What is Retipping?

Written By Allie Perry May 11, 2024

When you think of tipping, you probably think of waitstaff or service providers. Or maybe (but hopefully not) cows.

But what is retipping?

Simply put, retipping is the process by which faulty prongs on a piece of jewelry are rebuilt or reenforced. 

It’s a meticulous technique I (or a qualified jeweler) would use to restore the prongs that hold your gemstones securely in place on your rings, earrings, pendants, or any other jewelry pieces.

Did you ever build a snowman and have his head fall off, only to have to make a new head and carefully place it back on top of the body? Retipping is a lot like that, except 800º hotter and with precious metals instead of snow.

And while I fully realize that comparison may feel more unhinged than Abraham Van Brunt, the basic premise is the same; the main body was ok and didn’t need any repair, but the top became damaged and needed to be replaced.

Why would my jewelry need retipping?

Prongs are usually made of gold, platinum, or silver, and as they wear down over time it can potentially lead to the loss of your stones. Rebuilding or reinforcing any worn-out prongs, helps ensure that your gemstones remain safe and secure.

This what a prong should look like after some wear and tear.

There are lots of things that cause your prongs to fail, but the two most common are normal wear and tear, and breakage caused by incidental contact.

I’ve spent decades doing jewelry repair as part of my job, and most of the prongs I’ve retipped in my career had simply worn down. Depending on the metal the jewelry is made of, how frequently it’s worn, or how much incidental contact it sees, this wearing down may take years or even decades, but it eventually happens to every piece of jewelry.

This prong is worn almost completly off.

The highest points usually see the most prolonged damage, resulting in the tops of the prongs being worn down or worn completely off!

Here you can see how the inner prong is ok, but the outer prong is very worn.

Whacking your ring on something hard and breaking a prong off is another common culprit. Kids and dogs are also great at breaking jewelry!

What happens when my prongs get retipped?

The first thing I do with any piece of jewelry is carefully inspect it to determine the overall condition of the piece, and specifically the condition of the prongs and the tightness of the stones. If I see that any prongs are worn down or broken off, I will then decide if the prongs needs to be retipped (or replaced entirely…but that’s a much bigger job).

First, I clean up any remaining metal on the worn prongs. This could include filing it smooth, removing any flashing, or straightening any weak prongs that have been bent in a way that they are no longer holding the stone correctly. Then I’ll add new metal – that matches the original material – to the tips of the prongs by soldering it in place.  Some stones can be left in place for this process, but most need to come out of their setting so they aren’t damaged by the heat involved in the soldering process.

Once I’ve soldered on all of the new metal, I smooth out any joints or seams so the repair is invisible to the naked eye, and polish the entire piece to restore it to like-new condition.

Unlike Frosty’s emergency backyard surgery, retipping should only be done by a skilled professional.

How do I know if my prongs need retipping?

Most of my customers know their jewelry needs attention when it starts snagging on clothing all the time, or feels sharp to the touch.

You can learn to check your prongs yourself before your jewelry gets to this point, but your best bet is to get your jewelry checked and cleaned by a professional on a regular basis. It’s easier, more cost-effective, and less heartbreaking to perform preventative maintenance on your jewelry than it is to look down and realize one of your stones is missing!

Benefits of Retipping:

Retipping offers many financial and emotional benefits, and it’s a great way to preserve your jewelry and enhance its longevity.

Preservation of Sentimental Value: Retipping allows you to preserve the sentimental value associated with your jewelry by ensuring the original stones remain in place. This is especially important for jewelry you’ve inherited or hope to pass down to someone else.
Protection of Gemstones: By reinforcing the prongs, retipping helps prevent the loss of gemstones due to weakened settings.

Safety of You and Your Clothing: Thin or broken prongs are likely to lift up or stick out in ways they shouldn’t, causing them to snag on and damage your clothing, or scratch your skin. Retipping solves this problem.

Cost Savings: In many cases, retipping is a more cost-effective alternative to replacing an entire setting or purchasing a new piece of jewelry. If you do it before your stones fall out, it also saves you the additional cost of replacing any lost stones.

Customization Opportunities: During the retipping process, you can explore customization options such as changing the shape or style of the prongs, adding embellishments, or incorporating additional gemstones, allowing you to give your jewelry a personalized touch.

Conservation: In a world where disposable consumerism often prevails, retipping offers a great alternative that allows you to restore an existing piece and keep the jewelry you love.

Aesthetics: Making sure your prongs are in good condition helps your jewelry look its best!


What do I do now?

Now that you know all about what retipping is and why you need it, the best thing you can so is examine your jewelry for any signs of unusual wear, or bring it to a professional who can help.

Jewelry is a financial and sentimental investment, and maintaining a regular maintenance schedule is key to protecting that investment! 

Need some new jewelry while your other pieces are in the shop? Check out the one-of-a-kind handmade jewlery at Allie Perry Designs!


Allie is the owner and goldsmith behind Allie Perry Designs.

Learn more about her here, or connect with her on Instagram!

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