Guide to Jewelry Design & Repairs
A highly skilled jeweler is artisan with a strong passion for creating beautiful, unique works of art out of metal, diamonds, gems and other beautiful material. Custom design and jewelry repairs are what they do best! Use our guide to better understand the jewelry design and repair process so you know what to expect at the jewelry store.
It Starts With Trust & ExpertiseWhen considering custom jewelry design or having a ring or bracelet repaired, you must have confidence in the skill of your jeweler. If you don’t already have a jeweler you trust near you, use our tips for selecting a trustworthy jeweler.
Certified ExpertsLook for jewelry stores with certified jewelers on staff. This includes certifications and education from respected institutions and associations like Jewelers of America, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), American Gem Society (AGS), American Watchmakers Assocation (AWA) for specialty watch repairs.
Custom Design ProcessJewelers love to help their clients create a unique piece of jewelry that will be loved for generations, whether brand new or updating pieces you already own.
First, you’ll meet with the jeweler for a consultation to discuss your ideas so they can design a blueprint for the piece. Come to the consultation with ideas in mind for the style and design you want help a jeweler get a sense of the design direction you want to take.
The jeweler will then design a blueprint for the piece and compile an estimate of the cost to fabricate it.
Once you approve the design and estimate, the crafting of the pieces begins. This can involve creating a wax carving, casting the metal, setting stones and finishing work. More on this below.
Know Your BudgetCustom jewelry design sometimes is perceived as “expensive.” However that’s not always the case, custom work can be done for a range of budgets. Custom jewelry design covers engravings, updating broken or outdated jewelry, or designing a piece from scratch.
Know Your TimelineYou should allow at least 2-3 weeks as a general guideline for custom jewelry work, but that can vary greatly based on the complexity of the piece.
Jewelry Repair GuideFine jewelry is susceptible to wear and tear, so always have your fine jewelry checked annually by your jeweler. When repair issues do come up, this is a guide will help you get the best service.
If a jewelry store offers custom design work, most likely they have trained jewelry craftsman on site to perform repairs in house. Of course, there are items – like timepieces – that may need to have repairs done off site. Start by checking that the jewelry store is a member of Jewelers of America – so you know your jewelry is in skilled hands and the repair will be performed professionally and ethically.
Before You GoIt’s always good to have a sense of the value of the piece for the jewelry store’s insurance purposes.
As with the custom design process, the jeweler will evaluate and give you a quote for the cost and time of the repair work. No work should be done without your permission.
Common Jewelry Repair IssuesIn a good jewelry repair the repaired area has the same color, luster and appearance as the rest of the piece:
- No hammering or other tool marks are visible
- No visible seams from cutting and soldering, like in rings or chain repair
- Stones are tight and secure in their settings (channel, prongs, etc)
Resizing a RingIf too loose or too tight, there are a few ways a jeweler can resize your ring:
- Cutting & soldering: A cut is made and metal is either added or removed to adjust the size to fit. Sizing should be done at the center of the shank bottom, unless there are quality marks or an inscription that precludes it. No seams should be visible when finished.
- Sizing beads: placed on the inside of the bottom of the shank, these accommodate slight discrepancies in size for a half size or less
- Spring inserts placed inside the shank adjusts to 1-2 full finger sizes.
Chain RepairA chain after being repaired is never as strong as it was before it was broken. While most flat chain repairs are nearly undetectable, if the chain is very small, lightweight or badly damaged, there may be some stiffness in surrounding links after the repair is completed. Chains that are more difficult to repair due to their complexities include link chains, like rope and cable chains, and herringbone chains. Some jewelers may charge extra for these jewelry repairs.
Prong RepairConstant wear of rings can cause prongs to wear and the potential for losing a precious gemstone to increase. Something as simple as exposure to bedsheets or gardening can affect prong strength. Depending on the severity of the prong wear, they will be replaced, re-tipped by adding a metal to the top of the prong, or replacing the entire prong head. When repaired, prongs match in size, shape and dimension. They should completely go over the crown of the stone, ensuring prongs won’t snag clothing.
Jewelry Repair FAQs
Yes. Take it to any jewelry store you have confidence in that has the qualifications you trust. Use our JA Jewelry Store Directory to find Jewelers of America member jewelry stores near you.
When you work with a jeweler you trust, like Jewelers of America members, this shouldn’t be an issue. Still, don’t be afraid to mention your concern, most jewelers are happy to ease your mind. Some jewelers show the diamond to their client under a microscope to indicate that diamond’s unique characteristics, which you can view again when you retrieve the piece. Some even take a picture of it. Like fingerprints, no two diamonds are exactly alike.
In between your regular check-ups at your preferred jewelry store, you can check for loose gemstones by touching them with a toothpick. If the stone moves, bring it to your jeweler for tightening.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to repair a chipped diamond. This is often a shock considering diamonds are one of the hardest materials on earth. However, if hit or dropped on the right angle it can splinter. If this happens, the diamond will have to be replaced, unless it is large enough to be recut. Make sure your jewelry insurance policy covers chipped diamonds in addition to loss.