Ring Disasters, Part 4 – Re-Tipping vs. a New Head

By Calla Gold

Scuba Diver

Let’s Dive Deeper into Your Choices for Ring Prong Repair

In Ring Disasters, Part 3 – Ring Prong Re-Tipping Pro’s and Cons, your Santa Barbara Jeweler explained what a re-tip repair is, how it’s done and why if it took ten years to break that prong,  the re-tip won’t last another ten years.

Sharon’s ring, pictured down below, had two intact prongs barely holding her diamond. Miraculously Sharon found her diamond when it fell out. It was on the floor mat of her car. This was a jewelry repair I was happy to do.

White Gold Four Prong Head

Is Re-Tipping the Only Way to Repair a Broken Prong?

No, if more than one or two prongs need to be re-tipped, I would probably choose to replace the whole head.

The “head” is a three to six pronged gemstone setting. It’s cast separately from the rest of the ring design.

Pearl and Diamond Ring in Yellow Gold

The Diamonds are in Individual Heads Soldered into the Curves

What Heads Are

In the ring pictured with the pearl and  diamonds, the mountings for the diamonds are called heads.

They were cast separately and then connected, (soldered) to the rest of the ring design.

When Are Heads Used and Why?

Yellow Gold Ring With White Gold Head

This Yellow Gold Design is Cast Without the Center Head

Some rings have a basic design that is cast up to be modified with heads after it is cast.

After the design is cast the heads are put on to accommodate the size and shapes of the gemstones for that particular order.

The Perfect Scenario for a Re-Tip

Scenario: Your ring collides with a door or something and knocks the tip of your prong off or cracks it. The rest of your prongs are thick and strong. This is the perfect time to have that prong re-tipped.

When To Replace Your Head Instead of Re-Tipping

Wedding Ring With Separate Head Setting for Main Diamond

If five or ten years have gone by and a prong just broke off, it may not be the only troubled prong.

If the other prongs are worn down also, which with a daily wear ring they very well may be, re-tipping that one prong isn’t going to cut it.

Replacing the Head is a More Lasting Repair than Multiple Re-Tips

If you’ve broken more than one prong on a head, I’d recommend replacing the whole head instead of doing multiple re-tips. You’ll get a stronger and longer lasting repair that way. Sharon’s ring above needed a new head not re-tips for the safety of her diamond.

If only one prong was damaged on her ring, I’d recommend the re-tip.

Think About the Lifetime of Your Ring, Choose a Lasting Repair

Damaged Blue Topaz and Diamond Ring

Joan’s Ring Needs Multiple Prong Re-tips

On an older ring, with cast in prongs, not heads, the other prongs next to the broken one, will be to varying degrees worn down as well and perhaps ready to crack off if they get hit just right.

For frequently worn rings, I recommend you visually check each prong under magnification before signing off on a single prong re-tip.

You may wish to do multiple re-tips for aesthetics as well as the safety it offers for the rest of your gemstones.

Danger Sign

Don’t Go Into the Jewelry Red Zone

Don’t Let Your Ring Prongs Stray Into the Red Zone

Check your ring prongs at least once a year on your daily wear rings.

Whatever repair option you choose, do it sooner than later.

The Rest of the Series About Ring Prong Repairs

Ring Disasters, Part 1 – Broken or Pancaked Prongs

Ring Disasters, Part 2 – Re-Tipping Your Ring Prongs, Defining a Common Ring Repair

Ring Disasters, Part 3 – Ring Prong Re-Tipping Pro’s and Cons

Ring Disasters, Part 4 – Re-Tipping vs. New Head

Ring Disasters, Part 5 – When Re-Tipping is Your Only Option




22 Responses to “Ring Disasters, Part 4 – Re-Tipping vs. a New Head”

LYNNE August 11th, 2011 at 9:13 pm


Calla Gold August 12th, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Lynne, we jewelers like to set your nice white diamonds with white gold. White gold heads do not have yellow tips. They are cast up in all white gold. The yellow tips may just be an effect of time on your white gold and it’s reaction to life and the chemicals you come in contact with. If you were replacing a head to set a colored gemstone then you might be able to use a yellow gold head, but for diamonds white gold is the preferred choice.

