Whether you are purchasing jewelry for your own collection, for investment, or for resale, it is important to know when to repair a piece that has damage or missing stones, and when to retire. Whether you intend to use it or plan to sell it “as is” will determine the appropriateness of repair. If you plan to repair the part and then sell it, be sure to factor in the cost of repairs to see if it is worth repairing.
If you have a piece of jewelry that you would like to wear, but it has loose or missing stones, or has other condition issues, what are the best ways to repair it so that you can enjoy wearing it safely?
I found that some issues are easy to address, others require more time, patience, and money, and still others benefit from professional care.
If you want to repair your jewelry yourself, there are a few things you should invest in. If you don’t already have a jeweler’s loupe or powerful loupe, you should get one. I have two – one stays on my desk and the other stays in my purse, so I always have one on hand, whether I’m working at home or shopping for jewelry. Another useful magnifying glass is one that fits over your head, leaving your hands free.
The most common problem I see in costume jewelery is with stones: rhinestones, crystal, glass or plastic, they can come out of their settings, be loose, cracked or dull. Older pieces can be attached with glue that has dried and let the stone fall off. It is important to use the correct type of adhesive and not use too much. Krazy Glue or Super Glue is not recommended as they can break when attached to glass. Super Glue can be especially damaging to old parts – a film can develop if it reacts to old metal and plating. If you leave it on the surface of the stone, it is difficult to remove. Never use hot glue – it can expand and contract with changes in temperature and can break jewelry or loosen stone. The best adhesive to use would be one designed specifically for jewelry, which can be found at craft stores and on jewelry supply websites.
Be careful not to use too much glue when replacing stones. The glue will not dry properly and the adhesive will flow around the stone and onto the metal. I use a toothpick dipped in a small puddle of glue to place small pieces of glue on the setting, one drop at a time, using as little amount as possible.
Putting the stone back in the setting is a delicate process: you can wet your fingertip to make the stone adhere, and then carefully drop it into the setting.
Save your old broken jewelry or any incomparable earrings for your stones. You can find broken pieces at flea markets, yard sales, and antique stores. It is difficult to exactly match a missing stone, but if you create a collection of orphan pieces, it may be the correct size and color. You can also access jewelry suppliers for stones. Note that anything you buy for repairs should be factored into the price if the part is intended for resale.
One way to make old jewelry look new again is to put it back. Replacing it can be expensive and should only be done if you keep the part for you to use. Repainting can decrease the value of antique jewelry, just as repainting antique furniture would decrease its value. An Internet search should provide the names of jewelry restorers in your area.
Now what about that green stuff that you sometimes see on antique jewelry? Some jewelry collectors simply pass on pieces that have verdigris, as it can indicate corrosion that cannot be cleaned. You can try cleaning it with a cotton swab dipped in vinegar, but if the metal is heavily coated and weathered, you may need to gently remove the green, being careful not to damage the metal underneath. Clean the part with a damp cloth and allow it to air dry completely. You can also try the same process with ammonia. Be careful never to immerse the jewelery piece in liquid, as the stones may loosen or discolor due to the ingress of water into the setting.
Costume jewelery is made to be worn and enjoyed. Replacing the missing stones and cleaning the metal will give your old jewelry sparkle and shine and many more years of use.