ARK Angels Repair Your Family Heirlooms
This husband-and-wife team will repair—exquisitely, artistically—jewelry and household objects that are precious to museums, to collectors, or to you.
When Rena and Anatoly Krishtul, the wife-and-husband team who founded ARK Restoration and Design, arrived in the U.S. from the Ukraine in 1979, they came burdened with debt. “If you left the Soviet Union,” Anatoly explains, “you had to pay the government back for your schooling.” Little did they know that very training would bcome the cornerstone of a new business.
Bereft of all of Rena’s family treasures, they bought “damaged treasures” at flea markets and antiques shows because they had the know-how to fix their new possessions: Rena had advanced training in glass and ceramic design; Antoly had training in civil and industrial engineering. With the kitchen serving as their lab, they repaired their imperfect collection. When they showed these marvels to the very vendors from whom they had purchased them—well, voilà! They had a business. Eventually, well-known collectors and established dealers—like Hyde Park Antiques, Ltd., Kentshire Galleries, Newel, LLC, and the dealers David and Jack Seidenberg—became clients. But so did people like you and me.
They now work out of a 3,000-foot atelier on West 37th Street, and there is little I wouldn’t give them to fix. Over the course of some 15 years, they have saved my rhinestone-encrusted designer Lucite bracelet—expensive for costume jewelry, but certainly not precious; my father’s apothecary mug (not costly at all, but since he was a pharmacist, it means a great deal to me); the Royal Copenhagen Golden Retriever presented to my dog from his best canine pal, which sustained a compound fracture at the hands of my cleaning lady. (All repairs cost me about $75 and up, depending on their complexity.) Lastly, they restored my mother’s pink lusterware, two-chambered vegetable bowl with a broken handle that needed repairing, matching of the colors, firing, and other fixes. Cost: $400.
“We will not turn anybody down,” notes Anatoly. He encourages people to email him digital images of their problem pieces (email@example.com). “It’s impossible to quote prices and make decisions without actually seeing an object, but JPEGS are a good place to begin, and I always say that the starting price is zero.” And, despite a roster of museum-and collector-clients, he and Rena still do what were, early on, bread-and-butter repairs—things like chipped tea cups, cracked candy dishes, banged metal cachepots, and the like: Butter-fingered cleaning ladies and acrobatic cats are their patron saints.
But ultimately, the consumer must decide, “Is a repair worth it?” This is costly work, and regardless of whether your piece is a very pricey heirloom or a cherished trinket, the same effort almost always has to go into reassembling the wreck. However, Rena is quick to point out that if there is a way she can make the repair less costly, cutting a proverbial corner, she will find that method. A broken (three main pieces and lots of shards) 18th-century teacup recently cost $400 to repair. It was a simple cup, but it had great value...and still required delicate gluing, filling in broken parts, matching a pattern, hand-painting the new sections, gilding, glazing, and of course, the knowledge and expertise of Rena's seasoned hands. Putting back together the Humpty-Dumpty–like parts of a prized, 9-inch-tall Tiffany vase was a “reasonable” $2,500 repair, especially after you consider that it had shattered into eight pieces. A signed piece of American art glass recently cost $1,500 to make whole, but a price well worth it, given the value of the original.
Metal and jewelry work is another arena of repair/restoration that is rapidly becoming a significant portion of ARK’s business. “Very few people are equipped with the knowledge and proper supplies to engineer a metal repair, say, to a Georgian ring, or a Renaissance pendant,” adds Anatoly. “You need to know its history, how it was constructed, and you must have the right materials, metals, and supplies to do the soldering and other repair work.” Think of ARK as the jeweler’s jeweler, ready to take on any challenge.
Recently a tearful customer presented an engagement ring that had been completely ruined by a neighborhood jeweler—a $60 repair. The stone alone was a five-carat, $20,000 sapphire, set with diamonds on the sides. The first jeweler attempted to repair the basket setting but had, in essence, destroyed it, scratching the stone in the process. The entire platinum setting had to be remade—the basket and the prongs, among other issues; and the stone had to be repolished. (This was a $4,500 job, but now the ring is better than new.) Another client came in with a platinum wedding band (in pieces!) that had gotten mangled in the sink garbage disposal. Putting that back together, adding a section, reshaping what was distorted from the accident, and filling in the personal inscription on the inside was $400.
A very challenging repair was a Renaissance cross that had been smashed and become misshapen. Again, the client had opted for a local, less-than-skilled repairer who had ruined the cross: He had burned the enamel, worsening the original damage. ARK had to straighten out the damage, add metal, strip the burned enamel and match the colors in order to re-enamel a much larger section, and restore everything else that had been damaged. (The process cost $3,000.)
Rena loves to take apart and reconfigure old jewelry, refashioning the parts into something innovative and fresh. She is an exceptionally gifted designer, with an iconoclastic vision and the talent and adroit hand to execute it. So, if you have Grandpa’s old tuxedo studs and cufflinks, let Rena help you turn these into, perhaps, a modern necklace. If you have a stash of Great Aunt Emma’s old mine-cut diamonds in sundry pins, let her fashion a new, show-stopping “trinket” for your wrist.
Regardless of what you bring them, this duo will rise to the occasion, and you will also find that you have made two new friends.
Ruth J. Katz is currently the Style Editor of Promenade magazine and has covered service, shopping, and design for more than 20 years as an editor at Redbook, Colonial Homes, Classic Home, The Modern Estate, and New York Home magazines; she wrote for many years for The New York Times and New York magazine and appeared weekly on Fox TV as the Home Services Editor. She is the author of five books.