The all-too-familiar cycle of emotions experienced by anyone who has lost a piece of treasured jewelry.

Imagine glancing down at your left hand to see your prongs holding nothing but air. A vast expanse of nothingness where your center stone was only moments before. You frantically search the floor beneath you, scanning every surface and scouring every nook and cranny. But it’s gone.

Fortunately, this dreadful situation can be avoided with an ounce of prevention—if you know what to watch for.

Symptoms of a Loose Stone

The greatest fear of the newly engaged is losing that very precious, very expensive diamond ring. Aside from misplacing the entire ring, the center stone is typically the most vulnerable.

Center stones seem to disappear with no notice. But, to the slightly trained eye, there are a few warning signs when your jewelry’s about to break:

  • Too-Short Prong – If you notice one of your prongs appears slightly shorter than the others, or its rounded top seems to have narrowed, the security of your center stone may be at risk.
  • Missing or Bent Prong – Get to your jeweler ASAP if you have a prong so damaged that you can see with a naked eye that it’s no longer supporting the stone. Don’t try to bend it back yourself!
  • Shifted Stone – Is your center stone no longer sitting level? Does it seem to have rotated slightly? Either abnormality indicates your prongs are no longer holding the stone tightly enough.

Since the center stone is the most valuable, and often most vulnerable, portion of your ring, visit your jeweler for a repair as soon as possible if any of these symptoms arise.

Bracelet, Necklace and Earring Red Flags

Rings aren’t the only type of jewelry susceptible to wear and tear. Bracelets, necklaces and earrings all have common warning signs as well.

  • Damaged Clasps – Clasps that don’t close tightly, or require a little finagling to get just right, aren’t something to ignore. Your bracelet or necklace might seem secure, but even a small compromise in the integrity of the clasp puts your entire piece at risk.
  • Stretched Strands – Especially applicable to pearls, stretched out necklace or bracelet strands are a danger as well. If your pearls seem to hang slightly lower than normal, bring them in to your jeweler and ask about re-stringing.
  • Broken Earring Posts – Broken or bent earring posts make the earring backs less reliable. Realizing you’re unexpectedly rocking the one-earring trend may be second on the list of panic-inducing jewelry loss mishaps.

If you notice damage to your fine jewelry, noted above or otherwise, get to your jeweler as soon as you can.