The 3 R’s

I’m pretty proud of the fact that in addition to being a jewelry artist, I’m a qualified bench jeweler. Which means I do a lot with the 3 R’s-
Repairs, Re-sizings & Restoration

This is actually where I started. My apprenticeship back in high school was with a bench jeweler who did a lot of repairs. So my training started with that perspective. Later on when I struck out on my own I was afraid with good reason. After the apprenticeship, right out of high school I ruined a friends ring. Mortifying. I still keep it and try to remember that incident when I get cocky.

But the 3Rs are about problem solving and I really enjoy that.
Rebuilding clasps that fell apart for some reason- can I do it better?

Taking out and resetting stones in a silver ring. Many jewelers won’t even repair or resize silver jewelry because it heats differently than gold. The whole piece needs to reach a very high temperature for solder to flow. That means you’ll ruin any stones left in place. So of course it takes more time taking out and resetting the stones in a silver piece, yeah it will cost more, but it’s not impossible.

When resizing a ring I enjoy trying to make the solder joints invisible, I succeed most of the time, too.

But chain repair, now there’s the mark of patience. Often a jeweler gets impatient and just solders the two ends together to form a small inflexible area where the break was. I hate that and only if I have exhausted all other options do I hand a chain back to a customer like that.

The trick is my “Little Torch” with it’s teeny tiny flame, substances like yellow ochre to control the solder from flowing where it’s not wanted and patience to rebuild the chain pattern the way it was and only solder the broken link. I often need magnification to get a good look at how the chain is made and the big challenge is to keep the repair from being noticed. I’m not a machine, but I pride myself on rebuilding things that were made by machines.

Restoration is something that can be a real challenge. Someone inherits a piece of jewelry they don’t like, but it has sentimental value. So we rework it, change the stones to something they like, make a ring into a pendant or vice versa. Or a customer buys a stone while on vacation, saving it until they decide what they would like.

It’s all about creative problem solving which is something you have to enjoy to be a bench jeweler, not the same as creating my own pieces, but I enjoy it.

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