Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rhinestone Repair - Re-Foiling Rhinestones

Vintage jewelry, by nature, is usually quite old and will often have minor flaws and blemishes. Rhinestone vintage jewelry, in particular, is prone to various stages of wear, since the foil backing of a rhinestone can sometimes be damaged by moisture, or can easily get scratched if the stones are ever replaced.

Some rhinestone pieces are very valuable and worth the effort and cost of the restoration. There are several places that sell vintage rhinestones. One company that I have used and recommend is Matthew Ribarich's site called MrStones.

But what do you do when you have a vintage rhinestone piece that has badly damaged foil, you have searched high and low, and you still can't find a stone which will blend in well with the others?

Rhinestone foil backings such as those used by Swarovski and other rhinestone manufacturers involves a process similar to that used for the silvering of mirrors. The original process involves some tricky chemical processes. Actual silver is applied to the back of a mirror and then a paint-like coating is applied to protect the silver from oxidation and darkening. Re-silvering a mirror is a process often done and the end result is usually very satisfactory.

To duplicate the process with something as small as a rhinestone would take a miniature set up of the same process and would be quite specialized. You could contact a glass seller who resilvers mirros and ask them if they would undertake the job of resilvering your rhinestones. Don't be surprised if you are greeted with widened eyes and a dropped jaw at your request, since you may be the first person to ask them about this.

A curator at a nearby museum might be able to give you some names of those craftsmen that they use for preservation or restoration. These craftsmen who may know of some other techniques that will assist you. Obviously, this step would only be undertaken as a last resort and if the piece is particularly valuable and suitable for the expense of this type of repair.

If you have a piece which you adore which has damaged stones but it doesn't warrant the expensive of a professional repair, there are vintage rhinestone re-foil kits available. I have seen them on ebay, but haven't tried the product, so I can't guarantee that you will like the results.

Quite honestly, I would be surprised if there is a suitable paint easily applied which will blend well enough with the original silvering or golding. If you do decide to use this process, be sure to remove all of the old silver or gold coating first and then tackle the painting job.

If you do purchase this re-foil product and use it, please publish your results in the comments. I'd be interested to see how it works.


  1. Excellent article! I would like to re-blog it on my jewelry blog,, and would of course include a link back to your blog. May I have your permission? I have many other articles, and would love to be a guest on your blog.

  2. Sure Deena,

    Sure Deena. Please be sure to credit me with the information. I would prefer that your post not be word for word like mine, since google frowns on this and dings both parties when this is done. A partial copy with link to the remainder is fine.

    Thanks, Carol

  3. Excellent article! thank you.
    There is a car paint out by Alsa Corp called mirrachrome (might be two words) that does work really well. I was fortunate enough to have a neighbor friend who paints vehicles give me a wee bit to try on some damaged stones. Like you said, clean the remaing foil prior to the re-(painting)foiling is attempted. This stuff works so good I could see making regular pane glass into mirrored glass. Not PERFECT, but very satisfactory.
    Okay, that said, I need to go buy more jewelry :)

  4. Thank you, Carol and Anonymous! Hobby Lobby has Alclad for less than MirraChrome and I will go try it and post an update later.

  5. I searched all kinds of venues for this very problem...I finally ended up with a metallic paint pen. I will try that today and let ya'll know... wish I would have read this BEFORE my hours of shopping :)

  6. i just used a silver leaf kit from my local carft store(Michaels or Hobby Lobby) not expensive and easy to do by following the product intructions.

  7. Definitely some vintage rhinestones have a big value on it. I remember my grandma sell her one and only necklace in rhinestone shop. Now I was keeping all the things that have value in the future.

  8. Carol, I am a 40 year bench jeweler who had a problem with an irreplaceable large blue rhinestone. All of the products and methods, including silver foil, I tried were unsatisfactory, producing dull looking stones afterward. In desperation, after previously buying two other spray paints from Michael's Arts and Crafts, I found they had one by Krylon called LOOKING GLASS silver. I thought, what the heck, bought it and tried it. I had cleaned all the old foil off, first by using a silicone wheel to get the heavy outside coating of, then using a product called Zip Strip (Lowes) until it was entirely free of old paint. Then, after putting the stone upside down on a piece of paper, I lightly sprayed evenly from about 6 inches away.After it dried, I added 2 more coats. Miracle of miracles, this stuff works. I have photos of a clear rhinestone if anyone needs them. On the can it even states that this is formulated for glass and that it adds a sleek mirror effect to any glass surface. Where has this stuff been? Try it! Questions,?