The Brooch Repair Field Guide
Annabelle / January 15, 2020
Brooches and pins can be beautiful and functional ornaments…until they’re broken or out of style. Fortunately, a jeweler can easily fix up a broken brooch or convert a pin into another piece of beautiful jewelry. Read on to learn more about brooch repair.
What’s the Difference Between a Brooch and a Pin?
While the two terms are interchangeably used, a brooch usually refers to a more formal centerpiece with a pin and clasp fixture at the back. A pin, or stickpin, is a decorative design at the top of a long and pointy metal component.
Repairing a Brooch
Most of the brooch repairs we receive are for replacing components. After long periods of wear, pins snap off or come loose. Clasps on costume jewelry brooches are also prone to breaking off if the metal is low-quality or weak.
When receiving a brooch for work, the jeweler examines it closely before proceeding. Is it costume jewelry? What is the base metal? Are there any components like rhinestones, glass gems, or fragile gemstones that may react badly to heat? These questions are important, as it will affect how the jeweler repairs the piece.
If the item is made out of precious metal such as sterling silver or gold, this simplifies the repair as these metals will react predictably to certain temperatures. The jeweler can supply a new clasp and pin to match these metals, and solder them back onto the brooch. The metal component for the pin may often be filed down or created from a thick wire to match the required length of the brooch’s design.
Items that are made out of non-precious metals, such as costume jewelry, are more difficult to fix. Many of these brooches are plated, which means that they are covered with a thin layer of gold, silver, or rhodium coloration to give it a particular shade. This color comes off when exposed to heat or water, making it near-impossible to retain the original appearance of the item.
In addition, these items don’t react predictably to the soldering process. Some metals may transfer heat very quickly, causing the repair process to burn plastic or glass gems. In order to prevent this from happening, the jeweler will test the brooch at one small area with a laser. If the metal reacts favorably, then the jeweler will proceed with the work. Fragile gemstones such as abalone, pearl, coral, and opal may often be unset for extra security before heat application in the repair work.
Aside from fixing the components of a brooch or pin, a jeweler can also repair its design by touching up enamel, plating, or replacing stones. To re-apply enamel or plating, the jeweler removes the existing color on the item via polishing and then replaces the coloration with new enamel, gold, or rhodium. Stone replacements are carefully matched as closely as possible with faux or genuine stones.
Converting Brooches and Pins
Brooches and pins aren’t for everyone! If you’ve inherited a beautiful heirloom but you don’t like wearing it on your clothing, consider converting it to a pendant or a ring. You can even get creative with the conversion and request for the new piece to be constructed in a certain way if the design allows for it.
The jeweler examines the piece to see what’s the best way to remove the pin components. Some brooches may retain the majority of their design, while other parts may be selectively removed until the jeweler obtains the part of the design that the customer wants to convert.
Once the jeweler’s removed all of the extra material, they attach new components to make the item a different type of jewelry. If it’s a pin to pendant conversion, the jeweler will solder a bail to the top to go through a chain, or even bend the existing pin into a loop at the top of the design. For a brooch to ring conversion, the jeweler will either bend the original pin, or solder on an entirely new ring band.
Now you’re all set to repair or convert a brooch! If you’re in need of a brooch repair, comment below and we can help you out.