For Your Staff:Selling Quality
JA Quality Assurance Guide: Retipping & Replacing Prongs
Knowing when and how to retip or replace prongs demonstrates another
aspect of quality in your store
by Mark B. Mann Director of Professional Certification Jewelers of America
The most commonly requested jewelry shop services are ring sizing, chain
repairs and prong retipping or replacing. This month's article and the accompanying
"JA Quality Assurance Guide" illustrate the characteristics of
prongs that need retipping or replacing and the components that indicate
a quality repair.
What Is Retipping?
Retipping is the process of rebuilding prongs that are worn but not worn
out. The bench jeweler keeping the stone in place uses a high
melting solder to affix a wire or metal bead (matching the prong's alloy
and slightly exceeding its dimensions) over the top of the worn prong and
fashions a new one.
What is Individual Prong Replacement?
A bench jeweler replaces the entire length of a prong when it's worn so
badly that retipping the top is inadequate. Individual prong replacement,
also done with the stone in place, involves sawing off the worn prong, soldering
on a wire and shaping it to work effectively as a new prong.
Individual prong replacement is inadequate when wear extends beyond this
point. In that case, remove the stone, install a new prong assembly, and
reset the stone in the new head.
Explaining the Need for Prong Repair
Anytime a stone may be jeopardized, it's important to communicate clearly
with the customer, demonstrating the signs and causes of prong wear and
explaining that worn prongs should be retipped or replaced immediately or
the stone may be jarred loose.
Use the "Retipping" section of the following "JA Quality
Assurance Guide" to explain the general situation and then show how
the piece of jewelry compares with the guide's illustrations.
Why Prongs Become Worn
Occasionally, prong repairs are needed because of errors in workmanship
usually from overworking or overpolishing when the stone was
set (see pp. 183-184, Professional Jeweler, Feb. 1998). In most cases,
however, prongs need to be retipped or replaced because they wear or break
from normal use. Normal erosion of metal can result from:
- The ring being too large. When the ring turns on the finger and the
wearer pushes it back into place with an adjacent finger, the prongs on
that side of the ring become worn.
- An owner's lifestyle and behavior. Wearing a ring during manual labor
or to bed can hasten wear of prongs. You wouldn't think sleeping with a
ring could cause it to wear, but sheets can act as an abrasive.
When To Retip, Replace a Prong or Replace the
A take-in person must help the customer decide the most economical and effective
way to repair worn prongs whether to retip, replace a prong or replace
the whole prong head. Here are some indicators that head replacement is
the best option:
- All prongs are badly worn on top and sides.
- The stone was set improperly and needs to be reset correctly.
- A new head costs less than retipping or replacing numerous prongs.
- The stone is treated, enhanced or heat-sensitive and must be removed
anyway to avoid damage.
Explaining the Features of a Quality Retipping
Use the "JA Quality Assurance Guide" to show customers how the
features that identify quality merchandise also apply to quality repair
work. Use it to show the difference between new and worn prongs and how
the prongs will look when retipped or replaced. To identify a quality repair,
remember a retipped prong has the size, shape and dimension of a new one.
Look at the first illustration in the "JA Quality Assurance Guide,"
noting the signs of the quality that demonstrate a prong was properly retipped.
This is the third article in our series comprising the "JA Quality
Assurance Guide," a teaching tool designed to help all members of
the retail store team sales associates, bench jewelers and store
managers to perform their jobs better.
Next Month: Chain Repair
JA Quality Assurance Guide
Retipping and Replacing Prongs
Proper Retipping or Replacing
- The amount of contact the prong has with the crown of the stone.
- The height of the prong in relation to the top of the stone.
- All the prongs match in size, shape and dimension.
- All the prongs are finished with a high luster that continues completely
over the crown of the stone, ensuring the prongs won't snag clothing.
Signs of Excessive Prong Wear
Two worn prongs on a four-pronged head
When a ring turns on the finger because it's too large, the wearer pushes
it back into a position with an adjacent finger, causing the prongs on the
"pusher" side to wear (for proper ring sizing, see "JA Quality
Assurance Guide/Ring Sizing," pp. 103-104, Professional Jeweler,
Four prongs worn mostly flat across top
Wearing a ring while doing manual labor or where it brushes against an
abrasive surface contributes to prong wear. Notice how the top of the prong
is worn almost flat, considerably reducing the amount of metal at the "heel."
Prong worn on side
This is a common sign of wear the side of the prong is noticeably
reduced in size and is a good candidate for prong replacement.
Prong contact wear
The top of the prong is almost completely worn. If the ring continues
to be worn, the stone will surely loosen and fall out. This is a candidate
Prongs worn on top and side
The top and side of the prong are substantially abraded, severely compromising
its ability to hold the stone. The best option is to replace the prong.
If several prongs are in this condition, replacing the head and resetting
the stone is likely to be more cost-effective and result in a better repair.
The solid lines show the shapes of the old, worn prongs (#1). The old
prong on the right will be sawed off at its base (#2, dotted line), then
a wire of more substantial dimension will be soldered and shaped into a
new prong (#3, dotted line).
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.