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Costume jewelry repair

Is there a book or a resource that someone could point me toward
that gives good on the repair of costume jewelry?

I get so many requests for this sort of thing that I’ve started
thinking I ought to look into it. Do I need to learn to use a
soldering iron? Actually, I’m not sure that I really want to open
this can of worms but I do get such disappointed looks when I turn
away a customer who wants a piece, which has sentimental value,
fixed that I’m now willing to at least look into it.

Thanks for any help.

Highland Goldsmiths
NW Oregon

Jennifer, Lorraine Johnson’s book “How to Restore & Repair
Practically Everything” has a little on repairing
costume jewelry. However, an search for “repairing
costume jewelry” doesn’t turn up any books specifically devoted to
that topic. There may be other out there that a google
search would turn up.

I am also interested in costume jewelry repair and would love to
hear any suggestions that Orchid members might have, including any
tricks on how to use a soldering iron.


How to Restore & Repair Practically Everything
By Lorraine Johnson

Price: $15.95

Media: Hardcover
Manufacturer : Mercury Books
Release data : July, 2004

Jennifer & tutti:

I’m finally coming out of the fine jewelry closet and admitting that
costume jewelry is my true passion. I’m currently awaiting studio
space and I will be setting up to make and repair costume jewelry.

If there is a single reference book, I’m not aware of it. With the
pot metal and unidentifiable metals involved in costume, plus the
various plastic and glass stones, plus adhesives, it appears to me
that repairing the stuff will be a piece-by-piece experience,
learning as I go, making many mistakes, ruining a lot of nice
jewelry. I bought a butane torch and a soldering iron which I
haven’t used yet… Just finding replacement stones is already
looming as a major concern, particulary if the piece is vintage.

By mid-summer, when my studio is ready, if no one hears from me, I
may have strangled myself with a base-metal chain. This whole
costume jewelry endeavor may prove to be a true Pandora’s box.

I would love to hear from anyone who does this successfully and
might provide some guidance.


I have done a lot of costume jewelry repair over the years. TIX
solder is a life saver. I use both an iron and a torch. the piece
decides the choice. Price it HIGH! If it is really sentimental, they
will have it done regardless the price. If they don’t, you have lost
nothing. This work can certainly be a can of worms too. I found that
doing it opened the door for the good stuff because I was always
perceived to be a miracle worker. (I am, even sometimes when I am
awake). When in doubt, pass. Otherwise warm soapy water to clean and
study how it was put together in the first place.

The hardest part of the repair is getting the super glue, epoxy,
string, and chewing gum cleaned out the holes. remember charge a LOT!
I feel no guilt about asking $50 to fix a $5 piece. The choice is
theirs to make. I run a business. yes you will have to get very
proficient with an iron. I like a medium sized old electric one. Wand
type. Lot of heat. Get in and out quick.

Bill Churlik

Costume jewelry repair can be profitable, but there are a few
pitfalls to this area to watch out for.

#1- many people think that the cost to repair should be based on
their cost of purchasing the item 30 years ago. Just because they
paid $15 for the item 30 years ago doesnt mean it won’t take $30 of
your time to repair it. Stick to your guns on pricing. Also, most
times, costume repairs are not standard type repair work, and pricing
is sometimes difficult to estimate simply because you dont know how
long it will take to do the job. Dont be afraid to go high because
chances are very good it will take you longer than you had originally
planned. I calculate odd job work at $1/minute, guesstimate to the
high side, and usually just come out okay on the odd stuff. I have
loads of standard gold work and watch work that all pays at least
that much per hour, so it would be silly for me to price costume at a
lower rate. In addition, if your work is decent, word will spread
rapidly, and you will eventually be deluged with costume. In short,
be picky what you take on, and don’t underprice just to be a costume
jewelry hero. Also, watch out for amatuer antique dealers wanting a
trade price or discount for quantity, most of them turn out to be a
waste of your time. Antique dealers will begin to show up with shoe
boxes full eventually once word gets out that you are doing costume.
They want to spend vast amounts of time picking your brain for info,
for free, while they leave a few little paying jobs with you. Make
sure they are aware that they need to pay for your knowledge/time.
Remember, they are getting things repaired to make a profit for
themselves when it sells, and you are just as entitled to a profit as
they are. After all, YOU are the professional (arent you?)!

