Scary repair!

What a day! There I was, minding my own business, enjoying plodding
through the fabrication of my youngest daughter’s prom jewellery when
in walks my son’s girlfriend bearing a brown envelope and wearing a
sheepish grin on her face. She then revealed a colleague’s engagement
ring, asking me to repair it. Being such an important purchase and
with such sentimental value, my instinct was to turn the job down,
but like a mug I accepted it. I took it on because the cost of the
repair by a jeweller’s shop would have been at least twice what the
ring cost in the first place. I think she may have taken it back to
where it was bought and told it wasn’t worth repairing - hence asking
me to do it - I’m not sure.

I don’t like to sound elitist but we are in the luxury goods
business and the range of worth goes from junk to priceless and this
ring really is from the lower end of the range. Apparently the fiance
was left thousands of UK pounds in his grandma’s will in order to buy
a really good engagement ring but what he picked is worth no more
than about 40 UK pounds. I don’t know what it actually cost him.

The ring is extremely thin 9K white gold, with the central focal
stone being a 1.5mm(!) round, heavily included diamond set in an
illusion setting, with the shoulders coming up to almost meet the top
of the setting and having four 0.005 ct (half point) also round and
included diamonds in each shoulder. The shank had broken right
through just under one of the shoulders so needed resoldering.

I cleaned it thoroughly in the ultrasonic, fluxed it heavily to
protect the diamonds and resoldered the break in the shank. I had to
go back into it again as the first lot of solder sort of sank into
the 9K white gold, leaving a horrible dent/pit. The second soldering
sorted it out and I just about remembered not to quench it but to
let it cool by itself. After pickling it I cleaned up the repair and
polished the ring. The problems started when I put it through the
ultrasonic prior to its final polish. One of the half point diamonds
fell out!!! Talk about stress. I wasn’t sure whether it had fallen
out whilst in the ultrasonic or whilst I was polishing it and the
missing diamond was SO small I was sure I’d never find it so I found
another tiny diamond that had come out of another ring and attempted
to set that in the hole. Cleaned it up again and put it back in the
ultrasonic keeping all fingers crossed that it would stay put. That
one fell out too (I’m no diamond setter) - so my only option was to
empty out my tank and find the thing. In the sludge at the bottom
were the two tiny diamonds and after thorough scrutiny with the
loupe, I determined which one had come from her ring. With very shaky
hands, I just about managed to get the thing sat in the hole the
right way up and very carefully mounted the ring in thermo plastic in
my vice. I don’t own a microscope so it was a case of loupe, aim
setting tool at bead of gold and worry it some, followed by loupe
inspection, worry the opposite bead, inspect, etc, etc. I eventually
managed to get all four beads (which were almost as big as the
diamond they were holding) holding the girdle of the stone in place
and repolished the ring with frequent inspection. It went back in the
ultrasonic with everything crossed and fortunately this time the
diamond stayed put!!! Hallelujah!!! Hubby just came home from work
and gave it a going over and he said he can’t tell where I repaired
it nor can he tell which diamond I had to reset - and he’s always
VERY honest when it comes to pointing out flaws - so I’m no longer
worrying about her attempting to sue me, but I am left extremely
stressed to say the least! It now looks a lot better than it did when
I took it on (not counting the break) as it’s all shiny again - but
it’s not rhodium plated as I don’t have such equipment.

What I should have done I suppose, was give her an estimate of some
kind and let her make the decision as to whether or not I should
repair it, but Hannah said that she wanted it back mended as soon as
possible as she doesn’t like being without it. I don’t know what I
should charge for such a repair. I was working on it on and off (in
between working on my daughter’s prom jewellery) for about three
hours (so maybe one and a half hours on the ring) but like I say it’s
not even worth the repair cost in monetary terms. Do you good folks
think I should charge for it and if so what should I charge - or
should I just send it back to her free and gratis so that she can
enjoy wearing it again?

I’ve bored you all enough now, so I’ll leave you in peace - while
I’m in pieces, extremely stressed and very bog-eyed! - must get a
microscope at some point - and remember to turn away such scary
repairs. Blimey, the learning curve of this jewellery making lark is
somewhat steep!

Helen Hill

I would charge, based on the 1 1/2 hrs of work, or so of actual
repair work. you can’t really charge her for extra labor of the 1/2
pointer troubles. You did the repair and did it well, while others
turned down, and the monetary value of the piece of jewelry is not
what is important. The owner did not ask to have it repaired because
it had monetary value, she asked to have it repaired because it is of
great emotional value to her, and worh paying to keep it wearable.

I would suggest that you set an hourly bench rate of pay for
yourself. BTW, mine for repair is higher than for making nice, new

A poor piece of jewelry can take as long, or often longer, to repair
than a good one. Is your time worth less for it? It actually takes
more skill. Next time, consult with her first. Unless you are a
jewelry welfare agency. Frankly, I think that the idea of a Jewelry
Emergency is quite laughable, except for cutting rings off of
injured fingers in the ER. So what’s the hurry? Just ask everybody to
calm down, and take the time to do things right.

When I do accept a very questionable repair, I tell them that it may
be a disaster, and ask if they still want to try it. This is just for
stuff that the jewelry stores won’t do, usually in silver. But I
still get my hourly rate for it. If the piece has enough sentiment
attached to it, they might want to pay that. Otherwise, maybe a new,
nicer piece of jewelry would be appropriate!


Glad you survived your junk jewelry baptism by fire.

