JA Quality Assurance Guide: Chain Repair

May 1998

For Your Staff: Selling Quality


JA Quality Assurance Guide: Chain Repair

Knowing how to communicate clearly when you take in chains for repair demonstrates another aspect of quality in your store


By Mark B. Mann

Director of Professional Certification, Jewelers of America


As much as you'd like to avoid repairing karat gold chain, it keeps coming in. And coming in. And coming in. It's as regular as sunrise and sunset.

Chain repair may seem simple enough, but the process can be tricky and requires careful attention to detail. You also may experience problems if you don't communicate clearly with the customer during take-in.

Most karat gold chain is constructed of wire formed into links. The wire links can be solid, solder-filled or hollow. Chains can be made by the finest handmade and hand-soldered techniques or machine-made and oven-soldered in mass quantities. To simplify our discussion, we'll refer to chains by the style categories most commonly worn, sold and in need of service:


Repair Methods

Here are the most common repair methods your bench jeweler will use to mend chains:


These types of chain are usually repaired simply by removing the broken link or links, cutting open an intact end link and reassembling the chain by connecting the other end through the open link and soldering it shut. Sometimes the bench jeweler will place a shield as a heat sink over the adjacent links so they won't melt or freeze together during soldering.

Many bench jewelers hold a razor blade against the chain, using the hole in its center as a "window" for the torch to protect the other links from melting or freezing to each other.

The bench jeweler then smoothes, polishes and cleans the repair area. The karat-gold chain often becomes a slightly different color where the repair was performed. Often, when chain is made originally, it may be goldplated to give the entire assembly of chain, clasp and jump rings a uniform color, so you may need additional goldplating to return the chain to its original condition.

Open Links

This style of chain is repaired by reassembling the links so the repair is undetectable. When the bench jeweler bends open the closed, unsoldered link, it becomes weakened and must be soldered shut for maximum strength.


Flat and Woven Links

The bench jeweler first removes the damaged links, cuts open the adjacent links on one end and reweaves the chain, resoldering the newly connected links. If a chain such as a herringbone or S-chain becomes kinked, the bench jeweler can hammer it lightly with a mallet over a hard surface to flatten and realign the links.


Take-In Tips for Chain Repair

Here is an example of the how the karat gold S-chain shown near the bottom of the previous page should be described on a take-in envelope:

Description: Yellow metal S-chain, measuring approximately 1.5mm wide and 18 inches long. Break is 6.5 inches from the spring ring.

Instructions: Repair by re-soldering break in the chain.


Notes for Take-In

Like most jewelry, karat-gold chains break for two reasons: stress and wear.

The stress can be as simple as catching the chain on a cabinet knob or a coat sleeve and having it pulled to the breaking point. And haven't you seen a small child use his mother's chain as a "pull-up" to her arms or an attention-getter? Now that's stress!

A break for either reason is an indication that other areas of the chain probably will fail, and soon. The problem is it's almost impossible to predict or detect where the next break will occur.

Inevitably, the customer will come back and say the next break occurred where you fixed it. It's important, therefore, to protect the store from having to repair the next break at no charge by following these rules:

  • Let the customer know other links may fail in the future.
  • Write on the take-in envelope the exact location of the current break as measured from the clasp or spring ring.
  • Make two copies of the chain on your copy machine and give one to the customer with the location of the break marked. Place the other in the envelope. This stops all problems. (Special thanks to David Gellar, Jewelry Artisans, Atlanta, GA, for offering this suggestion.)

JA Quality Assurance Guide:

Chain Repair


Proper Chain Repair

Features of a properly repaired karat-gold chain:

1. The chain's width and depth at the location of the repair is the same as the width and depth of the chain in its original condition.

2. Links move freely and do not adhere to each other. (Note: inevitably with some chain styles, the links immediately adjacent to the repair may "freeze" together; this is unavoidable.)

3. The repaired area has the same color, luster and appearance as the rest of the chain and is free of tool marks.

4. Alignment of the chain from side to side is even and smooth with no visible seams.

5. The chain forms a continuous line where it has been rejoined.

6. Findings and jump rings are of the proper dimensions and attached securely and evenly.


  Potential Chain Repair Problems

Visible Butt Joint

When repairing the chain, the bench jeweler removes the damaged links, opens the adjacent links and reassembles the chain before soldering. A visible butt joint appears when the bench jeweler files both ends of the chain links flat and solders them back together, making the repair obvious and providing a weak result. This results from errors in workmanship.


Non-Aligning Links

If the bench jeweler did not reassemble the links properly, they will not align evenly and smoothly. Consequently, the chain will not lie flat on the neck and won't have the appearance of smooth continuity.


Exposed Fragments of Chain

This error in workmanship results from improper joining of the links, whereby fragments protrude from the body of the chain itself. This chain will be extremely uncomfortable to wear.


"Frozen" Links

If during the soldering stage of reassembly the bench jeweler solders the links incorrectly or does not properly protect links next to those being soldered, the links may "freeze" or permanently lock together. Occasionally the two links immediately adjacent to the repaired area will freeze together, but not several on each side as illustrated.


Out of Round/Misaligned Jump Rings

A fast and sloppy job of attaching jump rings to attach the clasps on the ends of the chain will detract from the overall appearance and quality of the chain.


Tool Marks and Discoloration

When the chain is reassembled and finished, it must be free of all marks from pliers, files and other tools. The color and finish of the repair area should match the color and finish of the rest of the chain.


Loss of Chain Pattern

When the original chain pattern is no longer visible at the point where the repair took place, it typically means the bench jeweler used too much solder and flooded the pattern, rendering it no longer visible.



© 1998 Jewelers of America

Standards as described for the JA® Bench Jewelers Certification Program


Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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