaround Time
One of the most common questions we get about jewelry repairs is about the turnaround time. When you're looking to repair your everyday jewelry, it only makes sense that you'd like to have it returned to you as quickly as possible. Fast jewelry repair is possible, but it's important to understand why your jewelry repair service is able to provide quick repairs. It's often said that you can have something done fast or you can have it done right, but not both. This isn't the whole story with jewelry repair, but it's important to ask questions and do your research before choosing a service based on the speed of repairs alone.
On-Site Jewelry Repair Turnaround Time
Independent jewelers who complete repairs on-site are where you're most likely to find high quality, fast jewelry repair. The highly trained jewelers who work on the premises will examine your jewelry and provide you with a quote for both the price and the time they'll need to complete it. Some small repairs can be achieved while you wait, while others may require a few days.
You should know that certain times of the year, such as the month of December and the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, are busier than others, which may contribute to longer lead times for completion of jewelry repair.
Fast turnaround on jewelry repair should be the result of an on-site expert who is available to dedicate time to your piece. Beware, however, of quick turnaround that comes from a mail order repair service who will sacrifice quality to meet deadlines.
Off-Site Jewelry Repair Turnaround Time
If a jeweler does not have someone on site who completes their repairs, you may have to wait several weeks for them to work on your piece and return it to you. This is because they need to complete the necessary paperwork to send your jewelry to someone off-site who will then complete your repairs and send it back to the store. Once delivered, it will need to be sorted with the other packages and checked in before you are contacted to pick it up.
If there are any problems when you arrive to retrieve it, they will need to repeat the process, which adds several more weeks to the process. In these instances, fast turnaround is limited by the speed of their processes and delivery. If you are promised 24-48 hour turnaround on a fix that won't be completed in-house, you'd be wise to be concerned: with shipping and handling already stripped to their fastest possible options, the only other place to shave minutes is in the time spent working on your piece.
Learn more about fast jewelry repair and standard jewelry repair turnaround times: How Long Does Jewelry Repair Take?
Why You Need a Professional for Jewelry Repair
While many people consider price and turnaround time when looking for a jewelry repair service, it's important to give careful consideration to the quality and experience of a jeweler's work. They should be able to show you pictures of past repairs and should be comfortable discussing their knowledge, expertise, time in the profession, and any certifications with you. You should also look at reviews and testimonials written by past and current clients to get an accurate idea of what you can expect by working with them.
When you've invested in heirloom-quality jewelry, you only want to trust maintenance and repairs to someone a proven track record of quality repairs and evidence of satisfied customers. Poorly executed repairs are not only unsightly, but they can weaken and devalue your piece, as well.
When Jewelry Repair Goes Wrong
While some repair failures will not be immediately known, others will be evident to the naked eye. Here are just a few of the costs of low-quality jewelry repair:
Cracked or chipped stones - If too much pressure is placed your stone during setting by someone who is inexperienced in jewelry repair, it can result in cracks or chips in your stone.
Poorly formed prongs - A telltale sign of poor prong repair is blobs on the end of them, usually evidence that the repairperson rushed to finish the job instead of taking the necessary time to reform and blend the prong into its original shape.
Tool marks - Jewelry repair completed by an ill-equipped service may show evidence of hammering or leave behind plier marks that they failed to polish out after completing your repairs.
Thinner ring shank - If your jewelry repair person cut corners when resizing your ring, you may notice that your shank is thinner in some places or that the entire ring is thinner than it was before. An experienced jeweler with proper training in repairs will discuss your options for resizing before they begin any work and will let you know if the suggested method will change the visible or structural integrity of your ring.
To learn more about how to select a professional jeweler to complete your jewelry repairs, read our free guide: Why You Need Professional Jewelry Repair
How to Clean and Store Your Jewelry
Ongoing jewelry maintenance should be part of your overall plan to maximize your investments and minimize the need for jewelry repairs. With each new piece that you purchase, your jeweler should advise you on its specific requirements for storage, cleaning, and inspection. Additionally, you should discuss insurance for your jewelry with your jeweler who may be able to offer you guidance on what to look for in coverage, as well as any appraisals you'll need to provide to the insurer.
Jewelry Maintenance & Storage
While each piece of your jewelry may have specific needs that your jeweler will advise you on, there are some standard storage, cleaning, and maintenance rules you should follow:
Storage - Store your jewelry in a dry place in separate compartments so they cannot scratch each other. If possible, a fabric-lined box or container is ideal, though you may also wrap each piece individually in soft cloth if you don't have a fabric-lined or compartmentalized box for storage.
Cleaning - Regular cleanings at home can keep your jewelry sparkling in between professional cleanings, but take care to only use solutions your jeweler approves. For a list of common solutions you can buy or make at home, see our post on jewelry cleaning and maintenance linked at the end of this section.
Inspections - Bring your jewelry in for your jeweler to inspect once a year, at a minimum. Pieces that you wear every day may require more frequent visits for inspection and professional cleaning. Many jewelers provide these services at no charge if you purchased the jewelry from them.
You should also inspect your jewelry every day before you wear it, though this need not be a lengthy process. Look closely at clasps and chains for any breaks and examine bands and rings for loose stones or any indication of wear. If anything seems off, call your jeweler and ask when you can bring it in to determine what repairs, if any, are needed before you can safely wear the piece again.
Read our complete guide to jewelry maintenance, cleaning, and storage here: Jewelry Maintenance
Professional Jewelry Repair Near You
You've invested your money and your emotions into much of your most cherished jewelry. You can extend the longevity of each piece and ensure its continued beauty by following some simple maintenance tips and partnering with a jeweler you can trust.
Don't trust your treasured jewelry to just anyone. An independent local jeweler with experience and a solid reputation should be sought to preserve and repair your jewelry. Before you shop for jewelry repairs near you, ask for recommendations from friends and family and seek out customer reviews. After narrowing your list, schedule a consultation only with those whose training, experience, and reputation back up their claims about quality.
If you're looking for jewelry repair in San Francisco, we invite you to read what our customers have been saying about us over our many decades in the business. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 415-875-9438, schedule online, or stop by and introduce yourself. We're proud to be the trusted family jeweler to so many who call San Francisco home, and we'd love to add you to our ever-growing family tree.