To give you an idea of what you can expect over the lifetime of your engagement ring, we've compiled the most common engagement ring repairs, in expected chronological order. It's important to keep in mind that some rings require more or less maintenance, and some people are harder or easier on delicate things. This guide has been created to give a general overview of what to expect, but you may find that a specific lifestyle or design dictates more or less frequent care or repair.
*For a VISUAL guide on engagement ring designs that are both high and low maintenance, check out our handy reference here!
With proper care and maintenance, your diamond can remain secure, your ring can remain durable, and it can be passed down safely through generations.
Engagement Ring Sizing
By far, the most common 'repair' or, maintenance, really -- is ring sizing. It's not uncommon to require sizing immediately after a ring is given to ensure a perfect fit, nor is it uncommon to require sizing after a band is added once a couple gets married. Often, adding a band or 'stack' can make rings fit more snugly, sometimes making a set uncomfortable without adjusting sizing to accommodate the larger overall width.
Other times sizing might be necessary are with weight changes, pregnancies, or with certain illnesses -- like the development of arthritis.
It's important to work with a reputable jeweler for sizing to ensure the safety of your diamond(s) and longevity of a ring. Some sizings are fairly straightforward, and others can actually be quite complicated. There are definite right and wrong ways to perform these repairs, so it's important to choose a jeweler you can trust.
The next most common repair is replacing small diamonds. Diamond loss can occur for several reasons -- from normal wear and tear to poor design, bad craftsmanship, or carelessness in sizing. Diamonds that fall out 'early', or within a year or so from purchase are typically not set well, don't have enough metal over them (both poor craftsmanship / defects in manufacture), or may be the result of damage to a stone. In contrast to popular belief, diamonds are not indestructible. If a ring gets knocked just right, diamonds can chip or break, and then fall out either immediately or over time. Diamonds in eternity style bands are particularly prone to chipping and breaking because the bottom of rings get tougher wear and tear because they are on the gripping side of the hand. Occasionally diamonds can fall out in a cleaning or after sizing. It's important to always have a trusted, respectable jeweler do any cleaning or sizing for you to avoid unnecessary mistakes. If rings are not sized properly, and/or stones not re-tightened (if sizing down) -- diamond loss can occur. With cleaning, loss is typically a result of either poorly set diamonds or a result of already broken diamonds wriggling themselves out.
In addition to all of these reasons -- it's possible but not extremely common for a tiny diamond to fall out on occasion that is not a result of poor craftsmanship or damage -- in which case it may just be a 'fluke'. If this happens, your jeweler (if he or she made the ring) will probably be happy to replace at no charge to you, usually within a day or two.
If you find yourself constantly replacing diamonds, particularly if it's early on in a ring's lifetime -- you may have a problematic ring that needs additional inspection or repair.
After a number of years of wear, all prongs will become worn down. You can think of prongs like tread on a tire -- something that wears over time and eventually requires replacement. Tiny diamonds, primarily those that are in shared prong settings or micropave settings, will see the most wear and maintenance over the years. At some point, some or all of the prongs on these diamonds will require re-tipping or re-building, depending on the extent of the wear. Often the need for repair is only discovered after one or more diamonds has already been lost. For many, this is a repair that only needs to be done every 10-15 years or so. If you're particularly hard on jewelry, though, it could be needed more frequently. If you wear a piece less or are particularly careful with a ring, you may get more years of wear before a repair is needed. It's actually not unusual for some designs to require only partial repair either, it truly just depends on the individual design of the ring and the amount of wear particular prongs get over time. For more detailed information about this type of repair -- keep reading.
The best way to prevent diamond loss is to catch it before it happens. We recommend having rings inspected annually at a minimum -- every six months is ideal. When inspecting a ring, a jeweler can catch worn prongs before stones are lost, and can give you a heads up when they suspect repairs may be critical or when they foresee a need for them in the near future. Typically, the jeweler who made your ring will clean and inspect it for free -- just another reason it's important to build a relationship with a jeweler that you can trust.
Retipping or Rebuilding Prongs
As mentioned above, retipping prongs is a common jewelry repair. Typically necessary after a number of years of wear, prongs that are worn will need to be tipped -- a process of manually adding metal back where it has worn away. Each prong is individually 'tipped' -- a quite labor intensive process. This process can be done with a laser on most traditional colorless diamonds without removing them, but other stones may need to be removed and re-set in the process to avoid damaging them. Usually a stone will have between 2-6 prongs holding it in, and the cost for the repair will be assessed based on total number of prongs that need work, whether or not stones need to be removed and reset, and the type of metal.
Rebuilding is necessary when more than just the tip of a prong is worn away and the prong needs a bit more replacing than a 'tip' alone. Sometimes prongs get snagged on something and can shear off, and other times a prong gets so very worn that it becomes foil thin -- too thin to laser new metal on top. In these cases, a new piece of wire must be welded onto the prong as a replacement.
Sometimes a single prong needs rebuilding, and sometimes multiple prongs may need to be rebuilt. It's not uncommon to require a combination of rebuilt prongs and retipped prongs at the same time.
Reshanking an Engagement Ring
Reshanking is a common repair that happens sometime 'later' in the lifespan of an engagement ring. Typically a ring has been worn for at least a couple of decades before reshanking is mentioned, as it is a result of many years of wear and tear. As a ring is worn and loved, tiny particles of metal wear away, oftentimes more dramatically on the bottom of the shank of the ring. This is often the smallest part of the ring already, and it can wear foil thin over the years.
Reshanking a ring requires cutting out the weak or thin section of a ring, which may be approximately 1/4, 1/2, or 3/4 of the ring shank. New, thicker metal is added in to replace the metal removed, attached in two places and worked down and finished in a way that makes the replacement seamless. The ring looks 'new' again, and the metal thickness has been restored to where it began many years prior.
Many times reshanking occurs when rings are passed down from one generation to the next, or when a ring starts to become deformed because it's gotten so thin that it no longer keeps its shape. If a shank is particularly tiny to begin with, reshanking may be necessary earlier. Similarly, a thicker ring or wider band may last generations, or may not ever need to be reshanked.
Refurbishing or Rebuilding an Engagement Ring
Rebuilding or refurbishing an engagement ring typically only comes up when discussing heirlooms. It often requires as much labor as melting a ring down and 'starting over', but is sometimes preferable to doing so because of the sentimental value of the ring and the meaning it has to the owner. In order to require an overhaul such as this, a ring has endured a long life of wear and love. It is likely worn in multiple places, often beyond the prongs and shank, and each ring must be evaluated in detail individually. The extent of wear and damage is always different and unique to the ring. There may be quite a bit of work necessary to restore an heirloom ring, and the price can vary quite a bit. It is critical to have a jeweler that is experienced with restoration make the assessment and perform any repairs or modifications to an antique or heirloom in need of refurbishing. Typically a ring that requires restoration will not have been purchased in your lifetime, so although it's a common repair, it's unlikely that a ring you purchase will require this amount of work before you pass it along to someone else.