Restore and Repair Inherited Jewelry (Part 1)
Written by Chloe Olewitz
December 15, 2020
Inherited jewelry serves as a powerful reminder of our loved ones' eternal place in our hearts. The glimmer of a jewel or the weight of a bauble they adored can be all it takes to conjure up those memories. And the best way to keep those memories close is to make them a part of your life!
Instead of letting them gather dust at the bottom of your jewelry box, all it takes is a little attention to return cherished pieces to their former glory and keep your treasured memories alive.
Welcome to Part 1 of our series on inherited jewelry! To kick us off, here are a few ways you can breathe new life into the jewelry your loved ones entrusted to you.
Restore: Bring back the sparkle and shine to inherited pieces
Your first step with your inherited jewelry will likely be some sort of cleaning. It’s perfectly normal for well-loved pieces to accumulate dust, dirt, and scratches as we wear them. You can clean many kinds of jewelry at home on your own, but different metals and types of jewelry require specific kinds of cleaning. Even individual gemstones need to be polished with particular processes and careful attention depending on the type or cut of the stone.
Professional jewelry cleaning takes the guesswork out of the finding the best way to clean, polish, and sanitize your most important pieces. Jewelers can apply fresh coats of metal plating, get into those tough-to-reach spots, and buff out surface scratches using special tools.
Appraise: Protect inherited jewelry throughout the repair process
It’s often the pieces we love the most that are crying out for TLC, and sometimes that TLC requires more than a quick polish. If you’re not sure of all the components in your jewelry, you might start with an appraisal. A jeweler will evaluate your piece up close to determine the type of metals and stones it uses, assess its quality, and prescribe the best course of action to fix damage and reverse wear while protecting the integrity of the piece.
In some cases, complex repairs aren’t the safest option for jewelry with priceless sentimental value. Brass jewelry and glass stones like those found in costume jewelry, for example, are susceptible to heat and sometimes can’t take metalwork. Or sometimes what looks like gold jewelry turns out to be gold-plated or gold-filled, which would be more delicate to repairs and even polishing. A professional appraisal will ensure that your piece can withstand whatever repairs you’d like to make.
Repair: Fix damage so inherited jewelry is as good as new
Here are some of the most popular repairs jewelers make to inherited jewelry.
Functional repairs help jewelry parts work as they should. When clasps or jump rings break from overuse on necklaces or bracelets, for example, parts replacements will do the trick. Earring backs can break or bend, and individual parts can wear thin. Even in watches, everything from the crystal itself to smaller pieces like the stem and the crown sometimes need to be replaced.
Rings are some of the most commonly repaired items since we tend to meet the world with our hands. Depending on how finely it’s made—or how thoroughly we wear it through—the ring band can become misshapen or even break or snap. A jeweler can reshape a wonky ring, solder together breaks in the metal, or replace the ring shank (the back of the ring) to return your ring to its perfect state.
When it comes to settings, repairs are a crucial way to keep your jewelry’s precious stones safe and secure. Stones can come loose over the years, and you have various options to keep them in place. Stone tightening ensures that gems fit snugly in their settings and keeps them from rattling around, for example. And if loose settings or heavy wear lead to damage, jewelers have a variety of methods to repair or replace broken gemstones.
If a gemstone has fallen out completely, you’ll need stone setting services. A jeweler will adjust the process based on whether the stone fits into a channel, bezel, or pronged setting. And sometimes, the settings themselves need to be repaired. With pronged settings, you may need to add prong tips or rebuild new prongs completely in order to keep stones safe.
Lastly, in all the flurry of handling a loved ones’ estate, sometimes parts or pieces can go missing. Jewelers and lapidaries can work with you to source new stones that match what was lost or select gems that have personal meaning to you, restoring the integrity of your inherited pieces.
Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of our inherited jewelry series; we’ll go over ways to transform, personalize, and pass on the pieces that need either a fresh look or a new home.