My habit of buying cheap costume jewelry has one drawback: they break easily. It's a shame because the stuff I buy (almost all of which is between $3-$10 a piece, mostly less than $5) looks so pretty and way more expensive than it is. In my experience, the vast majority of damaged jewelry can be easily repaired at home in a few minutes for very little money. You can't always replace a piece that you love, and I'm always falling in love with the cheap stuff. So repair or do without are the only options in this case.
What you will need.
You'll probably spend about $20 to acquire most of the stuff you need to do simple jewelry repairs. You will need some simple tools. You can spend a lot on jewelry tools, of course, but I spent $10 on this set:
which I found at Michaels. These are probably more tools than you will need and they seem well made to me. You will also need at least some of the following:
- Jump Rings (assorted sizes and colors).
- Lock Rings (assorted sizes and colors).
- Closures, such as Lobster Claws.
- Bead wire (sometimes called Art Wire).
- Plastic box to keep all this stuff in.
These all come in packs of 60 or 85 or 100 (except the wire, which comes in about 65-foot wound lengths). These purchases should last you through several years of jewelry repair, and if you bought everything, including the tools, it would cost you less than $20 US. If you live in the U.S.A., you can find all of this at your local Michael's or another craft store. But read on to see if you need all of it.
Even if you can't (or don't want) to repair a piece you might be able to salvage parts of it for things you do want to wear. For example, I bought a necklace which was made out of chains and "dangly" bits. It never looked as nice as I thought it would and it was a pain to wear, because all the chains would tangle together. But instead of throwing it away, I have been using it as a source for replacement chains (chains can be expensive)! It's the crazy economics of jewelry, but that necklace cost me about $5 USD, but if I bought each chain it contains as a separate item, I would probably have paid $50 or $60! So save your old pieces!
Typical Jewelry Repairs
In my experience, the most common jewelry damage involves a broken link on a chain, attachment, clasp or closure that no longer works or has broken off. These are very easy to fix. The second most common are gems which fall off. This should be easy to fix, but I have never had the good fortune to find the lost gem. I recommend saving all of these pieces in your plastic jewelry toolbox, as down the road they might be useful for recycling.
You can use any one of the following procedures to fix necklaces, earrings or bracelets which have fallen apart.
Using Jump Rings
Jump rings come in different shapes, but the most common and useful one is a circle. Here's a picture:
These can be used to rejoin links in a chain which have broken, reattach parts of an earring which have separated from each other or replace a broken clasp with a new one. It's straightforward. The first step is to open the ring. You need two pliers:
Hold the jump ring as shown with both pliers on either side of the opening in the ring. Don't widen the ring, instead, use a twisting motion to move the ends away from each other:
Open the ring as little as necessary (probably much less than shown in the picture) then slide whatever you want to attach to each other onto the ring. Finish by using the two pliers to reclose the ring.
If you are repairing a chain ideally you will find a jump ring that matches the size and color of the other links of the chain. When reattaching a clasp (like a lobster claw) to the end of a chain or a piece of jewelry, try to match the color, but it's ok if you use a larger size for this purpose. Of course, in practice, most chains are hidden behind your hair and even with earring repair, can be buried deep inside the earring. If no one is likely to see it, it hardly matters that it matches.
Using Lock Rings
Lock rings work the same as jump rings - you use them to reconnect to previously connected jewelry bits that are no longer connected. There are various types; some look like those metal key rings that you wind your keys on, others have a small locking joint. These are more secure than jump rings, but also more expensive and sometimes harder to use. But if you are having repeated trouble with lock rings falling open, these may be just the ticket. Use them just as you would jump rings, placing both sides of the piece to be linked inside the ring.
Using Wire to Roll Your Own
The final option is to use some art wire to make a ring. You can customize the size and sometimes get better closure. I have used the end of a needle nose plier to wrap the wire around. Once I have the circle, I use as I would any jump ring. Making a ring is trickier than it sounds, but worth your time if you have it.
I hope this has been helpful. I'm always happy to get good suggestions and nice comments. If you have some, feel free to message me on Twitter