This week, I met a friend at a local jewelry repair shop to have a diamond set into her ring. She lost her original diamond out of her engagement ring, and ordered a new diamond online. She needed to have the diamond checked to make sure that it matched the GIA certificate, and have the setting checked for necessary repairs to re-set the diamond. If you have ordered a diamond online, and have to have it set at a local jeweler, you may find this information especially helpful.
Inspections and maintenance:
First of all, she had broken 2 of the 4 prongs holding the center stone, which is why the diamond fell out. They were white gold, and were less than 3 years old. While this sounds suspicious–most people think that jewelry is impervious and should last forever–it’s not unheard of. The important take away here is that you should have your ring checked at least once a year by a good jeweler. This will catch maintenance issues while they are hopefully just a prong re-tip instead of losing a diamond due to prong failure.
4 versus more prongs?
The jeweler recommended, if the customer really wanted security, to go with 6 prongs. But this would have totally changed the look of the ring. A 6-prong head is quite secure–it would take a failure of 3 or more prongs to lose a stone–but it is a little more “cluttered” looking than a 4-prong head. Ultimately, she didn’t want to change the look of her ring that dramatically, so she went with 4 prongs and the caveat that she will have them inspected by a jeweler once a year. If you are choosing a new ring, and the design works with 6 prongs, then I recommend that. But with an existing ring, I think 4 can hold it quite well, provided they are the appropriate size and you check them at least once per year.
Platinum versus White Gold?
For this size of head for this mounting (a .65 carat round diamond), the bench jeweler recommended white gold, saying that platinum really wouldn’t make a significant difference in strength, regardless of the price difference. Most people have heard that platinum jewelry is “stronger” than gold or white gold jewelry. This is only partly true. Platinum is a DENSER metal than gold, which means that it doesn’t physically wear and abrade away as much as gold, and has a higher tensile strength that allows it to hold its shape better than gold. But, it’s surface strength is actually softer than gold and will show scratches and “patina” faster than gold. The platinum prongs were going to be double the price of white gold (about $200 for a completely new 4-prong head and the re-set charge for the diamond, versus $90 for white gold). It really wasn’t a price issue for this customer, she would have gladly paid for the difference, but the jeweler thought the white gold would provide just as much protection.
The final cost, and how prices vary jeweler-by-jeweler:
The cost for a new 4-prong white gold head, the labor to re-set the diamond, re-rhodium plate the white gold of her setting, and clean and polish the whole ring was $90. This is a very fair price for this work. The interesting thing is that she had gotten a MUCH higher estimate earlier that week from a reputable jewelry store known for their custom and repair work: $210 for the exact same 4 white gold prongs discussed above, and $400 for a 4-prong platinum head. Why the big fat difference? Just profit for the jeweler, pure and simple. It shows the different approaches jewelers may have towards repairs: some do it as a service to get and keep customers happy, while some jewelers treat repairs as a profit center that adds to the bottom line. Some jewelers may be very resistant to setting a diamond they did not sell and refuse outright, or charge an exorbitant fee to set the stone. I feel that this is very short-sighted on the jeweler’s part–this is an opportunity to establish a relationship with a new customer!
This is why it may be important to get a couple of estimates on a larger jewelry repair. If you use someone you trust and you know they will take care of you, that’s great! If you don’t have that relationship with a jeweler, check out my jewelry repair tutorial to help you locate a reputable jeweler, then get a couple of estimates.