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Are You A Jewelry Repair Newbie? Here’s Your Glossary of Terms to Know

Written by Anna Currell
March 29, 2024

If you’re new to the world of jewelry repair, the terminology can be confusing. How do you explain to a jeweler what you need to have fixed when you’re not sure what to call the specific part that’s broken? From prongs to pavé to plating, there’s a whole language to learn when it comes to jewelry. To give you a solid foundation, we’ve put together this handy glossary of some common jewelry repair terms. Ready to learn the lingo? Read on!

chain-soldering

A jeweler using the correct equipment for chain repair.

Metal Types

The type of metal that a piece of jewelry is made from has a big impact on its properties and how it can be repaired. Here are some of the most common metals used in jewelry:

  • Gold: Gold is a precious metal available in colors like yellow, white, and rose. It’s usually stamped with its karat weight (like 14k or 18k) to indicate how pure it is. Gold is very durable but relatively soft, so it is often alloyed with other metals both to increase its longevity and lower its cost.
  • Platinum: Platinum is a precious metal that is extremely durable and doesn’t tarnish. Platinum jewelry is usually marked with the letters “PT” or “Plat” to indicate its metal type. Platinum is very rare and expensive, and it’s also a complicated material for jewelers to work with; special training and equipment is often required to repair jewelry made from platinum.
  • Silver: Silver is a precious metal that is usually more affordable than pure gold or platinum. It’s considered a soft metal, and has a tendency to tarnish over time. High quality silver is typically stamped with the numbers 925 or the letters “ster” to indicate its purity.
  • Steel: Steel is an affordable and very strong metal. Stainless steel doesn’t rust or tarnish, and it’s usually a good option for people who suffer from metal allergies. 
antique-jewelry-art-deco

This white gold art deco ring is set with diamonds.

Gemstone Settings 

A setting is the specific way a gemstone is held in a piece of jewelry. Different types of settings will change the appearance of the jewelry and the security of the gemstone. Here are some popular gemstone settings for jewelry:

  • Prong setting: Prongs are metal claws that hold the stone in place. These small metal tabs usually come in four or six and wrap around the stone to keep it in place. Prong settings put your gemstone proudly on display and give it lots of angles to refract light for optimal sparkle. 
  • Bezel setting: A bezel setting surrounds the gem snugly within a metal rim to hold it in place. This makes the gemstone a little more hidden than a prong setting, but it keeps the stone very secure.
  • Channel setting: In a channel setting, gemstones are nestled side-by-side in a row with metal walls on either side. Channel settings work well for eternity bands, where gemstones wrap around the entire band for a dazzling shine. 
  • Pavé setting: In a pavé setting, tiny stones are set close together and secured by tiny prongs. This adds a fun, sparkly effect to a piece of jewelry. Similar to a channel, these stones can surround the band of a ring, and they stand out a bit more as they have some space between them.  
prong-repair

A ring with missing and worn-down prongs before and after repair

Jewelry Parts

Beyond the materials and settings, there are all kinds of other parts you should know about jewelry. These are some terms that can help you better understand your jewelry, especially if you need it repaired:

  • Shank: The shank is the part of the ring that encircles your finger when you wear it, sometimes called the band. Shanks can bend, crack, or thin out as you wear them, and they can come in all different widths. 
  • Head: The head is the top part of a ring that displays the center stone and accent stones. The head can get misshapen over time.
  • Bale: A bale connects a pendant to its chain or cord. It’s a tiny metal loop that a chain will slide through in order to suspend the pendant. Bales can become loose, bent, or damaged, so it’s important to get them checked; you don’t want to lose a pendant. 
  • Clasp: A clasp joins the ends of a necklace or bracelet. Clasps can malfunction, come loose, or break over time, so it’s important to get them checked regularly. 
cut-ring-gold

This gold ring had a crack in the back of the shank.

Common Repairs and Maintenance

If your jewelry isn’t looking its best, doesn’t fit properly, or isn’t wearable, there are all kinds of remedies. But it’s hard to find the solution if you don’t know what you’re looking for! Here are some common repairs that rejuvenate your jewelry pieces:

  • Resizing: Resizing makes a ring, bracelet, or necklace smaller or larger to fit properly on the finger. This requires adding or removing metal from the shank.
  • Prong re-tipping: Prong retipping helps with broken, worn out, or missing prongs. Re-tipping is done using precision welding or hand-fabrication techniques.
  • Stone tightening: Stone setting secures loose gemstones by adjusting prongs or repairing bezels. Stone tightening helps you keep your stone in its setting so it doesn’t get lost. 
  • Clasp replacement: Clasp replacement swaps out a broken or malfunctioning necklace or bracelet clasp with a new one.
  • Cleaning and polishing: A jeweler will use soap, water, polish, or steam to clean jewelry and restore its shine. This regular maintenance service removes built-up dirt and grime.
  • Dent removal: A jeweler can fix dents and warping using special tools to gently massage the metal back into shape.
  • Soldering: Soldering joins broken metal parts together using a metal alloy and a torch. Soldering is useful for cracks or damage on rings or chain necklaces. 
  • Plating: Plating, or electroplating, is when the jeweler applies a thin layer of metal like rhodium or gold to the surface of jewelry. Plating protects the underlying surface from wear and enhances appearance.
scratched-gemstone-cloudy

The ring before and after polishing.

Professional Titles

If you’re looking for an expert jewelry repair person, these are some titles to keep in mind:

  • Jeweler: A general term for anyone who works in the jewelry industry or is skilled at making, designing, and repairing jewelry.
  • Goldsmith: A jeweler who specializes in working with gold jewelry and other precious metals. A goldsmith is highly experienced in gold fabrication and repair.  
  • Bench jeweler: Repairs and fabricates jewelry by working at a specialized jewelry bench, often using a jeweler’s loupe (a magnifying lens) and precision tools.
  • Jewelry appraiser: Someone who evaluates jewelry to determine authenticity and value, typically in association with insurance policies. 
  • Gemologist: A specialist trained in gems, who can identify and evaluate stones and advise if they can withstand certain repairs.

We hope this glossary has helped illuminate some key jewelry repair terminology and given you a better understanding of this intricate craft. Don’t be intimidated by all the jargon — most jewelry artists had to learn these terms too! The vocabulary gets easier with time and experience. And if you ever need professional help, make sure to turn to our reliable and capable team of experts at Quick Jewelry Repairs. Browse our menu of repair services using your newfound knowledge and find any jewelry repair work you may need.

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