Every so often, one of our clients come back with their ring in need of repair. It is usually a quick fix, such as tightening the setting or bending the ring back into shape. However, what I find interesting is the reaction by our some of our clients when their ring does break. Whilst most clients are happy for us to repair their ring, some clients let their emotions get the better of them and accuse us of manufacturing a faulty ring, even when the damage is clearly their fault.
One of the most common misconceptions is that the metal and diamonds used in manufacturing fine jewellery are indestructible. However, this far from the case. One of the reasons the most popular gold and platinum alloys are used is because they are relatively easy to work with, which includes the fact that they bend easily. Similarly, whilst diamonds come in at 10 on Moh’s scale, thus are almost scratch proof, given enough force, especially on a corner, they will break. Therefore, to clear the widespread confusion, I have made a list of four reasons why an engagement ring (or any other piece of jewellery) may break.
With so much jewellery designed with CAD (Computer Aided Design) nowadays, it is entirely possible for design errors to occur.
When designing a ring, there are “engineering standards” that are pretty much universal amongst the industry. Most of these standards relate to the amount of metal required, thickness, width or diameter of a certain component. Therefore, if the ring is designed outside of these standards, then this may well be the cause of the ring breaking.
Likelihood of this happening: Very rare. The design process is the first step of making a bespoke engagement ring. After design, the manufacture may involve up to four more people who will generally check for anything amiss. This may also happen if the ring is entirely handmade, however, I’ve yet to meet a bench jeweller who does not make their rings overly bulky.
These faults occur during manufacturing. Some examples include:
- Bad solder join, causing parts to break off.
- Bad setting job – may cause the claw to break or easily catch on clothes.
- Bad metal – either contaminated or badly cast metal.
Likelihood of this happening: Rare. Whilst not unheard of, such mistakes are usually easily identified during manufacture and then quality assurance. Even if missed, should the ring come back for repair, they are usually very easily identified. In my experience, these faults usually occur when manufacture is rushed due to deadline, or the client pressuring the manufacturer.
Design Not Suitable for Wearer
The overwhelming trend nowadays is for rings that are narrow and dainty as possible. The truth is, there are a lot of people spending hours drooling over jewellery seen on Instagram and Pinterest which some may say is way to dainty to be used for an engagement ring that is worn on a daily basis. Whilst 20 years ago, a 2.5mm wide band would have been considered narrow, now people are requesting 1.5mm wide bands. This ultimately leads to some people buying engagement rings that, for whatever reason, do not suit their lifestyle and come back for repair over and over again.
Likelihood of this happening: Somewhat common. Whilst I know a lot of bench jewellers who flat out refuse to make anything that is narrow and dainty (in an attempt to avoid dealing with repairs), the truth is that this trend will likely continue for many years to come and therefore, jewellers must cater to the trend. Whilst this “ring breaking behaviour” can usually be identified and stopped, we do get one or two re-models each year where we are simply making the band thicker or wider as the ring has previously come back for repair multiple times due to mis-use.
Accidental Damage and Wear and Tear
This is by far the most common cause of damage. In most cases of accidental damage, I suspect the damage to be the result of multiple incidents, rather than just one “knock”. Likewise, given that alloys used in fine jewellery are fairly resistant to corrosion, what is commonly known as “wear and tear” is usually caused by multiple incidents of accidental damage.
Above: A ring bent out of shape. The client obviously damaged it but blamed us for the damage!
Likelihood of this happening: Common. As mentioned earlier, some people think that metal and diamonds are indestructible when that is quite clearly not the case. In my experience, a lot of accidental damage occurs in the first year of wear (surprise, surprise!).
What to do in the Case of a Broken Engagement Ring
Firstly, don’t stress or get upset. It is not the end of the world and is usually easily fixed.
Secondly, take it straight back to the jeweller who you bought it from. Given they are reputable and experienced, the jeweller will be able to easily assess the damage, determine the costs involved and subsequently repair it.
Whilst not common in our industry, we do not charge for minor repairs (eg: claw tightening), and charge only cost price for more complex repairs.
How to Prevent Damage
It is important to realise that it is not good practice to wear your ring 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Whilst more specific advice exists, my very general advice is to not wear your ring when:
- The activity puts pressure between your hand and a hard surface.
- The activity carries any risk your ring may get knocked.
- You would not be able to easily find your ring if it comes of your finger.
- You are more than three months pregnant.