Kate D. February 14th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Hello Calla, I’m interested in a Kirk Kara platinum solitaire semi mount. Currently it’s set with a cz princess for visual purposes.
When asked if my stone would fit, she replied, “The prongs as they are now would not accommodate a stone that wide. You would have to have the entire head remade.” It looks to me like this mounting was not cast with a separate head. Would it be feasible to modify this ring for a bigger stone? IE: 8x6mm ? How much would it cost to custom fabricate a new head for a Kirk Kara ring?
Reading about heads really helped me see the difference between cast-in prongs and separately cast and soldered on heads. Calla I’m hoping you can help me.

Calla Gold February 15th, 2013 at 8:31 am

Hi Kate,
Thank you for emailing me the picture of the Kirk Kara ring. You are right that those prongs are cast-in and not a separate head.
I’d like to see a top view of the design to see if I cast you a new head if I could solder it on securely.
I am concerned that we would be changing the design somewhat. Let’s talk further by email.
I’m pleased that the post about re-tipping vs. a new head gave you helpful information.
Your Personal Jeweler,

Sam Mefford March 18th, 2013 at 3:44 pm

After my wife handed her wedding ring to a jeweler for repair, she came across this blog post. We’re now concerned because the jeweler said he should re-tip all four prongs. He says he uses a laser so the weld is just as strong as a cast crown. I see videos on youtube showing re-tipping with a laser, so that adds some validity to his position. I also see here a claim that laser welds are 95% as strong as the original metal: http://www.curtparker.com/usefulinfo/usefuinfo5.htm

Your post doesn’t mention laser repairs. Is it possible that the rules are different with laser repairs?

Calla Gold March 19th, 2013 at 9:41 am

Dear Sam,
Thank you for your well articulated questions and links offered.
This is my opinion based on experience in the workshop. In theory laser welds are very strong. However there is a big difference between open flame solder and laser solder. With open flame solder the soldering metal, for example 14kt yellow gold is heated and dribbles if you will all over, in and around the area being soldered. The two pieces of gold are brought together with the melted solder and joined. Then all is cooled and polishing takes places to make it look as good as new. That’s a pretty strong bond we have created. However solder even though 14kt is not as strong as the cast original 14kt gold. If the solder was as strong I’d have to melt the ring when putting it back together. Because solder has a lower melting point than cast in gold, it is not as strong. This is why I do not re-tip multiple prong tips but recommend the strength of a new head if that is an option.
With some designs you cannot use a new head as the prongs are part of the overall design. If that is the case the new prongs will not last as long as the cast in ones. So they’ll need to be checked sooner.
Now to laser soldering. With laser the solder is melting in smaller areas. Yes it is strong, but because there is less solder used it can create a brittle solder point.
I had the embarrassing experience of laser soldering on a design element and having it snap off in under a year. I re-soldered the broken off element very carefully with open flame solder which necessitated un-setting and resetting the surrounding gems to protect them. But the element is still successfully in place because more solder was able to hold the connection together.
I find the claim in the Curt Parker link to be false from my personal experience.
Sam if your wife’s ring offers the option, by virtue of it’s design, a new head replacement, my opinion is that a new head replacement offers her diamond more lasting protection than would 4 re-tipped prongs.
http://www.goldsmithing.com/archive/index.php?t-394.html( Read the comment of Jim Jim 75 about brittle solders.)
I figured since you so kindly provided a link I should do the same. If you Google laser soldering jewelry prongs, brittleness, you’ll get a variety of descriptions of problems with laser soldering.
I like laser soldering for many jobs. Re-tipping four prongs is not one of them.
Your Personal Jeweler,

