Wednesday, May 22, 2013

6 Tips for a Jewelry Repair Business

By on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 6 Comments

Guest post by Danielle Walker of Queen Bee Jewel Gallery
One thing I’ve found as a jewelry designer and bead weaver is that people around you start noticing what you have on. They start to make connections to stuff they might already have and never wear. For example, they might notice a certain colour, texture, or style in your piece that reminds them of one of their own. The question arises: why do they never wear these pieces? The answer is simple—they’re broken!!

My stumbling onto the lucrative jewelry repair path was quite by accident. I was at a tag sale and bought a big grab bag of broken, dated jewelry. I think I paid $2 for the thing and the lady at the table acted like she’d fleeced me. “It’s all broken, you know,” she said. “No worries! I’m going to repurpose some of it and fix that which merits fixing!” I said. I had no idea that people around me heard what I’d said.

A couple of weeks ago a lovely lady, Robin, came to me at a choir rehearsal and handed me a necklace that is simply a piece of Tiger tail (yeah, this was an old piece from 20 years ago before they had all the nice beading wire that we enjoy now) strung with cobalt blue glass beads, bugles, and daisies made with green 6/0 beads. The problem was that the clasp had broken and come off, with a bunch of the beads. She was pretty convinced this piece was beyond redemption and was more or less expecting me to confirm this.

But all it needed was to be restrung, lengthened a bit, and have a new closure added. Easy! I restrung it, brought it to the next rehearsal, and she was thrilled! Now I have a work table with a bunch of projects brought to me by others who want new life breathed into their broken items.

Whatever your artform is—knitting, crocheting, weaving, jewelry making, sewing, quilting, leather working, the list goes on—I highly recommend offering repair as a service. That way you can be working more consistently and pulling in a little bit of money. I’ve come up with a mental list that I like to go through when someone brings me a project.

1. Honesty
I know it sounds redundant, but this is of utmost importance when you’re building business, as everything you do affects your reputation. When I say “honesty” I mean a couple things. First off, can you fix it? Is it a problem you can safely and confidently take on and give back to the customer in a timely fashion for a fair price?

Then there’s the next step of honesty—I mean be honest if the piece is indeed worth repairing. This isn’t necessarily completely about economics. If your customer brings you anything they really love, even if it will cost more to repair than it’s worth, it must mean something special to them if they brought it to you.

2. Diagnose
Try your best to diagnose the problem on site. This will increase customer confidence in your abilities and whether their piece is redeemable. Talk with the customer to see if they can describe what this item once looked like/what its purpose was (this is for cases in which something fundamental to its function has been lost and needs to be replaced or reconstructed).

I also recommend taking down contact info so that should something arise during the repair, you can confer with them about what the next course of action should be. Try to come up with a few options for a solution (with prices) and offer those. Then it’s in their court as to what to do.

3. Lay it out/Level with them
Once you’ve figured out what’s at fault with the piece, explain in clear terms what the means will be for you to repair it. This sort of falls into the Honesty section too—make sure you know that you can indeed provide these services. Also bear in mind any supplies you might need to order for the project and let them know about that.

4. Establish a time frame
After explaining what needs to happen and confirming that you can do it, figure out how long it will take to complete. Think about whether or not you will need to purchase supplies or not. Are the supplies available locally or do you need to order them? Or do you have everything handy in your work space? Do you have other projects that need completing before you start another?

5. Discuss Esthetics
As arty people, we always see new ways of interpreting design. However, try to quell this urge at first when it comes to repair. Remember the customer brought this to you because they love it and want it resurrected. So, talk with them about their favourite elements in the piece. Does it have a lot of a certain colour they love? A texture? Is there something they want changed about the item? This happens a lot—sometimes if something’s been broken for a long time and styles change, then you can flex those creative muscles a little and re-interpret something.

In my earlier example about the Tiger Tail necklace, my customer was so amazed with the fact that it could even be repaired that she gave me carte blanche with the clasp. I used a cobalt blue button! Simple, but in her eyes it was amazing, because I put my fingerprint on it in a way that also served to repair it.

My short answer for this issue is you want to recreate the essence of the piece in a vaguely new way—if you change things too much, the customer will lose their previous strong connection to the item and won’t want to trust you with other requests in the future.

6. Price
Ah, the age-old issue for all of us! This can be a deal-breaker, so be flexible. After you’ve done all your discussion about what’s the problem and any other changes the customer wishes, break it down into price points. It’s kind of like buying a car—it’ll cost this much more with leather seats than cloth. So, be honest once again, and offer them options. A simple repair with no design alterations can be as simple as, well, to continue the metaphor, labour plus parts.

But if they are willing to spend a little more, then you can add on the mag wheels and everything else that they might be wanting. But be clear and fair about things—treat it like a contract. But also report snags should you run into them and usually there isn’t a problem.

Deliver/ship the item at the appropriate time for the appropriate price.

Check out Danielle's video where she talks about her jewelry repair business and goes over a few examples of how she went about repairing client pieces including the pieces shown above.

Before You Go:
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 



  1. Very helpful post. I tend to hesitate to do repairs but this offers ways to make it easier.

  2. I find that taking a picture/photocopy before and after the repair of the entire piece and broken area(s) extremely important! This is helpful if a bit of time has passed from before to after and if there is an intricate pattern involved. Recording details of how the repair was done and what supplies were used is helpful in case there is a future issue. I know that this sounds a bit obsessive but my background is chemistry where the lab book was like a personal diary.

  3. Great tip, Roxann!

    Danielle confirms repair is a lucrative business. When I was teaching, a number of students did bring broken pieces to fix as they were still fond of the. So the need is out there.

  4. I have had the pleasure of repairing a number of pieces for friends and customers. It could prove to be a promising and lucrative business or a least a sideline that could supplement one's jewelry making business.

  5. This is a really good idea that many of us totally forget about. I have done a lot of repairs..mostly for friends and I rarely charge..except for a friend who owns a fine jewelry store who has this one customer that keeps bringing in very nice expensive pieces to have re-purposed. It's worked out well..I've even done trade work and gotten my wedding rings resized and my husbands wedding band fixed..the whole bottom shank had to be replaced. If I was braver I would advertise this service on my webpage..but I am always a little leery of the surprises I might get if I can only view the piece through pictures.

  6. Yes, it's absolutely critical to not take on a repair you're not sure you know how to do. I keep a list of people whose work I admire and who DO do certain types of repairs so that I can send the customer to them with all confidence. I haven't been making jewellery all that long, but one thing I discovered early on was to design my pieces so that they can be taken apart easily to be repaired or cleaned. This is something I look at when I'm judging what work needs to be done on a customer's broken piece, meaning that it may not be a simple case of replacing a clasp; the whole necklace may have to be restrung, as well -- which will add to the cost of the repair. In particular if my customer is older, I also take the opportunity to ask if they would like me to put on a larger clasp to make it easier to fasten. I sell at a weekly farmer's market and often am able to do the repair while they wait or I tell them to go do their shopping and come back in ten or fifteen minutes. People have told me stories of waiting months for something to be repaired at a jewellery store -- and all it needed was a jump ring to be replaced! I'd say 95% of what I do is simply replacing a clasp or -- literally -- closing a jump ring that pulled open when the necklace got caught in a sweater or something like that.

    Just heard of this blog last night at the Grand River Bead Society meeting. Looking forward to reading past posts.