Learn why and when scratched jewelry or watches can be repaired
Actively wearing your jewelry means one thing for certain: Wear and tear is part of the process. Regardless of if you’re wearing a nice watch or a diamond ring, the more you wear your jewelry, the more likely it will get damaged.
Sometimes, however, the damage is beyond regular wear and tear. Sometimes folks want to know “Why did my jewelry break?” or “Can I damage my diamond ring?” Regardless of the circumstances, if your jewelry gets damaged (in this case scratched) in any way, a common question we hear is, “Can this be fixed?”
Can scratched jewelry or watches be repaired?
The short answer here is: It depends. There really is no firm yes or no answer when considering the varieties of metals and gemstones, in addition to the extent of the damage. If, however, your piece of jewelry is scratched, the first thing to do is visit a jeweler and have him or her diagnose the depth of the scratch. This diagnosis only works with karat gold, platinum, and sometimes silver. Considering that most jewelry is made with one of those three metals, that’s usually not an issue. This issue can arise when looking at other metals most often used in costume jewelry, or with jewelry of lower quality.
The reason the jeweler would inspect the piece to determine the depth of the scratch is because to remove a scratch, you must file down to the deepest part of the damage and then fix the piece. In assessing the depth and severity of the scratch, the jeweler would determine whether removal would create another problem or just lead to “undue” metal loss.
It’s sort of like having a car. If you compound your car too much, eventually the paint will start to wear thin and come off. The same can be said for polishing scratches off jewelry. After a while, if the scratching is excessive or constant, the extent of the damage may begin to show, despite a jeweler’s best efforts.
I touched on both costume and lower-quality jewelry before. Removing scratches from these types of pieces is very hard because they are plated and not a solid precious metal. For example, polishing gold-plated jewelry will take off the layer of gold and expose the metal it was meant to cover.
On sterling silver, rhodium plating is used to prevent oxidation. If that plating is polished off in a spot with a scratch, your piece of jewelry will oxidize more quickly on that area than on the rest of the piece.
So, as you can see, it really depends on the specifics of your piece of jewelry or watch as to whether scratches can be removed.
How about scratches on watch faces?
This is a tougher pill to swallow for most. Crystal watch faces can rarely be polished.
There are some exceptions, though. For example, acrylic crystals found in early Rolexes are easy to polish, whereas newer models with synthetic sapphires cannot be polished.
What about scratches on gemstones?
Unlike metals that can be polished (if possible), gemstones need to be treated much differently.
Most stones that are scratched will have to go to a specialist called a lapidary. The stone will most likely have to be taken out of the mounting, polished, and be reset. While this may sound similar to the process of polishing a precious metal, it is in fact quite different. A goldsmith or silversmith usually is not a lapidary because the latter is a whole other discipline. In some cases, however, a scratch on a gemstone might be untreatable.
Another assessment a jeweler would usually make is to inspect the stone and determine if taking the stone out of its mounting would ruin the structure or, worse, chip the stone even more.
Bring scratched jewelry and watches to your jeweler
The best way to determine whether your item can be repaired, be it jewelry or a watch, is to visit your local jeweler and have him or her take a look at it. Only a professional can tell you for certain whether your item can be repaired.
Alternatively, visit either of our two New Jersey jewelry store locations in Morristown and New Providence to have us take a look at the damage. At Braunschweiger Jewelers, we offer free inspections and can help you figure out whether your item should be repaired. Whenever you’re in doubt, just stop by and ask us!