Repairing Costume Jewelry Rings
Written by Annabelle
September 18, 2019
So you have a ring that you absolutely adore- but honestly, it's not exactly the most expensive thing in the world. After a long time of lovingly wearing it non-stop, you notice with some dismay that it's not looking too great. But how are you even going to fix it? After all, all of your local jewelers have looked at it and turned it down because it's costume jewelry. Don't worry- here's what you need to know about repairing costume jewelry rings.
What Is a Costume Jewelry Ring?
In the industry, we usually separate jewelry into two categories: fine and costume. Fine jewelry consists of pieces made from standardized metals such as sterling silver, gold, and platinum. These precious metals are legally regulated and have predictable reactions to heat and other jewelry processes.
Costume jewelry, on the other hand, can be made from silver or base metals such as bronze, copper, brass, and miscellaneous alloys. These materials are cheap, but can be extremely unpredictable since there is no regulation in regards to their content. That means some base metals might react better to heat, while other mixtures can vary in terms of reaction. The worst type of material is an alloy- a combination of unknown metals. The jeweler doesn't know how it'll respond to any heat exposure, and it can contain anything from tin and aluminum to zinc, which has a notorious reputation for crumbling.
Rings that fall into the costume jewelry category are tricky to repair as a result. Most jewelers will turn down costume jewelry repair jobs because they don't want to take the risk of damaging a sentimental piece and dealing with the aftermath. However, repairs can be done on a case-by-case basis, and there's always an alternative way to get the results that you want. We've listed some of the major repairs for costume jewelry rings below!
Popular Repairs for Costume Jewelry Rings
- Sizing: Rings always need to get sized up and down as customers change their ring sizes! The traditional ring sizing process involves cutting the ring open to add or remove metal, reshaping it, and then soldering the cut shut. However, this process involves exposure to heat from the jeweler's torch and can be dangerous for certain costume jewelry rings.
To first see how to proceed, the jeweler will examine the ring. Does it have plastic stones? Is it sterling silver or an unknown metal? Is the ring plated? These are all questions that the jeweler will take into consideration, as it will affect the sizing process. Here's a brief breakdown of different design components:
- Faux gems: Plastic and glass gems, commonly found in costume jewelry, can pose a huge problem to jewelers when heat is applied to the piece. The heat travels very quickly through the metal and will cause the gems to burn. In addition, they're often glue-set, and the cleaning process will loosen the glue, causing the stones to fall out. To deal with this, the jeweler may unset all the stones, put them to the side, and reset them after all repairs have been performed.
- Metal composition: If the ring is made from sterling silver (usually indicated with a 925 stamp) this is safe for the jeweler to work on. However, brass, copper, bronze, and other alloys are a toss-up. In order to see if the ring can be worked with, the jeweler will test a portion of the metal with heat. If it seems to react well to that and soldering, the jeweler will proceed. It's important that the metal is conducive to work- some alloys do not take solder at all and cannot be fixed. The jeweler will return the ring in that scenario.
Once the jeweler has evaluated the piece, it's time for sizing. Most jewelers will not have brass, bronze, or copper solder on hand to work on the ring, so silver, gold, or rose gold solder is used to match the color. If the piece has been evaluated and cannot be cut into, the jeweler may suggest alternatives for sizing down such as adding beads or a strip of silver to the interior in order to fill in the gap between your ring and finger.
- Re-plating: Costume jewelry that loses its plating looks ugly and worn, and so this is one of our most popular repairs for costume jewelry rings. In order to re-plate the piece, our jewelers check the ring for its metal type. Once that's determined, they check the stones to see if they can withstand the plating process, and move the ring to polishing. The polisher buffs out the surface scratches and any remaining plating to create a smooth surface for the plating to adhere to. Then the ring is cleaned and placed into a plating tank containing a gold or rhodium solution. Electricity runs through the tank, fusing the metal to the ring.
Without going too far into the chemistry of plating, it should be noted that some metals need special treatment before they can be plated with the colored metal of your choice. This is either due to the fact that the metal of the ring is not chemically compatible with the plating process, or it has a tendency to tarnish and darken, which will seep through the plating. To make the metal conducive to plating, and prevent tarnishing, the jeweler may plate the ring with nickel or palladium before plating it with gold or rhodium.
- Re-shaping: Costume jewelry rings can also go out of shape like any other ring! After all, these pieces are on your fingers, and you use your hands for anything from pushing a cart at the supermarket or carrying heavy bags. Over time, that can crack your ring's shank (the back of the ring) or bend it out of shape.
If the ring is only out of shape but still intact, the jeweler can simply put the ring on a ring mandrel and hammer it back into its original round shape. But for cracked shanks, the repair is a little more complicated. The jeweler will have to see if the ring can take solder, and repair the crack before bending it back to its proper roundness.
- Replication: If all else fails- if you can't size your ring up, plate it, or fix the damage- you should consider ring replication. This is a custom creation process that essentially takes the design of your ring and makes it into a precious metal that can be worked with. We always suggest this option to customers as a great long-term investment, as costume jewelry rings can only be repaired and modified so many times.
The replication process involves taking the ring, using it for reference, and creating a mold or a 3D design file. Once the mold or the 3D design file has been created, the item is then cast in the metal of your choice and finished off with polishing, cleaning, stone setting, or plating.
The Cost of Repairing Costume Jewelry Rings
The price for costume jewelry repair can be surprisingly high, despite the fact that the original item isn't worth much. This is because they do require a lot of additional work, such as unsetting/resetting stones and plating. In addition, the jeweler will not be using solder that matches the cheap metal; they will probably use precious metal solder such as silver and gold. That material cost adds to the overall price. Even sizing a simple gold-plated sterling silver ring can cost $60 or more.
That being said, it's worth it if the piece has great value to you. And as an economical option, replicating the ring in a good precious metal will eliminate most of your issues with the ring forever. You don't need to replate a ring every two years if the ring is already solid yellow gold! The replication process does start at a minimum of $250, but just add up all the gold plating charges over the years and you'll quickly find that it's more cost-effective to just get the ring remade.
With all this information, you should be all set to get your costume jewelry rings repaired. Whether you need a basic resizing or a full ring replication, comment below to get started!