JA Quality Assurance Guide: Retipping & Replacing Prongs

April 1998

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 Head
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


  1. The amount of contact the prong has with the crown of the stone.
  2. The height of the prong in relation to the top of the stone.
  3. All the prongs match in size, shape and dimension.
  4. 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, March 1998).

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 for retipping.



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.


Prong Replacement

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.


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