As mentioned in part one in this series on jewelry care, wear is normal. And because it is, realistic expectations on both wear and the maintenance your precious metal jewelry will need is appropriate!
Certainly, it is a reasonable expectation on the part of the consumer that the piece of jewelry will hold up for an extended time after purchase. Unfortunately, while I can say with certainty that most manufactures in the industry are very honorable, like any industry, we have our unscrupulous bad apples. I encourage you to look closely at any prospective purchase. Do the components of the piece look to you like they will hold up over time? Your judgment is valid! Jewelry care and maintenance usually begins with the purchase.
Your Results May Vary
By this I mean that every jewelry owner subjects their jewelry to different conditions. The landscape business owner that often works without gloves will have a different experience with their jewelry than the office manager that doesn’t recreate outside. And there are times when you just shouldn’t wear jewelry. Rock climbing is a good example. A wedding ring does not make a good protection nut. You will fall and your finger may stay in the hold…jus’ sayin’.
Sizing may be the most common repair because a human finger size is a moving target. Even if your weight is stable, your hands will change daily with the ambient temperature and time of day. Blood pools in your extremities, for example, as you sleep horizontally at night. When you are cold, blood migrates to your core to keep your vitals warm and your fingers shrink a bit. Age, emotional state and many other factors also affect your finger size on any given day. A good designer should check your finger size at least a couple times during the design phase and shoot for a good average. I also offer one free size adjustment with any ring purchase, just in case we miss it the first time. See if your maker will do this for you too.
The typical procedure for ring sizing is to make a cut at the back of the ring, (called the shank, the part that goes around your finger) and then add to or subtract from the material in the shank. Don’t panic. A skilled goldsmith will complete this task with the same color and quality of material that was in the ring originally, and the area of sizing should not be visible once the repair is complete.
I won’t give prices here, but you should be aware that sizing prices vary with up or down sizing and the thickness of a shank. So don’t be surprised if your 10mm wide ring costs a lot more to size up than your friend’s 2mm ring cost to size down.
While I prefer to work gems “into” my designs or use a bezel, many gems, even in some of my designs, are set with prongs. Since prongs are not that big or thick to begin with, they are often the first maintenance needed to insure the security of your gems. Note in the picture below, the flush setting is still in perfect condition.
Prong heads can be replaced, and prongs can be tipped and/or rebuilt by a skilled craftsperson. Depending on the gem material, this can sometimes be done with the gems in place. The somewhat recent addition of laser welders to the tool box of many facilities that engage in repair work makes it a little easier to work around a larger variety of gems. But don’t expect a huge price break since a laser welder is an expensive machine.
Restoration is a broad topic but here is a great example…
This ring came to me with both sides worn nearly completely out. There was enough of a remnant that I could determine the original design so using a CAD application and 3D printing, and the traditional goldsmith techniques of casting, soldering and finishing, I was able to restore this ring completely!
Preventative Jewelry Care
Most places that design, make and repair jewelry will be happy to clean and inspect your jewelry and many perform this service for free. Have someone look at your pieces every 6 months or so, at least after the first three years or so of normal wear. Especially, if you notice any snagging or something unusual about your jewelry, have it checked out.
One way to check the tightness of your gems is to hold your piece very close to your ear and tap on the main gemstone. The piece should be cleaned, per part two of this series, first, and allowed to dry. If you hear any clicking sound, you should have a professional inspect it.
With some common-sense action on your part and timely maintenance, your well-made jewelry can give you and succeeding generations many years of enjoyment. Have fun and if you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to seek me out! There’s a great contact page on my site, and you can call (at any reasonable hour) at 541-729-2531.
Ciao for now!