Q&A: Repairs

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Last updated 4/18/22

Nancy LT Hamilton

First off, unless you love repairing jewelry, it is your job, or you are a masochist, rethink the concept of doing repairs for ANYONE.  There are jewelers that make a living repairing the results of the unimaginably inventive ways that people have of destroying their jewelry.  I salute you all!

These professional repair jewelers have access to the correct (and often VERY expensive) equipment (like laser welders) and have trained for a long time to successfully repair a ring, bracelet, or necklace without ruining it.  If you take away their jobs and become the freegan jeweler in town, not only will you meet all of your now angry neighbors from about three states over but, you will also starve the professional repair jeweler’s family.  Tomorrow morning, Little Johnny Jeweler Jr., won’t be able to sit down to his nice, big bowl of Captain Crunch, because of you!  Think about it!

Generally, those approaching you about a “quick” repair, often state how much they will appreciate your kindness, and how they would be,  ever-so-grateful (which translates to you’re doing it for free, right?) if you would fix this tiny, little thing for them.  If you’re very lucky, one will pronounce (proudly):  I’d love to give you $5.00 for the glue.  After all, they are your friend, family, or neighbor (who lives two blocks over and you’ve never met before).  Why wouldn’t you want to help them out?  It will only take you five minutes, after all.

There may be exceptions to the Repair Rule:  Let’s say that you’ve made a mistake (Moi?) or something went unexpectedly and terribly wrong with your lovely jewelry or maybe, your customer got a bit too aggressive with that brooch and ran it over with their car (I had this happen – she wanted me to repair it gratis!)  Maybe it becomes stuck in a weed whacker, or it gets crushed (under a mountain of discarded oxygen tanks) during their summit of Mount Everest?  Suddenly, the repair is your responsibility!  Or is it?

Have you ever thought of taking your repairs to a jewelry repair shop?   Sometimes, you have to weigh the cost, dollar-wise, vs. the cost, frustration, and stress of just having someone else fix it.  Is it better to admit defeat and say: “here is money, can you fix this?” Or would you rather worry, for weeks on end, about screwing up your mother’s most cherished cameo, your sister’s “authentic” Navajo bracelet, or your neighbor’s Tiffany toe ring ($5.00 on eBay)?   I scream YES!   Wholeheartedly YES!  Here’s my money! (Don’t forget to bill your mother, friend, sister, brother, neighbor, shopkeeper, accountant, etc. for the cost.  Tell them that the money is for glue!

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My friend wants me to resize his heirloom ring.  How do I resize it?


I’d like to ask a question about sizing a ring. I need to make a ring larger for a friend. It is an old Native American Indian ring, that’s way too small for him. I have seen several videos of people who cut, and add a section of metal to upsize the piece, while soldering the shank with the ring mostly buried in wet sand and/or covered in heat-resistant stuff, with the stone still in it! But I am not willing to chance that technique with a family heirloom, custom job.
So how do you resize a sterling silver ring with a soft stone? Does the whole ring need to be remade? How do I remove the stone without damaging it?  If I f*** up the bezel while working the stone out, then I will have to start all over anyway, right? Help, help help!

Email Two: I am getting paid, by my friend, and I took on the challenge before I saw your video! But, I went right for the full make-over. I removed the stone slowly and reused some of the silver…..almost done.

Email Three: And you were right, I should not have bothered with this, even for the cash, too stressful.


Did you see my last video?  Your answer is in there.  Thank you for a great question.

Answer Two and Three: I really appreciate your tale!  It makes me doubly glad I don’t do repairs!!!  It also makes me very happy that I made that video though!  Loved the photos – you did such a great job.  I hope he paid you well.  Most people don’t have a clue how much work is involved with such an APPARENTLY simple process.  They think:  Well, she just has to pop the stone out and then glue it back in!  How hard could that be??

Don’t forget to keep saying: “NO THANK YOU, I don’t do repairs but, I can recommend a great jeweler on Main Street!” (very sweetly of course!).

Will I destroy my stone if I solder a bail on after it is set?  Also, can I protect the patina when soldering?


I have a bezel with the cabochon in place.  I need to attach the bezel to a copper item. The piece I want to solder on to has a liver of sulfur patina with ferric chloride etching.  My problem is I want to solder it without overheating the bezel (damaging the cabochon) and copper item (preventing the destruction of the patina).  I was thinking I could get the solder wire to drop onto the item and then, quickly attach the bezel before hardening.  I can’t get the solder to melt.  It just balls up and, of course, by the time I touch the
solder to the metal it has hardened.  Would appreciate any advice you can give me.  ( the instructor at class won’t allow glue).


Uh, no.  Any heat will destroy the patina.  It will also ruin the stone unless it is: 1. immersed in water, a potato, an apple, soldering putty, or wet sand, etc., or 2. you use a product like Rio’s Chill Gell and even then, I’d be worried – especially with a cabochon!  The metal, which surrounds it and is under it, will heat up.  This makes many stones vulnerable to heat like turquoise, coral, amber, anything with fillers, anything heat-treated for color, etc.  You can remove the stone, solder on the bail, re-set the stone, and then re-patina it.  But, usually, with cabochons, you need to replace the bezel and start over because they get too damaged during removal.   Can you rivet the bail on?  Or use a jump ring as a bail?  There are also snap-on bails.

Are you using a soldering iron or a torch?  That makes a big difference, heat-wise.  You might be able to use a soldering iron.  Might.  Also, your solder is balled up because your piece is dirty or there are gaps.  That patina is the dirt.  You can only solder on clean, bare metal.
Re-patinating is not a big deal and is a very simple process.  I would burn off that patina, pickle the piece, and start over, following correct soldering practices – after removing the stone.
I’d rethink this process and read/watch a few of my videos/web pages before moving on.  Are you in a jewelry class?  Why hasn’t the instructor told you these things?  Interesting…
Please see my  Soldering page – with links to all pages on soldering – and my soldering playlist on YouTube. (This link works – even though it is crossed out.  WordPress, sheesh.)
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