With proper care, cleaning, and maintenance, your jewelry can last you a lifetime. Even with the most cautious approach, however, sometimes the unimaginable happens, and you're faced with a broken piece of jewelry. If you've invested in fine jewelry, any damage to the piece may cause you some despair.
Unlike buying a car, jewelry doesn't depreciate once it leaves the store; frequently, in fact, its value may increase over time. Even costume jewelry, however, can hold sentimental value and lead you to consider whether you should seek out jewelry repair or, instead, buy new jewelry to replace the item. We've created this guide to help you understand the pro's and con's of each option and help you navigate this decision.
If you know that jewelry repair is the path for you, check out our Practical Guide to Smart Jewelry Repair .
When Should You Fix Jewelry?
A certain amount of wear and tear is to be expected in jewelry, especially those items which you wear daily. Over time, it’s not uncommon for the prongs holding your gemstones to need repair or replacement, for your metals to require re-plating, or for clasps to wear down and require repair.
Some breakages, however, are more drastic, such as lost or chipped diamonds, broken ring shanks, or metal damage due to chemical exposure. While many of these can be mediated, you should consider, first, whether repairing these damaged items is what you want before proceeding. If the damaged piece isn’t one that holds sentimental value for you, for instance, you may prefer to replace it with something new. Similarly, if you attach emotional significance to a broken piece of jewelry but the style isn’t precisely what you’d like, you may consider modifying it into something new rather than repairing it outright.
The value of the piece is also something worth considering. While you may cherish a piece of costume jewelry, the cost to repair it may not ultimately be worth it. A high-value article of jewelry, however, may be expensive or even impossible to replace, making jewelry repair the better option here.
Get Your Jeweler’s Opinion
Whenever possible, you should return to the jeweler who sold you the piece to discuss your repair options. At the time of purchase, you should always ask about any warranties and find out your jeweler’s policy on any future repairs the piece may need.
If you don’t have a jeweler whose work you know and trust and it’s not possible to return to the jeweler who sold the item, seek out an experienced jeweler with positive customer reviews and evidence of their past work. If you’re not comfortable with the experience or don’t feel confident in the expertise of the first jeweler you visit, you may want to get a second opinion. It’s not uncommon for less experienced jewelers to deem a repair “impossible,” only for an industry veteran to then complete your jewelry repairs flawlessly.
Repairs Your Jeweler Can Make
While your jeweler will want to examine your damaged jewelry and provide you with their advice and a quote for your possible repairs, some repairs are relatively common. If you have jewelry with these problems, repair may be an available option for you. Make an appointment to see your jeweler as soon as possible to get their input:
Clasps that will not open or close
Loose or missing stones
Bent or cracked ring shank
Broken or thinning prongs
Thinning ring shank
Removing scratches from metal
Polishing and refinishing
Read about other common jewelry repairs in our guide: The 5 Most Common Jewelry Repairs .
Check Your Insurance Policy
Your insurance policy may also influence your decision. If your policy covers the replacement cost for a chipped diamond in your engagement ring, for instance, you may choose to buy and set a new stone rather than exploring the possibility of recutting the stone. Additionally, not all stones are candidates for recutting--armed with the details of your insurance policy and your jeweler’s guidance, you can arrive at the best possible option for your broken jewelry.
When Should You Buy New Jewelry?
If your broken jewelry isn’t high-value or doesn’t hold sentimental value to you, you may choose to buy new jewelry rather than repairing it. Similarly, if an emotionally valuable piece of costume jewelry is damaged, purchasing a similar or even identical replacement may be your better option. Depending on the materials used in a costume piece, repair may not be possible. While laser repairs are potentially feasible for low-quality base metals, soldering them may result in brittle seams that can’t reliably extend the piece’s life. Some costume jewelry may not be soldered at all, however, such as inexpensive chain necklaces which are held together with links that are bent but not soldered--these can be repaired with minimal cost and effort.
Unfortunately, there may also be times when an emotionally significant or high-value piece can’t be repaired. Some chipped diamonds can be recut and reset, but this is not always an option depending on the size and position of the inclusion. If your setting can be repaired, you may be able to exchange your diamond and pay the difference to replace it with a new stone if your insurance doesn’t cover replacement.
When a piece of heirloom jewelry has been repaired repeatedly throughout the years, it may reach the point where its structural integrity is unreliable. This scenario is one where repurposing the elements of the piece is preferable to completing further repairs. You may also want to consider having your jeweler create a custom recreation of the piece with any salvageable materials.
To learn more about modifying your jewelry, read Repair vs. Modify: A Decision-Making Guide.
Buying New Jewelry
If you choose not to repair your jewelry, for whatever reason, talk to your jeweler about the options available for your damaged piece. You may be able to sell your jewelry or its materials to offset the cost of your next purchase.
If you are considering selling your damaged jewelry, read our Guide to Buying and Selling Broken Jewelry to learn more.
Work With a Jeweler You Can Count On