#2- A few parts/findings to keep on hand are: an assortment of sizes
of round clear/white foilback rhinestones. Don’t get to involved
with color or fancy shapes, as you will find that you never have
quite the right size , shape, or color to match. Use 2 part 5 minute
epoxy sparingly. Super glue type adhesives are an absolute no-no.
Casker has a nice refillable asstmt in a handy numbered box. Rio
Grande and Stuller have selections too.

assorted pinstems, hinges, and clasps for pins, in nickel silver,
and gold plate or filled. Rio has decent selection in this area. Buy
in larger quantities for price advantage and the stuff will last for
years worth of repairs

nickel plate and brass earring clip findings. Also stainless steel
posts on pads are handy to keep on hand for converting clips to
pierced. You’ll get alot of this type of job once word spreads.Once
again, Rio is pretty decent for these items

#3- A Wahl brand rechargable soldering iron is handy, very
controllable, but I mostly use a “Little Torch” with a little flame,
and kind of glance it off the surface of what I am soldering, rather
than put a flame directly at the work area. If you have one
available, a PUK111 pulse arc welder is pretty handy to attach
posts, etc… then solder to finish up the job.

These are just a few things to consider if you are going to take on
the costume endeavor.

Good luck!
Ed in Kokomo

     I would love to hear from anyone who does this successfully
and might provide some guidance. 

There is a guy in Chicago, on Michigan Avenue near Madison (or is it
Monroe?) who runs a small, ground floor shop called “Costume Jewelry
Repair,” so apparently it can be done. He’s been there for years.


Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

In addition to Diamondeddy’s comments on costume jewelry repair I
would like to add that a laser welder is also a very nice option, If
not an expensive one for this type of repair. I find that a
relatively low voltage, diffuse beam and a long pulse duration under
argon makes for a nice soft solder joint, with all of the control
one expects from laser welding. I have also seen fusion welders used
to great efficiency for attaching earring findings to costume work.

As for soldering irons I tend to prefer a soldering gun to a
soldering iron (wand) If I recall correctly the one I have is a 100
watt gun, it heats fast and I prefer its smaller tip size to that of
a comparable iron. As for the type of solder I use a Harris product
called “Stay Bright” as it is Lead Free, something i think is
important for jewelry work (Ask for it at your oxygen suppler, and
ask about the smaller gage wire).


   There is a guy in Chicago, on Michigan Avenue near Madison (or
is it Monroe?) who runs a small, ground floor shop called "Costume
Jewelry Repair," so apparently it can be done. He's been there for


There is Jay Howard in Sherman Oaks, California. I’ve never met him
but people tell me they just leave their stuff with him and he does
a fabulous job in his own sweet time. I’m not interested in a repair
business. I simply want to repair the broken pieces I buy and make
them beautiful again. So, I just have to take a deep breath and do
it, mistakes and all.

Marly Harris

If you use Tix solder, your heat source can be a heat gun or, if
that’s too “windy,” a candle will do.

Judy Bjorkman

you will find that most of it lead plated so be careful if you use a
torch I do most of the time Just watch you heat it can melt fast on
you. I use ss posts when they want to change them I get $10. a pear
for doing it just to make it worth while.

Don in Idaho, getting the Spring yard work done!!

I have been repairing costume jewelry for awhile and buy boxes of it
at auctions and flea markets just for the rhinestones. The color
replacement comment is all too true never the right size or color.
It is a time consuming process and I never really did finish repairs
on all pieces. I have repaired a few pieces by substituting a
rhinestone color I did have enough of (with client approval of
course) that sometimes is a good option on vintage pieces missing
colored stones.

P.S. On the repairing and soldering part. Unfortunately I find it is
practice and experience that wins out.

Though knowing the manufacturer can at many times direct your repair
tactics. There are a few books on costume jewelry manufacturers that
deal with treatments some used on products. I have to go storage
unit diving and best friend grilling to find titles for you. My best
friend is expert in identifying time periods for costume jewelry and
knows quite a bit about the stones and metals used in each time
period. Willhave to interview her. :slight_smile:

America’s Only Cameo Artist