How to Fix a Scratched Gemstone

scratched-gemstone-ring

You look down at your rings and notice that the sparkly colored gemstones aren’t looking as sparkly as usual. Is it dirt? You run your rings under water and do a bit of rubbing with a soft cloth- but no, it’s not coming out. Chances are, the surface is scratched after years of loving wear. Learn more about how to get those stones back into shape so you can enjoy them again.

How Do Gemstones Get Scratched?

The first thing you should know is that not all gemstones are created equally. Some stones are softer than others and more prone to damage, and over time they’ll show signs of wear. This is especially true for gems set in rings, because your hands come into contact with a lot of surfaces on a daily basis. Whether it’s banging your hands on a table, desk, or drawer, all that abrasion will cause chips and scratches to show on the surface of your stones.

Another thing to keep in mind that not all “stones” in jewelry are genuine. In vintage jewelry or class rings, glass or simulant stones are common. These gems will scratch easily.

Getting Your Dull Gemstones Fixed

Now that you know why your stone’s looking dull, the next step is to get it fixed. When you take your gems to a jeweler, the first thing they do is evaluate the piece and assess the damage. Is it covered with a matrix of scratches on the top? Are the facets of the gem completely worn down? Or is it just plain dirty?

If the gem is just dull because there’s a thick accumulation of grime behind the setting, the jeweler will clean it with the method best suited for the gemstone. Tougher gemstones can withstand steam cleaning and ultrasonic cleaning, which can get into the tiny nooks and crannies of your jewelry to knock the dirt out.

scratched-gemstone-dirty

This rose gold and aquamarine ring was extremely dirty.

However, if the stone is really scratched or chipped, the jeweler will have to polish and re-facet it.

Polishing a Scratched Gemstone

Once the jeweler determines that your stone is indeed physically damaged, they have to evaluate whether or not the job can be done (and to what extent) based on the amount of damage. Certain stones are scratched or chipped so deeply that polishing will not restore the piece, while other stones cannot be polished due to their nature or the design of the jewelry’s setting. Since this process is usually done on a case by case basis, we’ve compiled a list of four examples for your reference.

  1. Surface scratches: This antique aquamarine ring arrived with a web of very small, superficial scratches on the surface. Because the scratches were not particularly deep, this ring was able to go through the standard stone polishing process, revealing the beauty of the original stone after work.
    scratched-gemstone-antique-aquamarine

    The aquamarine ring before and after extensive restoration work.

  2. Cloudy facets: Not all scratches look the same. How a stone becomes abraded depends on its physical makeup; in this case, this gem was worn down to the point where it looked opaque. In order to restore its original look, the lapidary made sure to follow the existing pattern of facets when polishing. This particular restoration was not able to remove a deep fracture at the top left of the stone; the damage was internal and beyond the reach of the polishing process.
    scratched-gemstone-cloudy

    The ring before and after polishing.

  3. Chipped facets: This class ring suffered a lot of damage at one area after years of wear and tear. The bezel setting around the stone was also broken, leaving the gold uneven in certain locations. Our jeweler restored the bezel by reinforcing the rim with additional gold, and the lapidary carefully buffed the stone to restore the three facets that had been heavily chipped.
    scratched-gemstone-class-ring

    The ring before and after polishing and setting repair work. Note that the polishing didn’t completely remove the damage.

  4. Missing facets: At one point, this class ring probably had facets on the top. After more than seven decades of wear the gem’s surface was flat as a board and grainy in texture. Our client wanted it to be “shiny,” and given the fact that the stone was glass we decided to not re-facet this piece. Instead, we buffed the top of the stone to make it a smooth, cabochon cut. This restored its transparency, revealing the inner facets of the stone and enhancing its original color.
    scratched-gemstone-class-ring-facets

    This class ring went through extensive restoration, including stone polishing.

     

The Cost and Turnaround Time for Stone Polishing

Stone polishing typically ranges from $35 to $55, depending on the work required. Re-faceting work may cause an increase in the price, and the larger or more fragile the stone, the more expensive the job. It can take up to a week or so in order for the lapidary to finish the job.

It’s important to keep in mind that while stone polishing definitely can have a transformative effect, it’s not a cure-all for everything. Some damage can’t be fixed if it’s too deep, and we always make sure to prepare our customers when assessing their gems.

Now you’re all set to make your stone nice and shiny again! To get started, hit us up in the comments.

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