A broken clasp, tarnishing, or even a tangle in your chain is easy to fix at home.

By Alexa Erickson
November 11, 2020
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Credit: Sarah Anne Ward

You've likely been there: A beloved piece of jewelry suffers a clasp break, a substantial knot in the chain, or a chip in the stone. Your broken pieces collect in a pile for months, if not years, before you finally take them to the jeweler to get repaired. As it turns out, though, not all pieces require professional mending. "If you're like me, some of my most precious pieces are things I've collected on travels, heirlooms from family, and casual jewelry," says jewelry designer Madeleine Lou. "When these pieces get damaged, I'm lucky I can repair them myself. Most simple repairs require little more than a trip to the craft store and a bit of patience."

As a jewelry designer, she knows how to bring new life to seemingly broken pieces. We tapped her for the best repairs, so you can wear your favorite pieces once again.

Discolored or Tarnished Jewelry

"Perfume, water, lotions, and even your unique body chemistry can cause jewelry to 'turn' a different color," says Lou. Bring back the shine to your jewelry with a polishing cloth. It requires little effort and makes a big difference. "A good jewelers cloth has two sides: one to help remove scratches and the other to restore a fine polish. I keep a couple handy in my jewelry drawers."

Replacing Spare Parts

Whether a pair of earrings have been neglected because you've lost their backs, or a necklace you love simply doesn't sit well on your neckline, keeping spare parts around will ensure you always have a solution. "In my jewelry drawers are a small box of earring backs and gold-filled chain extenders," says Lou. "No one can have enough earring backs, and I was always losing them when I was already late getting out the door. Inexpensive, they are a simple fix and now I never head out without my favorite pair of earrings." For a necklace that's either too short or hits the wrong spot, Lou suggests a necklace extender ($25 for three, gorjana.com): "You simply hook to the clasp, and your necklace will now fall exactly where you want."

Tangles and Knots in the Chain

This one will definitely require patience, but once you get the process down, you'll become a pro in no time. "Lay your jewelry on a flat surface with good light," says Lou. "Lightly dab oil (baby, vegetable, or olive oil—whatever you have in the house) on knots. With two straight pins, begin at the loosest point. Apply more oil as needed. It will help knots and tangles glide. Take your time. It works!"

Chipped Enamel

"I love vintage jewelry!" says Lou. "I am particularly fond of enamel pieces, and I never pass on a spectacular piece if it has a chip or two." Whether you want to buy a discounted piece, or fix one you already have, she says that nail polish will do the trick. "Your local drugstore has a virtually endless range of colors, and I can usually find a match. Carefully apply two coats, making sure to let it properly dry, and finish the entire section with a coat of clear."

Repairing Stretch Bracelets

Stretch bracelets combine comfort and fashion, but they're also prone to breaking. "Gather up as many of the beads as you can, and head to the craft store," suggests Lou. "This is when you need to use the right materials. Look for an elastic cord designed explicitly for beading. I like 0.7 width. It's durable and makes a good knot. Pick up some super glue, and if you lost a bead or two, you might want to get replacements."

Once you have the supplies, follow Lou's step-by-step process: "Measure about 12 inches of cord and put a piece of tape at one end. I start with the bead with the largest hole first (to hide the knot) and bead away. I make my stretch bracelets 7-7 1/2 inches; just carefully wrap around your wrist until it's the right size. Tie one surgeon's knot as tightly as you can and two more single knots. Carefully, put a small drop of glue on the knot and slip the knot into the larger bead's hole. Let dry and trim the ends as close as possible."

Damaged Costume Jewelry

Costume jewelry makes a fun statement, but if a stone or faux pearl wiggles loose from a ring or bracelet, you'll want to have B-7000 jewelry glue ($8, amazon.com) with a pair of needle-nose pliers on hand. "It binds metal, stones, plastic, etc." says Lou. "It's strong and transparent. And if carefully applied, leaves no trace. Just be careful not to apply too much and give it 24 to 48 hours to dry."

Replacing a Broken Clasp or Adding a Pendant

Two chain nose pliers, a pack of jump rings, and a couple of clasps are all you need for this quick fix. "With this one technique, you can grasp the jump ring on either side of the opening with pliers," explains Lou. "Gently move the right side up and left side down. Now slide off the old jump ring. Open the new jump ring in the same manner. Slide on clasp or pendant and slide onto the opening in the chain. Now, close the new ring in the same way, but the right side goes down and the left side up. Make sure the ring is closed tightly—if not, start again with a new ring. Don't worry. You'll get it right with a little practice."

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