Sometimes things break; it’s a fact of life. Can it be fixed? Most of the time, fine jewelry or good timepieces can be repaired by a skilled goldsmith or watchmaker, although occasionally All the King’s horses, and all the King’s men will find the task to be impossible—but this leaves a very, very large question between “yes” and “no”, which only you can answer.
Let’s say that a prong holding the diamond on your engagement ring has broken, and the cost to repair it is $50.00. Most certainly, this would be worth the expense of having it repaired, but what if there has been extensive damage to a small gold bracelet that you had dropped, and managed to run over with your car before finding it? The bracelet cost $225.00, but the repair will cost more than you paid for the piece! Obviously, this would not be worth the investment— but what if the bracelet was a hand-me-down from your favorite aunt? Or a special gift you received on your 10th anniversary? This complicates matters, and it only gets worse when we’re talking about fine costume jewelry, or relatively inexpensive timepieces that hold little or no intrinsic value.
Every single jeweler who offers repair services (and most of them do) has been asked the question “Is it worth it to repair this?” more times than he or she can count, and almost inevitably, the answer they will give is “How much do you like the _______?”. Of course, most people will draw a line when repair of something that holds no particular sentimental meaning exceeds the current value, but once the question of monetary value has been set aside, you can quickly find yourself on uncertain ground.
One question that is frequently raised is “Can the item be replaced?” Most people can understand this better when put into the context of a wrecked car. We all know that at some point, your insurance company will call a car a “total loss” if the cost of repair (more-or-less) exceeds 50% of the car’s current value, but this rule-of-thumb really doesn’t hold true for fine jewelry or timepieces, particularly for those with sentimental value.
Some years back, I saw someone spend a tremendous amount of money repairing a broken synthetic ruby in a man’s ring that had been handed down in the family. The cost of a new stone? About $15.00, but a new one wouldn’t have been the same as the one in grandpa’s ring, so the stone was carefully removed (causing extensive damage to the metal that had held the stone in place, which was the only way to get it out of the ring intact) and re-cut; the metal surrounding the stone was rebuilt, and the original stone reset— at a price that was easily four to five times the cost of simply replacing the stone. It would have been far easier to just break the damaged stone out of the ring, and replace it with a new one, but the customer was delighted with the result.
The bottom line is that there is no hard, cold formula for determining whether a repair is really “worth it.” More frequently than not, it is simply a judgement call that is dictated by a wide range of variables, not the least of which are your current finances. (The other option is to just retain the piece as a non-functional keepsake.) Most things, however, eventually hit a point of no return, even if someone could conceivably put “Humpty” back together again.
Joe Brandt is a local resident, and President of J.L. Brandt Company, offering diversified fine jewelry advisory services to the general public since 1928. Readers are invited to submit questions or comments to [email protected] or contact information will not be used for publication, and all inquiries will be answered promptly.