“Your tips are gone!”
December 10, 2016
You go into a jewellery store to get your ring checked and cleaned and the salesperson says, “your tips are gone.” What does that mean? Did you do something wrong?
Often referred to as “tips”, “claws” or “prongs”, these are the small ends of gold on a claw setting that keeps your gemstone or diamond in your ring. When they wear out, your gemstone is in danger of falling out with little or no warning. The picture to the right shows nice new tips on a square princess cut diamond. You can see there is metal above the diamonds and that is what holds this diamond in place.
How do those tips wear out?
Gold or platinum metal will slowly rub off. Some precious metals will wear quicker than others. For example, 18K yellow gold is softer than 18K white gold and will wear out quicker. Platinum is even more durable. The tips can wear from a number of factors. Wearing gloves with a powder inside them can act as an abrasive that wears down the tips. Using your rings when you go to the gym can knock or wear down tips very quickly. Even using some types of abrasive polishing clothes or cleaners can wear down the tips on your jewellery.
How long does that take for tips to wear?
The time it takes to wear down tips can vary from person to person by very large amounts. We have clients that purchased their rings from us over 20 years ago and there prongs looks as good as new. Then we some nurses that have worn down their tips in under five years. We usually feel that five to eight years is an average before work may be required. We have seen antique gold and platinum pieces over a hundred years old with no need for any repair to the tips. It really depends on the way the item is worn.
How do I know my tips are worn down?
When a client comes to a jewellery store, the salesperson will look at the tips with a loop. This is basically a very powerful magnifier. While it takes a bit of practice to use a loop, they do a great job of showing everything larger. However, in our store we also have a digital microscope that allows us to show you your ring and the worn tips on the computer monitor, before we touch anything. This gives our clients the security in knowing the work we suggest is in fact necessary.
How are tips repaired?
We repair tips by replacing gold or platinum. This can be done a few ways. The traditional technique is to use a very hot torch to melt more metal onto the existing tip. Then the tip is filed to a shape and polished. If there are gemstones in place they have to be able to take the heat or they need to be removed first. We prefer to use gold when re-tipping. Sometimes gold solder is used. While that is an acceptable method of repairing tips, the metal is softer and will wear out quicker. We do not use solder except in very special circumstances.
Another technique that can be used is to weld with a laser. This allows for tipping when very fragile gemstones are near the tips.
Typically, new tips are replaced in pairs to make things even. That depends on the wear or the position of claws.
Below is a ring that just came in after many years. There is only one tip worn off in the middle right and the back two tips are bent to the left. Using a torch and white gold, our goldsmith replaced the tip, filed it to look the correct shape and then polished the whole ring. This repair cost was about $30.