Ring Disasters, Part 4 – Re-Tipping vs. a New Head
Some of my most loyal, long-time readers may remember my “Ring Disasters” series from 2011. More questions have come up recently about the issues addressed in this particular post. I realized that I could add more information and explanatory photos to answer your newest questions. So, check out this new and improved re-tipping post. Maybe you’ll love the rest of the series too!
Let’s Dive Deeper into Your Choices for Ring Prong Repair
In Ring Disasters, Part 3 – Ring Prong Re-Tipping Pro’s and Cons, I explained what re-tipping 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 to the above, had two barely intact prongs holding her diamond. Miraculously Sharon found her diamond when it fell out. It was on the floor mat of her car. This was a miracle.
Is Re-Tipping the Only Way to Repair a Broken Prong?
No, re-tipping is not your only option. Some rings are created with the main ring cast and one or more settings soldered on separately after the balance of the ring is made. These settings when created separately are called “heads.” . The head is cast separately from the rest of the ring design.
If you have prong work needed on a head as opposed to a ring where all the prongs are an integral part of the ring that changes your options.
With a head, if two or more prongs need to be re-tipped, I would probably choose to replace the whole head. I’d opt for a replacement of the whole head because it is more secure and is a longer lasting fix than re-tipping.
An Example of Multiple Heads
In the ring pictured with the pearl and diamonds, the mountings for the diamonds are all heads. They were soldered into that ring after it was created so they could use different sizes and shapes of gemstones if they chose.
In this ring there were three different sizes of diamonds. The use of heads gives versatility, that allows customization in using different sizes and shapes of gemstones.
When Are Heads Used and Why?
Some rings have a basic design that is cast up to be modified with heads after it is cast. The engagement ring style above can set any size or shape of gemstone. It is this versatility that makes using heads in jewelry design popular.
When the main design is cast, the heads are soldered on. It can be simple like the rings above or more complex like the grandma ring above.
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
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.
Heads are easy to replace and if many prongs are worn down it makes no sense to re-tip one prong and leave the rest worn and in danger of breakage. It’s like getting a flat when you have badly worn tires and replacing that one tire and not getting new tires all around.
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 re-tipping that one prong.
Think About the Lifetime of Your Ring, Choose a Lasting Repair
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.
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 not wait until you’ve lost a diamond.
I’ve written a whole series on fixing prongs, because it is the most common repair behind ring sizing. There is a lot to know about prong repair. I want you to know about it. That way when you get repairs done, you get the right repair, at the right time, by the right jeweler. Ask a few questions, look through the loupe, make sure you are comfortable with your jeweler and keep your diamond all during your happy life.
Your Personal Jeweler,
I JUST BROKE A PRONG ON MY RING & THE DIAMOND
CAME OUT. I WILL NEED TO REPLACE THE HEAD OF THE RING. NORMALLY WHEN A YELLOW GOLD RING HEAD IS REPLACED IS IT REPLACED W/WHITE GOLD ALLOY OR WITH WHITE GOLD ALLOW W/GOLD TIPS OR JUST W/
YELLOW GOLD HEAD. KIND OF CONFUSED. MY JEWELER IS TALKING ABOUT USING A WHITE GOLD HEAD. I THINK MINE IS WHITE GOLD HEAD W/YELLOW GOLD TIPS.
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.
Dear Calla, i recently purchased this beautiful ring from india, its the only place i can get it. Its purity is 925, the prongs are set a little, just barely above the stone. 2 have what look like cracks but were cast that way (dont believe it to be done on purpose). Every single time the prong (any prong) grazes over my shirt, it catches and bends backwards, a thread could do this too, because it bends so easily i just took my finger and bent it back. I lost half a prong (one that looked cracked or sloppily made).… Read more »
Dear Loris, You have described an experience like the ones that prompted me to write my Zombie Rings blog post: https://www.callagold.com/opinion/zombie-rings-good-vs-bad-rings/ The fact that you can bend the prong back with your finger tells me it’s paper thin. Whether it has cracks or not it should never be that thin. I feel that re-casting the design from the same mold will yield an unfortunate long term result. You may be investing in a long term chain of repairs, gem replacements because your ring sounds like it violated the four pillars of a daily wear ring. I mention the pillars in… Read more »
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… Read more »
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,
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… Read more »
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.… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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?
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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!
Dear Abby, I’d love to see a few views of your ring. Could you email images of your ring to my email@example.com 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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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
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… Read more »
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
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: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10156205134205414.1073741977.276561805413&type=3 Since these are two different sizes of gemstone I’d recommend a new… Read more »