"Can't you just tap it up?" "What about stretching it?" I hear this from customers, usually after I've told them what it is going to cost to size their ring the right way. I'm not sure where they heard it from, but this is not good for the ring. 'Stretching' or 'tapping' just spreads the metal, making it thinner. It will also pull from the weakest point, so if it's not a solid band it will stretch first at those thinner areas. If there are stones set, it can loosen them too as it stretches the metal around them. The only time you should stretch a ring is if it is a solid band that has never had anything done to it, and even then you should only stretch it a maximum of one size.

So if we're not 'stretching' or 'tapping', how do we size your ring?

To size a ring you must first make sure it is clean. Any lotion or skin oils on the ring when heat is applied can burn into the metal. This is also true of stones, assuming it is one that can be left in while you work. Any stones that can't, are removed next. Lightly pass the torch over the shank to see if the ring has been previously sized so you can plan your cut(s). The shank is then cut with a jewelers hand saw. If we are sizing it up, we will be adding metal. If we are sizing it down, we will cut some of the metal out. When sizing down, we always cut from the thinnest portion of the shank (that spot on the back that gets the most wear). When sizing up, you are opening the ring slightly and placing the extra metal in the space. When you size it down you are closing it in. Once that is done, solder and polish your joins. Reset any stones and make sure any that weren't taken out are still tight. Polish the whole piece.

The metal that the ring is made of is a modifying factor.

Sterling is a pain. It conducts heat evenly, so the entire piece will be the same temperature as the area you are soldering. Unless it's a diamond, any stones have to come out before it can be worked on. Unfortunately, these stones have often been glued in as an added security against them falling out. They must be soaked in a special solvent that only dissolves glues, which can take a while (in one memorable case, it took two weeks).  Previous solder joins on the piece may flow while you are working, which you will have to go back and redo. The bigger part of your expense with a silver repair is that it is very labor-intense.

Gold doesn't conduct or hold the heat like silver does, making it the easiest to work on. The bigger part of your expense with gold repairs is the cost of the metal.

Platinum has a melting temperature of 3,215 degrees Fahrenheit. Never work on this metal without proper eye protection or you will burn your retinas. (never watch me working on it either) It also has terrible metal memory- which means that when you bend it, it wants to go back to it's previous shape. This adds to the time it takes to reshape the shank for sizing. It has the double whammy of being difficult to work AND expensive. Because we don't add hardening agents to platinum like we do with gold, when you buy platinum it is all platinum. Expect to spend (on average) three times what the same repair costs in gold.

 

 

We've all heard the stories. I think they perpetuate because people don't know what we really do, so I am going to take the mystery away.

The first thing I am going to tackle is stone switching. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who had their diamond switched. Frankly, I cannot imagine anyone walking in the door with a diamond worth more than my reputation. And that is what it would amount to, because trust is everything in this industry.

But wait, you say, what about the someone's cousin/aunt/poodle who got their stone switched?

Let's break it down.

A lot of it is urban legend- it makes for a good scare, and people love a good scare.

Some of it is honest confusion. I've worked for several jewelry companies over the years, and the corporate ones have quotas that their jewelers must meet while the sales staff make promises to buyers that the jewelers have to drop what they are working on to make happen, and you suddenly have three jobs strewn across your bench. That insanity is why I have a policy against 'rush jobs'. Everything is done in the order it is received.

Some of it is breakage or an undisclosed pre-existing condition or treatment. Yes, you can break a diamond. The cleavage planes are 9, it's how they can cut diamonds in the first place, and a Princess cut has you putting prongs down on four cleavage planes. Some diamonds have structural flaws- like a 'feather' that almost reaches to the surface, or a chip in the girdle where a customer hit it just wrong that increase the chances of breakage. And speaking of chips- I have seen chips and/or included crystals hidden behind prongs, many of them were stones in rings straight from the manufacturer. If the stone isn't oriented the exact same way when you reset it, of course it is going to look different, even though it is the same stone. Also, some treatments are not stable. I remember when Yehuda diamonds first hit the market. They would drill down into a diamond and bleach dark inclusions. Then they would fill the drill hole with a clear material and suddenly an I2 diamond looked great. They were marketed as clarity enhanced diamonds. It let a lot of people get a great looking bigger diamond for a fraction of the cost. Unfortunately, the filler they used for that drill hole would boil out when you were soldering on the piece, leaving you with a very ugly stone. The woman would be horrified and blame the shop, because her husband hadn't told her that he had bought a treated stone.

But a small portion of it is based in truth. There are dishonorable people out there. Know your jeweler, or if your jeweler has recently retired or you've moved, ask your friends who they trust. Look at online review companies like Yelp. Then go in and talk to the recommended people. Know your stone. Most jewelry stores have loupes or microscopes- ask the employees to help you use them to look at your stone. Every diamond has identifying characteristics- I once saw an inclusion that was shaped like a hummingbird. (That was amazing, btw) Have them use a diamond tester on your stone when you bring it in and when you pick it up to verify that it is a diamond. Double check for your identifying characteristics.

 

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