As seen on BBC TV's 'Great Antiques Hunt'
Winner, 1996

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Most repairs should of course be done by a professional, but I'm beginning to lose my timidity about performing small chores on items of relatively low value.  Earring findings, for instance, are often a cinch to fix or even change.  If you'd like to have a go at the easier fixes, here's some advice I've found useful.


First of all you'll need a cookie sheet or a similarly formed tray with sides to keep vital bits from getting lost. Line it with something soft, a thin cloth or paper toweling, to avoid scratches.  You'll also need bright light, a source of magnification, a paring knife, a few nails of different sizes, small pliers and some form of cushioning for them (a scrap of cloth, gauze or teensy band-aids)..  While it's nice to have a selection of pliers -  including needle-nosed, round-nosed and flat-nosed - it's possible to improvise with caution (since the needle-nosed type are flattish farther up).  An egg carton is handy, too, when you need to organize bits you've taken apart by size, color or other important variables.  Additional tools and supplies will vary with project.


CHAINS - When round or oval links get crushed, they can quickly be reformed around a nail of matching size and shape. Squeeze by hand or with pliers.  Similarly, if you need to replace a link and can't find a matching one, form it by wrapping matching wire around a nail, then slip it off, nip the end and install it.


CLASPS - It's a breeze to replace any necklace or bracelet clasp that's attached by links and, if you're doing so, consider getting a barrel clasp; those really are the most secure (and also easy to operate).  Clasps can sometimes be repaired without much trouble, too.  Problems with the "V-spring" type which operates by friction are typically caused by compression of the "V" (the folded metal wedge), so try gently lifting the flared side with a knife blade.  The "C-spring" type, when bent, can be realigned to close properly with plier pressure at the sides (not too much pressure or the bolt could pop out of the ring).


BROOCH PINS - When brooches won't close properly, check to see whether there's a problem with the hook, pin or hinge.  It might be the hook has just gotten crushed and you can easily lift and bend it back into shape with needle-nosed pliers.  The same tool will lift a flattened pin (one that bends down in the middle and up at the end); to repair this, grip it just in front of the hinge, to isolate the hinge from pressure, and gently bend upward. To straighten a bent pin, use two pairs of pliers, always keeping one in a stable position by the hinge to protect it, while using the other to correct the bends.  You may have to work in stages along the pin.  If the hinge flanges (sides) have become flattened or distorted and the little "dimples" aren't engaging with the spring, just use pliers to compress them back into the right position.  Another possibility, in the case of a so-called "sprung hinge," is that the coil of wire fastened to the hinge end of the pinstem has become compressed from wear.  In this case, use two pairs of pliers, one pulling outward on the pin near the hinge and the other pulling outward on on its opposite end (the little tail of wire that juts out).


EARRING FINDINGS  - Earrings with findings that have become distorted can usually be put right within just a few minutes.  Misshapen earwires can often be reshaped bare-handed but, if they're unusually thick, apply gentle pressure with your cushioned pliers.  Bent screw clips respond well to the same treatment; in this case you may need two pairs of pliers to grip both sides of the stirrup and realign the pad with the cup.  If the problem is a stuck screw, try cleaning it with alcohol and then applying a little lubricating oil (cleaning away the excess, of course).  When you're dealing with crooked posts, a squeeze with flat pliers is in order, but be careful to exert only direct pressure on the post so you don't snap it off the earring.  Clip-on earrings used to be a mystery to me, but I've finally discovered they're meant to be adjustable.  That metal prong on the back of the tab is responsible for how tautly they fit; just pull or push it gently until, by trial and error, you find the spot that makes them comfortable for you.  If they're too loose, it's been crushed down, so pull it outward.  If you want to change to a different type of finding, this can be done at home if the earrings have a loop at the top, because you can buy new findings that have a loop at the bottom.  It's simply a matter of opening one of those loops with pliers or a blade and connecting things up, adding a matching jump ring if necessary for the earrings to face the right way, and then closing all openings securely with the pliers.


RESTRINGING BEADS - You don't have to be skilled to accomplish this, but the process takes more patience than I have.  A large number of websites offer detailed instructions on bead stringing, so I won't address the subject here - except to say that, if you're going to the trouble, you might as well use high-quality silk thread or cable.  I understand there's a new 49-stranded nylon sheathed cable, supplied under various brand names.  It eliminates the need to use a beading needle, is stronger than thread, resists fraying and won't damage crystal beads as thread can.


REPLACING RHINESTONES & MARCASITES -  If it's making you crazy to pay five or ten dollars for a professional to replace one rhinestone or marcasite - and then have it turn out be slightly off in color or size - you're about where I am.  Unfortunately I haven't yet found a viable alternative.  In theory this should be a procedure anyone can accomplish at home, but getting the materials is highly problematic.  Reusing marcasites from unwanted jewelry (if you have any) is a possibility, but you can't normally re-use rhinestones, since their foil backing will be disturbed by removal from the prior setting.  As for new rhinestones, they're sold in overlarge quantities and, when you order a mixed bag, there's no assurance it will contain what you need.  Something I intend to try soon is a service I ran across online, which allegedly can match almost any rhinestone and installs them at a reasonable price.  I'll defer mentioning the name until after first-hand experience.  If you can recommend sources for marcasites and/or rhinestones, please pass them along and the information will be included in our next newsletter.




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