With friends and friends of friends I take the attitude that I’ll
either repair it quick and charge for it or do it when I feel like it
and its a freebie. I have no particular mechanism for choosing,
usually my workload will decide for me.

This job would probably be worth $25-50. You may have sweated
bullets on it but its was in essence a straightforward solder. That’s
not a judgement of you, its a judgement of the repair. Of course, I
haven’t seen it so take it with a grain of salt.

Its usually best to give a price before starting work. If it looks
troublesome quote a lot, you can always back down the price if it
seems unconscionable afterwards, but its hard to raise the price.

But repairing junk has a value beyond the monetary. You do gain
experience. And, depending on the nature of your business it may also
build traffic. Pretty much most of my high value clients started out
with me doing some repair work for them, or referred by a friend for
whom I repaired. Sometimes I wonder if the PR value of resurrecting
the dead doesn’t outweigh a nice looking thingie in your showcase.
Because the repaired piece is personal, it was an awful shock to see
it run over in the driveway or whatever. You’re the hero. The thing
in your case, they either connect or not.

Lowering your charge based upon the value of the piece is not good.
Junk can be incredibly difficult to fix well. The original price of
the piece has no relation to the actual work it will take to repair
it. And many times people will opt to pay good money to fix something
that is sentimental to them. Their choice really boils down to
trashing the piece or paying you so they can continue enjoying it.
That’s worth alot.

Personally, I could do with a smaller continuous onslaught of
repairs. But biz wise, it is quite necessary for me. Sometimes I
feel like Sisyphus. I’d rather build more neato flamjams but I got
this big rock, ya know? Without the rock I fear there’d be far fewer


As a rule you should always give an estimate and a description of
the piece as received… White metal ring with 5 white stones, centre
chipped, split shank etc, nothing identifying the stones or metal.
Repairs are dealing with a world of unknowns; cover your ass, it’s
really hard to sit at a bench without one :slight_smile:

Despite the ordeal you went through it was only a solder job, maybe
a step up from simple due to the proximity of the little white stone.
Checking stones, cleaning, re-checking stones and maybe tightening,
polishing and stone checking are all part of the job. You can’t
charge for unexpected problems unless your original quote was for
time spent. Rather rare, but I have done it a few times when I knew
the light at the end of the tunnel really was a train. There are
nightmare repairs and really easy ones, you have to charge enough for
all so that the average shows your desired profit. Repair work can be
exciting, but you will end up learning probably more than you ever

As to gratis or not that is up to you, but a friend of a friend is
getting a little distant. Freebees sometimes when you can look in
their eyes, and also have a good reason.

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing


You must be the Saint of broken sentimental jewelry. First your
mother-in-laws “pearls” and know this. Perhaps you should charge her
a nominal fee being a friend of a friend sort of thing. But I’d also
let the girlfriend know that you are busy with work that earns $ not
just good karma.


To James, M’Lou, Neil, Jeff and Joan,

Thank you all for your valuable advice. You are all correct in what
you say. I know I should have quoted her first and waited for her
decision. I also need to change my mindset (and those of friends and
family) from beginner who is practicing the art of jewellery making
to someone whose time is actually worth money. Until I can do that,
everyone else is going to expect my services for free.

I told my son’s girlfriend to tell her X amount and she rang me this
morning and said her colleague is extremely pleased with the job
I’ve done and happy with the amount I’ve asked, so all is well



FWIW, I wouldn’t charge but then I just a big old softie when it
comes to my daughter and her friends. Most of my daughter’s friends
now have good jobs - solicitor, dentist etc… and I always hope (
and have been proved right on more than one occasion ) that they
might remember the favours I have done for them when I need one in
return… Of course, it depends upon how close a ‘friend’ they are
and whether they might, in turn, collect up all the broken jewellery
from their friends to give you…

Best wishes,
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

Helen…I agree with Jeff Demand’s comments. Back years ago when I
was doing primarily repair work, I used to get all the druge work.
Stuff “the jeweler down the street” would not touch. But by making
it clear at the git-go there WOULD be a charge but it would be
reasonable I built a great customer base that served me for years.
In this case, I would simply charge for “gas, solder, use of tools,
etc” and put the rest against a learning process. That is another
thing. When you begin doing repairs you will later look back and see
just how much you learned about jewelry MAKING. I loved it, even
digging myself out of the various holes I dug for myself. As my skill
increased, so did my charges but my customers understood and never

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry!

Hello Neil,

Well said. I agree completely, but am somewhat ashamed to admit to
taking on some real challenges without that quote up front. It was
an opportunity to learn, if nothing else,

Judy in Kansas

Great Hellen. You made the customer very happy, and did a good job,
where no one else would even try. You got paid, and in the process
you learned, both in the skill end and that not all value is based on
intrinsic values. What more could a craftsperson want?


I’m still a ‘beginner’ even after a few decades. The trick is to
pretend to be what you want to become, others will believe. Then
raise the bar and repeat and repeat… until you need a pine box.

Repair work is a mix of dumb easy and sheer terror. It can (and
should) pay well but the glow and smiles from doing a good job on a
special piece are a very priceless bonus.

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing

Repair work is a mix of dumb easy and sheer terror. 

Well said, Jeff. In my opinion, repair work will teach you more
about our trade than any other kind of work we do.

David L. Huffman

Thanks to all who offered advice about my “scary repair” job. It is
much appreciated and I have learned a few lessons as a result.