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Why did my jewelry break?

Why did my jewelry break?

We explain some common reasons why jewelry breaks

So you paid thousands of dollars for a very nice piece of jewelry and over the years it has grown to be as much a part of you as the hair on your head. One day while wearing it the unthinkable happens – it breaks. But why?

Regardless of whether your jewelry is a custom-made designer piece, antique, or funky and eclectic, all jewelry is susceptible to damage and breaking. Many people are naturally upset and angered that their piece could or would ever break. Even worse, most jewelry stores rarely cover the ugly truth that even the most well-made, expensive pieces can be damaged or break.

Naturally, this leaves many people wondering why. “Why did my jewelry break?” Obviously there are many answers to this loaded
question, so we’ll go over some of the most common reasons why your jewelry could get damaged or break.

Older jewelry breaks more often

One of the most common reasons a piece breaks is because it is at the end of its life span. Many people are wearing pieces that should NOT be worn every day. Jewelry adorns the outside of the body and can take a lot of abuse that many people do not think about. Prongs can flatten, get snagged on things, and even break off. The shank on a ring can thin over time and eventually crack or split. Stones become loose and can even chip and break. (Yes, even diamonds can break.) Clasps on chains wear out, and where there is friction between two links on a chain, the chain can become so thin it can wear through itself.

These things take many years to wear out, but people come to us all the time with an item they’ve worn religiously for decades. The chain they’ve been wearing for 20 years or the ring that they never take off and haven’t since they’ve gotten married are showing some serious signs of damage and fatigue to the point of breaking. If your chain just fell off with no reason, that is a sign it is very worn and should be handled with extreme care. If it was pulled, there is a clear reason for the break: It broke at the weakest point.

If you do decide to wear antique or older jewelry, you can come into either of our New Jersey jewelry stores in New Providence or Morristown to get your jewelry checked and cleaned for free. We’ll tell you if your piece needs repair and provide advice on preventative maintenance and wearing the piece safely.

Unfortunately, there is no solid rule on “if a piece is X years old, get it checked this often.” As a general rule, however, we recommend people get their jewelry cleaned and checked out every 6 months. This is especially true for both engagement rings and antique jewelry, particularly rings and bracelets. Since antique jewelry usually has a high sentimental value, it’s vital to have it checked often to prevent any heartbreaking accidents. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Certain stones are more prone to damage or breaking than others

Just to be clear, the following information does not pertain to earrings or necklaces. These pieces aren’t exposed to the same wear and tear as rings and bracelets because they aren’t worn on a vulnerable area of the body. You aren’t knocking your ears on surfaces that you would knock into with your rings or bracelets. Therefore, even the softest stones can be worn as earrings every day. You just need to be careful taking them on and off and storing your jewelry because that’s when most breakage occurs. A necklace doesn’t usually get any wear either because it’s on your neck and you aren’t rubbing your neck on surfaces or knocking it on something as you walk by. Perfumes, lotions, and makeup are the most damaging threats to both earrings and necklaces, but that’s nothing a comprehensive cleaning by a qualified jeweler can’t handle.

There are many colored stones that should not be worn every day because, believe it or not, they are very soft. A diamond makes a great engagement ring because it is the hardest substance on earth and nothing can scratch it. Yes, diamonds can chip and crack, but that’s an article for another day.

Ever hear of the Mohs scale of mineral hardness? It’s a great tool to use when determining the wearability of a stone and how careful you should be. The scale ranges from 1-10, with diamond being the hardest mineral and talc the softest. Diamond is at the top of the Mohs hardness scale by a wide margin, which makes it the best choice for everyday wear.

Rubies and sapphires are corundum, which is number nine on the list and still OK for wearing every day in necklaces, rings, or bracelets. Emeralds, garnets, pearls, opals, and other semi-precious stones are NOT everyday stones and score 8 or lower on the Mohs scale, meaning these minerals may not be appropriate for your jewelry, depending on the type of jewelry and where it’s being worn.

Another factor when determining the cause of a broken stone would be how it is set in the piece of jewelry. A bezel-set stone (metal going all the way around the stone as opposed to prongs) and channel-set stone (metal on both sides of the stones, making a “channel” the stones sit in) are both well protected from bumps and knocks, which makes them more wearable. But even if the stone is completely protected around its edges, the stone will still scratch and abrade. The facets will wear down and your stone will start to look foggy and lose its clarity, and with that, its shine and brilliance. With a four-prong basket setting (a very common, classic type of open setting with multiple prongs and “claws” to hold the stone), the girdle of the stone (the outside edge, where the pavilion meets the crown ) is almost completely exposed, making it a lot easier for the stone to chip and break.

Last but not least, how big is the stone? It sounds obvious but the bigger a stone is, the more vulnerable it is to danger, and structure-compromising inclusions increase the risk. A stone that has a big inclusion or many inclusions can be problematic. An inclusion is an imperfection in the stone and is actually a rift in the crystal structure of the gem. If the stone gets hit the right way, there is a greater chance of it breaking along the inclusion since, by nature, it is already compromised.

An example of channel set diamonds in an engagement ring.

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