Andrea Peach March 27th, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Dear Calla,
For my wedding, I inherited my parents wedding ring set. The center ring sat perfectly and was braced (sandwiched) in the middle of a second ring, such that the over all design of the ring made it look like a flower. After 10 years of marriage (added on to the 35 years my mother had it) 2 of the prongs pulled up. No problem, I took it to a recommended jeweler, inquired if they could repair vintage jewelry and opted for a new head. When I went to pick it up, the replacement head for the center diamond had much thicker prongs that the original one and the ring did not fit into the second ring. The jeweler offered to adjust it, saying it would be no problem. The problem is that the ring continues to “glide” out of the second mate, even after her adjustment. I am heart broken. My husband wants me to bring it back to her, but I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions would be ever so welcomed!

Calla Gold April 1st, 2013 at 5:34 am

Dear Andrea,
That is a tough problem you have there. Now that the work is done and the head is not the same as the old one, the three ring combination is not functioning as designed.
Working on older rings is it’s own specialty. Many jewelers rely on the available heads when replacing a head. And like setting a modern brilliant cut diamond to replace and match an old European cut and having it clash with the older diamonds and make them look bad, a more modern head can mess up the look of an older ring.
I recently had to cast up a new older style head for a client with a 50 year old ring. The new heads don’t look like hers, so I had a wax model made to duplicate it, cast it up and set her main diamond in the new ‘old’ setting. Not all jewelers will go to this level of work to create the same look with older rings. Not all jewelers know how, especially if they are used to using a catalog to buy replacement parts.
My recommendation to you would be to find a jeweler who custom designs and works on older jewelry and bring your ring set to them and see if they can recommend any steps to take to make your three rings snug together like they used to.
Without seeing your ring I am at a disadvantage to give good advice. I feel that there is a way, even if you start from scratch and have an older style vintage-y head created and put on to replace the one you have.
I hope you are able to resolve the head problem and have your beautiful older ring singing on your hand again.
Your Personal Jeweler,

Brandi October 14th, 2013 at 1:03 pm

How often should you need to replace the head on a solitaire? I went in to my jeweler for a check up.First they said i needed a retip and then they called back and said the actual jeweler said it required a whole new head… We bought the ring 3 years ago. I feel like its really early for me to need a new head? Is this time frame normal or am i getting ripped off? OR could this be a factor in the quality of the ring?

Calla Gold October 14th, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Hi Brandi,
Thanks for writing. Three years is a bit soon to need a new head. My guess is the bench jeweler saw more damage than just one prong. I usually re-tip if there is one damaged tip, but go for a new head if two or more prongs are damaged.
It could have been a substandard head to begin with or it could have been slightly too small for your diamond. That can quicken the death of a head.
It is possible that factors in your environment just caused too many shocks to the ring.
Did they have you look at the damage under a loupe and show you where the damage was? That is a good way to know if there is damage or someone is padding their bottom line.
Good luck with your sweet ring.
Calla Gold

Kate April 9th, 2014 at 9:22 am

I have a platinum Edwardian engagement ring, with 4 cast in prongs. The center diamond is loose, and everywhere I go to get a quote, they tell me different information. I need to get my prongs re-tipped, and would prefer to do it in platinum, since the metal is all platinum currently. One shop is telling me they can only do white gold because the heat of the laser to put platinum tips would burn the diamond; other shops are telling me they can do it in platinum. There are not many jewelers where I live that are very familiar with fine antique jewelry, so I am nervous to take it somewhere, but I don’t want to lose my diamond. Any advice would be very much appreciated!

Calla Gold April 11th, 2014 at 10:09 am

Hi Kate,
I’d like to respond to what each of the jewelers has said to you, with a here’s what we do and believe answer.
Jeweler #1
One shop is telling me they can only do white gold because the heat of the laser to put platinum tips would burn the diamond
My response –
I remove the diamonds in the affected area so heat will not be an issue with the diamonds or gemstones in the setting. I wouldn’t use open flame or laser solder when working a prongs with the gems right there in the work zone. They want to use white gold because it has a lower melting point and is easier and cheaper to work with. The problem is that it is a different color of metal and it has a different wear pattern. These two similar metals do look different enough over time that I do not recommend doing white gold re-tips on platinum rings.

Jeweler #2
other shops are telling me they can do it in platinum.
I’m liking the other shops telling you they do platinum on platinum repairs. Find out if they have a separate area and tools to work platinum. A professional has a separate platinum work area as tools that have worked gold and are then used on platinum can ‘contaminate’ the platinum. This creates a look we call thermal burn where the non-platinum metal looks darker, like a little black zit on your ring.
For the record we have a separate platinum bench and tools that we only use for platinum. And different gas for open flame soldering and a laser machine for fine work. We’d use laser and platinum on your prong.
I hope this was helpful Kate.
Your Personal Jeweler,

Abby April 10th, 2015 at 1:34 pm

We just recently purchased an engagement ring and I am unhappy with the prongs, but love the setting and the diamond. I bought it online from Ritani. A local jeweler said he could simply remove the head and replace with the type I’d like. My boyfriend is worried this will compromise the integrity of the ring and wants to just return and purchase new ring. However, Ritani does not have the prongs I like and I love the rest of the setting and the diamond. What can I tell my boyfriend about replacing the head?
Thank you for your help!

Calla Gold April 10th, 2015 at 7:55 pm

Dear Abby,
I’d love to see a few views of your ring. Could you email images of your ring to my calla@cox.net email? I’d be curious as well to see what you like in prongs. Do you have a Pinterest pic or two that you could forward to me so I’ll see what you like. If there was an image of the head that is being suggested I’d love to see it. Some heads work well with engagement rings and some change the character of a ring too much.
I look forward to seeing if your jeweler has a viable and aesthetically pleasing solution for your ring.
Your Personal Jeweler,

jackie September 17th, 2015 at 10:58 am

I have a ring with three large old-style emerald cut diamonds that were reset into a new pressed platinum ring 18 years ago- fairly flat setting. Each stone is has 4 prongs. I had it tightened just once in 18 years by jeweler who made it.
Then in March of this year I had it tightened at a different jeweler where I am now living. In just 6 months, suddenly one prong was bent up- I am not doing much these days, so no idea how this happened.
I took it back to the place were it was tightened 6 months ago. They now tell me there are two cracks in the under-carriage, and they refuse to do that repair. No idea why.
I tried to contact the original jelery store where it was made and then tightened the first time- they just closed after 30 years in business to retire 🙁 I am looking for a reputable place to repair- where they will cover loss of damage to the ring during time in their hands, where I trust them not to switch out the stones, and where they will tell me the truth about the condition of the ring and how they would repair it or re-build it.
I would also like the place to have the capability to repair the under-carriage or build a new setting or band. BTW I am having it re-appraised first to update my insurance policy, should anything happen when the ring is out at the jeweler. What steps should I take to locate a good jeweler and then to ensure honesty, and quality of repair or rebuild? Is dealing with a luxury 150-year store with a contracted off-site jeweler a good idea?

Calla Gold September 19th, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Hi Jackie,
One of the most unfortunate things that happens to people is when a ring suddenly drops a gemstone or cracks or has damage occur that we aren’t aware of happening. This had happened to me. I have knocked out a little side diamond and not had a clue when I could have done it.
This has happened to many of my clients.
What I’m saying is that the cracks may have occurred when the prong got bent. Since six months went by I wouldn’t necessarily lay at the feet of the last jeweler the damage you now find on your ring. Not knowing the jeweler or your ring I do not have the facts, it is just something to consider.
You are wise to appraise your ring before further work is done. I’d advise as well taking a number of close up pictures of your ring from different views.
Once you have chosen who to work with, do ask to see your finished ring under a magnifying loupe and inspect all angles so you can satisfy yourself that the work is well done and your ring is in good condition. This is my blog about using a loupe:
As far as finding a good jeweler I wrote this post to help separate the jewelers from the salespeople:
Hopefully this will help you in recognizing a good jeweler. There are different types of jewelers and stores. I wrote that up as well:
A jeweler who also designs jewelry will be in a better position to understand your ring. As far as contracting with off-site jewelers for repair that is hard to know if that would be good. Internet reviews about their repair and design work would shed light on whether this is working for them.
Good luck with getting a great repair and enjoying your ring for many years to come.
Your Personal Jeweler,

