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

showing flattened worn ring prongs

This All in One Ring Can’t Have 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

Sharon's Ring with a Broken Diamond Setting (Head). Need re-tipping?

A Head That Lost its Diamond

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?

Heads for rings

Heads Created Separately for Rings That Take Them

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

Diamond and pearl ring old style freeform design in yellow gold

Grandma’s Diamond and Pearl Ring

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?

Semi band waiting for a head

Ring That is Created with the Intention of Adding a Head

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

A Worn Head with One Prong Re-Tipping. This was Wrong.

A Worn Head That Had One Prong Re-Tipped. This was Wrong.

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

Three channel diamond ring with white gold head

Sharon’s Ring with a New Head

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

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.

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,



5 1 vote
Article Rating

About Calla Gold

Calla Gold is a Personal Jeweler and Author who takes pride in working with clients one-on-one to integrate their personal sense of style and taste into custom designed jewelry and repaired jewelry pieces.   Unlike typical Santa Barbara jewelry businesses, Calla Gold has no brick-and-mortar location. Calla Gold comes to you, bringing you the jewelry collection you want to see and collaborating with you to create unique custom jewelry. Calla also works with at-a-distance clients.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
12 years ago


Reply to  Calla Gold
7 years ago

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 »

Kate D.
Kate D.
11 years ago

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 »

Sam Mefford
Sam Mefford
11 years ago

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 »

Andrea Peach
Andrea Peach
11 years ago

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 »

10 years ago

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?

10 years ago

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 »

9 years ago

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!

8 years ago

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 »

Margarita Brown
Margarita Brown
8 years ago

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

8 years ago

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