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Jewelry, Gems, & Minerals/Scratches to ring after prong tightening


ring scratch
ring scratch  
QUESTION: "We purchased a ring which was a bespoke design from the designer who had the ring made in the US by a very good company. The ring was fine, but after a month the 4 prong setting (a low setting where the ring sits in a little 'cup' and is secured by prongs) showed looseness. The diamond could rotate slightly in the setting. She sent this to a specialist diamond setter, but not the person who made the ring. The two issues I have arise after this:
1. The setter said that in a four-pronged setting slight movement in the diamond was normal. But he tightened the prongs anyway.
2. The pristine ring was returned to me very scratched. The whole ring was covered in fine scratches, with deeper ones near the setting. The designer who sold the ring said she had forgotten to check the polish before sending it back and these scratches are easily polished.

I want to know - is it 'normal' for there to be any movement in a diamond in a 4 claw setting?
Is it normal for a ring to be scratched all over (not just near the setting) in the tightening of a prong and then polished afterwards, or was it insufficiently protected from scratches?
Was there something wrong with the manufacture in the first place if the diamond became loose after a month of wear?"
I attach an image of the scratches to give an idea

Ring with scratch
Ring with scratch  
ANSWER: Dear Abi,

The quite low setting style of your ring is more difficult to tighten than a taller setting with more to "grip" on the prongs. However, there is no truth at all to the notion that it is 'normal' for there to be any movement in a diamond in a 4 claw setting. I can understand a stone becoming loose should the original setting of a prong or two rested on a place where two facets(faces) of the stone top meet, a line of sorts.  With that being the case, a jar could make the stone move just enough to come off that higher spot and the stone would be slightly loose. This happens more than expected with new rings and does not indicate a problem with the manufacturing of the ring. The procedure is to tighten the gem and try to give it a slight twist to insure tightness. With all tight again, it should stay that way.

Were it normal for a particular setting such as a 4 prong style to have a loose stone I doubt that design would be accepted by the consumer! The gem is much, much harder than the metal and any movement will wear on the metal*. After a while, the setting gets larger and larger inside, allowing more and more movement. The stone could be lost!  Normal for the stone to be loose...indeed NOT.  A good jeweler knows better.

I borrowed your fine photo and penciled in to make sure that large scratch on the side is one of your concerns. Also, the little arrow points at the side of a prong and to me that looks a bit rough just beneath the prong tip.  That scratch and the diagonal line scratch on the other(?) side of the ring certainly appear to have been tool marks. It is like a tool slipped in the stone setting or tightening process. I cannot say for certain without being there when the work was done.  The other fine marks on the ring appear rather much like normal wear but if not there when the ring was returned for tightening, the marks apparently happened while out of your possession.  The clean up of any tool marks is an absolute requirement of good craftsmanship. A buffing to remove any fine marks on the ring is optional unless caused by the workman and handling.  Personally, I believe any item should be returned to the client with a very clean and neatly buffed surface, just as when new.

The methods used to hold a ring while prongs are being tightened generally use a clamp or similar device lined with leather or another forgiving material. The intent is to hold the ring very tightly during the work and not to bring about any scratches to the sides. In any event, normal protocol would require the ring to be examined and buffed as said in the last sentence of the preceding paragraph.

A jeweler should be able to polish out the scratches, even the deeper ones with little problem. Quite honestly, I am surprised the ring was returned to you with these marks on it.

Abi, if I have misinterpreted your good photos, please let me know.

*Thrown in "for free": Common dirt contains lots of quartz and mineral material. When a ring is not cleaned at regular intervals or, yikes, never removed from the finger for cleaning, abrasive dirt will work in between the stone and prong. Oven time, this effects wear on the prongs. Over years, a stone may become loose from soil. If th e stone moves at all, the wear is begun and will only get worse. Abi, I imagine you will clean your ring regularly. Please do so and check the stone for tightness at the same time.  This is free insurance against loose stone surprises, no matter the number of claws.

Thanks for the question and quite good photos.  Get back if need be.
God Bless and Peace.  Thomas.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: thanks for the answers. i just wondered, is the roughened prong something that needs attention too? We are very unhappy with a new ring being tightened and this amount of scratching caused. The jeweller will polish it, but would we be entitled to return it, in your opinion?

Dear Abi,

The roughened prong appears to be left from the original stone setting, possibly where the sides of the prongs were filed to shape during the process. This is not a defect as such unless the prongs catch on clothing, etc. However, there is aesthetic consideration. This should have been sanded smooth and polished in my opinion.  I am not being too critical here. To complete the job of "finishing" a ring includes finishing off the surfaces of the metal.  Some jewelers take the few extra minutes to do that and others simply do not.

Personally, I recommend speaking to the jeweler from whom the ring was purchased.  Point out the scratches and perhaps express surprise the ring was returned to you in that condition. The jeweler should immediately offer to remedy the situation by polishing the ring. You may accept that conditional upon the work being satisfactory and no obvious alteration to the ring contour and sides caused by the polishing. You might mention that if the ring is not as it should be, you will be very uncomfortable keeping in that condition and believe ring should be returned. After all, these deep scratches are apparently from the recent tightening of the gemstone. You paid for a lovely ring and not for a problem.

Abi, how you handle that is up to you.  Being a custom design, jewelers are hesitant to accept returns but you still should have not had the scratch situation and certainly should not have been told 4 prong settings have loose stones. If so, why wold you have bought a ring with guarantee of a loose gem after the fact! That part is ridiculous.

You might take a day, consider your options. Odds are with well done polishing all will be fine. In that case, do you want to return this ring, do you really?  You do need assurance that all will be on the up and up and if the work is not satisfactory, you will not be satisfied with keeping the ring.

Abi, those are my thoughts. The jeweler would not be automatically obligated to accept return of the ring but all should be made right. If not, then that is a different situation and one you will not be happy with.  Does this make sense?

If you think about it, when all is resolved please let me know how it went. Fair enough?

God Bless and Peace.    Thomas.

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Have a question about jewelry repair or working with precious metal jewelry and gemstones? For many years up to December 31, 2010, I was a working professional bench jeweler, involved everyday with setting stones in mountings, designing and making jewelry, repairing and limited custom manufacture. If you work with jewelry as a hobby or as a profession, I might be able to help. I deal with the retail business, not mass production. Ask privately if you wish. See the box for that: It keeps your question between us. Please DO NOT ask MAKER'S MARKS, but metal quality marks are fine to ask. Please DO NOT ask diamond prices. See a gemologist for that.


I have extensive experience in design, service and making of jewelry. I deal mostly with precious metals and gemstones but work with many materials as needed and usable to create an artistic design. My experience also includes freelance photography and photographer of jewelry and similar items for a former employer and individuals. Design of custom items requires reading the desires of the client and being clear on what can be done within that framework...then fulfilling the transition of idea to reality. Effective communications is essential in a working designer/producer and customer relationship.

Education is English/Physics! Started in human resources, to advertising, to, what a road. I have had formal training in jewelry work and many shared experiences with top grade jewelers. We just never know were we will go or be. Follow your best, your dreams, with some discretion! Don't let the work tear up your body along the way as it has mine.

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