Sterling silver ring -- why does nobody want to work on it?

Well, I’m figuring I already know the answer to my own question: “Why is it no jewler wants to do work on a sterling silver ring?” Most likely because it’s a bugger to work with.

Anyway, I have an old ring that has a story behind it–and unfortunately the history thereof died with my Uncle Ed several years ago. It’s a beautiful old sterling ring with the US Army Air Corps wings and propeller logo in gold on the crest. My grandmother gave it to me when Uncle Ed passed away, and I only wear it when I get all formally ‘gussied up’.

I want to get the thing resized. It’s apparently had work done on it before, but I’m at a complete loss on who to take it to now. I don’t wear rings normally, and am unfamiliar on how they’re supposed to fit, but I do know that I shouldn’t need the dishwashing detergent every time I take it off. . .

Is there some special jewler I should be looking for? Maybe I’m not asking the right question when I talk to a jewler?

Yes, I’ve given thought to using it as a pinky ring, but that might be offensive to the ring itself. It’s definitely a ring finger ring.

If it is sterling and not some amalgam that might make it difficult to solder, I cannot think of why a jeweler might decline the job. Because of the top of the ring, I suspect it cannot be “smash-sized” up a bit, but instead will need to be cut and have a bit of silver crafted and worked into the bottom of the ring.

It may cost you a bit but there ain’t nothing to the ring that looks like it should preclude having work done on it. can you shoot the bottom of the band?


Silver is more difficult to size because it conducts heat so well. This means that if you heat only the joint, the rest of the ring will drawn the heat away and the joint will not get up to soldering temperature until the whole piece has heated up. Generally in a gold ring, you can heat the part you are soldering and keep the rest relatively cool. Also, sterling silver is usually alloyed with copper and heating it can bring out nasty oxides that are tough to remove. There are other factors that make your particular job difficult.

Part of the problem is the crest itself (and the little inlaid bits on the sides). These are often made of some kind of enamel or epoxy filler. These materials can be particularly heat sensitive. Another factor is that if the ring must be opened up significantly to bring it up to size, it will disturb the setting, likely breaking or ruining the crest and inlay.

It is hard to see exactly what is going on just from pictures. It looks like whatever work has been done on the piece did not involve opening up the band much. That is likely the biggest difficulty. It also looks like previous repairs may have been done with a low temp solder, which is easier to use on a piece like this, but it does not hold up as well over time and can create more problems for future repairs. There could be other stuff going on too.

The amount of effort involved in a job like this (if it can even be done) compared to what people want to pay to repair a silver ring usually means it is not going to be worth it. Not to mention the jeweler’s risk of ruining something that has sentimental value and is irreplacable. Dealing with that situation is not worth any amount of money for most people! I would guess that is a large part of what is scaring people off the job.

If you are willing to pay for it, there might be someone willing to do it. Some people will suggest contacting a school, but that can be risky. I would suggest maybe asking some antiques dealers. They will likely be unwilling to reveal who does their work, but sometimes they will play middleman (and obviously, make a bit of profit for themselves). If the ring means a lot to you, it might be worth the price. Just be aware there is always some risk involved. Definitely discuss the risks before you go ahead with it.

As Nicest says, it’s most likely the black stuff on the top of the ring. Can’t tell just what it is from the pics, but the heat would likely destroy it. No jeweler would want to take the responsibility.

This is definitely the crux of the matter. I have a silver band which has sentimental value. While I am willing to pay three digits’ worth to get the thing resized and ‘fixed’ (take that darned solder out of the band), I don’t quite know who to take it to.

I’d be obliged to you if you knew of a company that deals with this sort of thing.

Uncle Ed, I’m finally fixing your ring. :smiley:

Oh, I must add:

It seems that since the ring has already been opened up and “fixed” before (the solder at the bottom), could I not talk some jewler into opening it up another size or so?

Roughly where is 17Z 248392E 3613010N ?

The biggest online jewelers community I know of is here:

They have a mailing list. You could try posting your problem there. It is mainly a discussion forum for professional jewelers, but I see no reason a polite request for repair info would be a problem. Be clear that you are willing to spend three digits. That might help get a response. But as always, satisfy yourself that the repair person knows what they are doing before you go ahead.

Well there are some tricky technical problems just in doing that. If a jeweler has looked at it and for whatever reason doesn’t want to do it, they have their reasons based upon what they are comfortable doing. I think it boils down to a cost/benefits problem. There is a huge risk in a job like this, no matter how careful they are. The piece is irreplacable. They cannot realistically make any guarantees. I think every jeweler has gotten burned in a situation like this. Even when a customer says they are aware of the risks and willing to go along, it can get ugly if something goes awry.

Tripler, I don’t know what kind of jewelers you have taken the ring to, but many chain jewelers aren’t set up to do the kind of work you need to have done. Look for a jeweler who does custom work - they are most likely to be able to help you.

Now that you’ve said that you’re williing to pony up big bucks to get it fixed, that might make a difference.

Make it clear to the jeweler that you understand that the propeller(almost certainly a gold-filled add-on) and the black enamel(my assumption) will have to be removed before work starts. THEN the ring can be sized properly and cleanly, as opposed to the job that was done in the past. There should be no visible mark where the new sizing was done, if done by a compentent jeweler. It will be buffed smooth.

The jeweler will have to replace the black enamel and reattach the propeller. The quality of the replacement may or may not be as good as what it was going in. But your willingness to pay good money to have it done might get a good job.

Would it be possible to simply have the ring not a complete ring - just cut straight through the join and smooth the edges, so you can adjust the diameter at will?

Can you do that? If you look at the second picture, it’s apparently been done that way before, but half-heartedly (and with solder, at that).

And SCL, I had taken it to a custom jeweler in Great Falls, MT when I still lived up there. As soon as I brought it in, she smelled the silver on me and turned her nose up immediately.

Well, now wait, my grandfather just gave me an old tap and die set. . . :smiley:

Sure, but it’s an excellent way to make it easier to
A) Snag the ring on things
B) Pinch the heck out of your finger when the ring does get jammed on something.

As a last ditch effort, that might work, but there is still some risk that part of the band might fall off at the stress point or the enamel on the sides could pop out. If you do try to do this, make the ring large enough to fit, don’t flex it as you put it on and take it off. It will eventually break the band. It is possible that it is already too worn to make this approach feasible.

Just to clarify what I said earlier, there are some big differences in the skills required to repair something vs. making something new. For instance normally if you were to make something from scratch, you would do all your soldering, then add the crest. Doing the repair with the crest already in place is more complex.

That is why I suggested calling some antiques shops. Most likely an established shop will have had the need to get repair work done at some point, so they have done the leg work for you. They should know someone who is competent and familiar with the techniques and materials that were used to make jewelry in the past. Someone who does custom work would not necessarily have that knowledge, nor the desire to do that kind of work.

But like I said, in most cases they will not want to tell you outright who they use. You will have to go through them. But I think it would be easier than searching on your own. Also, some repair jewelers will only deal with professional accounts and not take people off the street. And as I said, let them know up front that you realize it is a complicated job and you are willing to spend a reasonable amount of money to get it done right.

My humble opinion is that going through an antiques dealer is your best bet.
But one more option; there is a well known repair school here in Boston. If you contact him they might be able to refer you to one of their graduates.

North Bennet Street School:

Here is another school in Texas: