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This Ring in Your Size: A Note on Ring Resizing

Posted by Yvonne Raley on

Every time I get an Etsy order that says in the note to seller something like: “please change the size to ….,” my heart sinks.  I need you to feel my pain.
Adding to, or subtracting metal from an existing design requires cutting and soldering.  To size a ring, you have to cut it open with a saw and then either take out metal or add to it.  Then you close the seam with a torch and solder, pickle it in warm acid to remove the fire scale, and file down the seam (or use sandpaper).  Finally, you repolish the ring.
I hope this sank in.  Now let’s sort out the logical consequences of the procedure I just explained.
1. Obviously, resizing takes time.  How long?  If I did it here, half an hour minimum.  If my jeweler friend does it, it’s faster, depending on the job.  If my setting shop does it, they have it broken down to two or three guys, and they’ll do a bunch of rings in an hour.  One only solders, another only polishes, another deals with the gem if there are issues.  (I get to that later.)
2. Time is money.  So what does resizing cost? $8-10, out of my pocket.  And that’s cheap, right?  If you ask your jeweler to do it, it will cost more because he has to maintain a retail shop and/or because he may ship it out to have it done.  Also notice that I only bill you $5.00 in my shop.  I pay the difference.
3. What if the ring has to be much smaller?  That’s not so bad, you just take out silver.
4. What if the ring has to be much larger?  That’s a recipe for disaster.  Note how many sizes there are: 2mm, 3mm, 4mm …., domed, flat, …., gold, silver, and all in different thicknesses.  Jewelers don’t have 50 kinds of different wire sitting around (there are probably 200 different kinds).  So I have to bring the extra, or they use a piece of metal and shave it down (now it will take an hour), or I might have another ring somewhere and they can cut into that one (turning it into scrap, by the way).  Recently, I asked a jeweler to add 4 sizes to 2 rings, and 3 sizes to another.  He was busy all afternoon.  I paid him $10 per ring.  That was hugely unfair.  I ended up overpaying him the next couple of times to make up for it.
5. What if it’s an irregular ring design?  I might be out of luck.  Nobody wants to touch it because no matter what they do, I will not be happy with the result.  My ring may turn into scrap.
6. What if there’s a pattern or texture on the ring?  If it’s simple, i.e. hammered design, I go back over the soldered spot with my texturing tool.  If it’s a pretty texture like flowers or something, you may see a seam that doesn’t fit the design.  If it’s a twig ring, you may see a seam if you look hard enough.  But those are not so bad because the design is very irregular but the thickness even.
7. What if there’s a gem in the ring?  Ok, now it’s getting interesting.
a)  The gem is prong set.  In that case, perhaps we can take it out first.  Good idea, the gem may not like to be heated to 1500 Fahrenheit.  It may burst or fracture internally (and turn out looking like a highly included gem).  But of course, I’m not a setter.  Taking a gem out is one thing, there are prong lifters for that; putting it back is another.  Some polishers who offer ring resizing at a low price don’t set, so they have to get a setter involved, who might break the stone, who costs extra, etc etc.  Also, some settings are fragile, too much bending will break the prongs.
b)  What if the gem is bezeled?  If the bezel is open in the back, the gem might still come out.  That’s more tricky but it can be done.  Nevertheless, it then has to be reset.
c)  What if you don’t want to take the gem out or it is in a flat and closed bezel that you have to destroy get at the gem? 
Here’s the procedure for that: you put the ring upside down into charcoal, where the stone is in the charcoal.  That cools the stone while you solder the ring (so long as the ring doesn’t fall over and all that).  This is a very common procedure, but it brings new problems with it:
Not any gem can be put into the charcoal and heated. Turquoise, pearl, coral and other soft and organic stones are out.  An emerald?  You work on it quickly and with great care.  I wouldn’t try it myself for the world.  And the polisher I sometimes use busted one in January.  Custom order!
8. Last but not least, how often does the gem break or crack during heating, resetting or whatnot?  Too often for my taste.  You know how many rings I list, right?  So I can count it for you: an emerald, a turquoise, a garnet, a topaz, a sunstone, so far.  I think that’s in the neighborhood of 10% of my total sales for the last few months.
I always sweat bullets when this one has to be resized.
If I can get the ring resized before the stone is set, I can avoid most of these worries, as well as a portion of the cost.  But that only works if I have a custom order.  With most of the stackers, there’s also no issue because in many of my parcels, all the gems are identical (i.e. aqua, tsavorite, amethyst, garnet, topaz, citrine).  Diamonds are not a problem, they can withstand almost temperature.  Sapphires and rubies are also pretty sturdy.  Emeralds are terrible, and each is different, so those are a major headache.

My most recent breakage (this is a pic from before it broke)

So now you know.  I hope you can understand a little better why I don’t always offer resizing.  I try to make my best judgment depending on the ring.  Also, if I can stretch it over the mandrel (by half a size or so), or just have the polisher shave out the inside a little to make it bigger, then much of this trouble is avoided.

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