Margarita Brown December 6th, 2015 at 12:29 am

Hello Calla
Is it possible to put a round garnet just a bit over 3/8″ diameter into a setting meant for 1/2 diameter unwanted round stone please?
It is a claw four prong right angled 90 degrees setting.
So the prongs would be slightly slanted in when set.
Thanks very much. Best wishes

Calla Gold December 6th, 2015 at 7:54 am

Hi Margarita,
I have at times set a larger gemstone into a setting meant for a smaller gemstone. I’ve either had to open the ring at the center and lengthen prongs or only lengthened prongs.
Lengthened prongs will never be as strong as the cast-in integrity you get with the original prongs. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, just know that if you wear that ring daily after this work is done it will have more maintenance requirements than the originally made ring.
I’m a visual person and reading the measurements doesn’t really tell me what seeing the individual elements does.
The garnet will not only be larger on top, but it may be deeper as well and that deepness may not be able to fit down into the mounting the way you’d like.
Your Personal Jeweler,

Janel February 9th, 2016 at 3:46 pm

I currently have a .5 Marquise center stone and will be changing it to a .9 Oval stone. Do you know what I can expect for pricing to get this done? I can’t seem to get a straight forward answer when I have spoken to jewelers about this. I just don’t want to pay too much. Thanks for your help, Janel

Calla Gold February 10th, 2016 at 7:46 am

Hi Janel,
I imagine that a new head will be needed to accommodate your new gemstone safely. If your existing ring is at all complex, removing your old setting or head and putting in the new one could be challenging. Having not seen your ring I would be unable to tell you a price. The more important issue is that you choose a jeweler properly up to the challenge of making this change.
This is an example of a very complex changing of diamonds in a ring:
Since these are two different sizes of gemstone I’d recommend a new head and not re-tipping to enlarge the setting.
Your Personal Jeweler,

EJ February 26th, 2016 at 5:32 pm

Hi, my husband and I bought a 1.67 ct round diamond that we wanted to replace the 0.91 ct round diamond with on my customized platinum wedding ring. I wanted to have the 4 prong head customized to look the same or like this other head that was used to create the customized look. However, most jewelers recommend that a new, thicker head be used to support the bigger diamond because my current head is too delicate for it. However none of the heads I’ve seen in their catalogs have the look I want. One jeweler said he could add white gold to extend the current prongs, so that it fits the bigger diamond. The other option he offered was creating a customized head with white gold and dipping it in platinum. Are the last two options even a good idea? Let me know if you’d like pictures. Thanks!

Calla Gold February 26th, 2016 at 9:26 pm

Dear EJ,
I’m giving my opinion without seeing your pictures. It is conjecture at this point.
It sounds like a jeweler needs to custom make a head that is just like the look of what you have but sized to take your larger diamond. This involves:
1. Making the new head with proper size, aesthetics and strength.
2. Altering the center of the ring to accept a larger head.
I had to do both of these actions in the removing of a princess cut diamond and replacing it with a significantly larger marquis cut diamond. I have before and after pictures here:
Adding white gold to extend the prongs is a structurally bad idea. For one thing they are adding white gold to platinum which is not the best practices way to extend jewelry. Next soldering a new piece to an older piece in not going to have the strength of cast in integrity of the original cast setting.
The guy that offered to make a new head in white gold and dip it in platinum is not sounding like he knows what he is doing. We plate white gold with rhodium which is in the platinum metals group, but is not platinum. Why he is not offering to cast in platinum to go with the rest of your ring is beyond me and not best practices.
I would most assuredly like to see pictures. I will email you.
Your Personal Jeweler,

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