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Fixing the chips in antique crystal stemware is not a DIY project

A reader wants to remove the chips on the rims of antique crystal stemware goblets.
A reader wants to remove the chips on the rims of antique crystal stemware goblets. (Reader photo)
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Q: I inherited these beautiful antique crystal stemware goblets. As you can see, there are chips on the rims, some deeper than others. What are my options for having them repaired in the D.C. area?

Bethesda, Md.

A: Your question is in the same vein as many that will probably come up as people tackle deep-cleaning or organizing as a way of being productive while being cooped up at home because of the coronavirus. Maryland, Virginia and the District are under stay-at-home orders, so unless you can mail the items to a craftsperson (possible for some), this might be a repair best tackled once the pandemic has passed. But luckily, there are plenty of craftspeople who can help.

Giovanni Nason, owner of Glass and Crystal Restoration Center in Potomac, Md. (301-340-2624;, is set up to make chips on the rims of crystal goblets and other glasses disappear. He typically charges around $30 per piece to grind off a rim far enough to remove all traces of the damage, although the exact charge varies depending on the size of the chips. When he’s done polishing the glass, the goblet looks like new, he says, except that it’s slightly shorter. The difference usually isn’t noticeable when the glasses are spaced out on a table.

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There are do-it-yourself methods for dealing with chips on a rim, including using a diamond file, sandpaper or even a nail file. The DMT five-inch Half Round Diamond File ($16.46 at Home Depot) is being marketed specifically for rescuing crystal and glassware. DMT’s Crystal Saver Diamond File ($23.99 at Woodcraft) is similar.

The files have diamond abrasive particles averaging 45 microns across, roughly equivalent to 325-grit or somewhat finer sandpaper, depending on which unit-conversion tool you use. In comparison to other glass grinding and polishing abrasives, this is considered coarse, allowing the files to cut relatively quickly. The rounded side works inside the rim, while the flat side might be more useful on the outside. Stroke the file back and forth without adding a lot of pressure, as if you were filing a fingernail. You can file the glass dry or wet, but as with any diamond abrasive, use water, not oil, if you want lubrication.

Filing over sharp edges by hand can be a useful emergency fix if you notice a chip as you are preparing for a party where you desperately want to use all the glasses you have, because it could prevent someone from cutting a lip. But it won’t give the same results that a pro would get with an array of grinding and buffing wheels. The filed area will look frosted, not gleaming. You might be able to reduce that by using progressively finer and finer abrasives and polishes, but the chips will still be there. And seeing the damage every time you use the goblets will inevitably diminish your pleasure in using the pieces you’ve inherited.

“No, no, no!” Nason said when asked if there is a good way for people to deal with chips themselves. “It’s like if you say, ‘I will use my own wheel to grind my teeth.’ ” He has heard stories of people who thought they could put chipped crystal goblets in a hot oven to melt the glass enough to make chips disappear. That doesn’t work, either.

Nason gets backed up as Thanksgiving and other holidays approach, but he is still in business now, typically turning around jobs in three or four days, because he works from a basement shop at his home. People can call ahead and drop off or pick up pieces from his porch, or they can mail them.

David Sim, owner of Nonomura Studios (202-363-4025;, which specializes in Asian art and antiques, repairs a wide variety of decorative items made of porcelain, pottery and ivory. “I do repair out of my home shop now so we are using mailing method for delivery,” he wrote in an email.

And there are surely other repair-minded craftspeople who are only too happy to be reached by phone or email. After all, they’re stuck at home, too.

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