What to know: You can usually find the name or number of a china pattern on the back of a plate. Before you approach a manufacturer or a replacement service about matching a piece of cut or etched crystal, take a photo or wrap a sheet of lightweight paper around a glass and make a rubbing of the design with a soft pencil. For silver, take a photo or make a photocopy of both sides of a fork (the back may bear a trademark or other info). Your insurance company may also offer replacement services for these items.
Where to go: Replacements, Ltd. (replacements.com), which offers free searches, claims it has the world’s largest selection of dinnerware―10 million pieces, some more than 100 years old, in 200,000 patterns, all at market prices. If this service doesn’t have what you need, it will notify you if your missing piece is found.
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What to know: The manufacturer’s name is key. “Take the fabric apart at the hem or seam and look behind the lining,” says Juliana Catlin, owner of Catlin Interiors, an interior-design firm in Jacksonville, Florida. If the manufacturer is unknown, Catlin recommends taking a digital picture and e-mailing it to major fabric makers (start with the “sources” section at the back of home-decorating magazines) to see if they recognize it as theirs.
Where to go: There are many fabric sites worth a try (thefabricfinder.com, fabrics.net, rickrack.com). If you need help, Catlin suggests making inquiries at upscale furniture or department stores with interior designers on staff. “They’re often willing to take on smaller jobs,” she says. You can also seek referrals on the American Society of Interior Designers website (asid.org/find). If you have the time for the auction site eBay (ebay.com), refine your search by using specific terms (“Michael Miller floral print fabric”).
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Paint and Tile
What to know: Many large paint stores can custom mix a close or even exact match for your color. All that you need is a sample about the size of a quarter. Matching tile is oftentimes a much trickier proposition, although you do have a few options.
Where to go: Lowe’s (lowes.com) and Home Depot (homedepot.com) offer free paint-matching services. “We can make a match 80 percent of the time, or we can find something very close,” says German Rosario, a paint and flooring specialist at the Lowe’s store in Jersey City. If you need only one replacement tile, head to daltileproducts.com, where you can browse through more than 75 tile collections and request a sample from the nation’s largest manufacturer of tile and natural stone products. If you can’t find a match, consider removing a tile from an unnoticeable area, such as a lower corner. (Warning: You’ll probably have to break several tiles for every whole tile you remove.)
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Toy and Game Parts
What to know: For items still in production, check first with the manufacturer. If you can’t find what you need through official channels, try a Web search (toy name + “parts”) or check eBay.
Where to go: To order parts from the world’s largest toy maker, Mattel, go to the Replacement Parts & Add-Ons Catalog in the Customer Service area of mattel.com. If your Scrabble set is short a few tiles or your Monopoly bank is running low on cash, the world’s second-largest toy maker, Hasbro, can help. Go to the Replacement Parts page on hasbro.com; you’ll find spare-part order forms to fill out and send in by mail or fax. Two specialty sites to keep in mind: toybrickbrigade.com, which offers thousands of new and used Lego parts, and kidswheels.com, which stocks parts for rideable toys.
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What to know: “As long as a manufacturer is still making your earrings, it’s usually not a problem to order a single matching one,” says Amanda Gizzi of the Jewelry Information Center, an industry association. If the piece is no longer produced, a good jeweler can sometimes make a close match. “In some cases, we can exactly duplicate a missing piece,” says Anne Blumer, a gemologist who helps oversee State Farm’s jewelry-replacement program. “Or if it’s a discontinued item, we can replace it with something very close.” For future losses, you may be able to add jewelry-replacement coverage to your home owners’ insurance policy.
Where to go: Ask your insurer about its replacement services―and make sure your most valuable pieces are adequately covered. Jewelers Mutual Insurance (jewelersmutual.com) deals exclusively with jewelry coverage, offering repair and replacement services for policyholders in the United States and Canada.
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Assemble-Yourself Furniture Parts and Tools
What to know: The makers of ready-to-assemble furniture usually keep plenty of spare hardware on hand. “A reputable manufacturer will be happy to send whatever you need,” says Thomas Nouis, owner of Assembly Required, a furniture-assembly service based in Shoreview, Minnesota. And hold on to instruction sheets―those for Crate & Barrel furniture, for example, list the serial number of each part. Ikea lets you pick up missing hardware right at the store, says company spokesperson Janice Simonsen. “You can also call Ikea’s toll-free help line and have your parts delivered within a few days in most cases,” she adds.
Where to go: For Crate & Barrel parts, call 800-606-6387; for Ikea, call 800-434-4532; for Kmart customer service, call 866-562-7848; for Target customer service, call 800-303-0308 (have the manufacturer’s name ready). Missing basic hardware? Nouis recommends picking up a close match at a good hardware store.
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What to know: Just about anything of interest is now inventoried online. Be sure to spell the author’s name correctly―or, if there are variant spellings (for example, Tolstoy/Tolstoi), use keywords from the title (“War,” “Peace”) and the name of the publishing house, if you know it. To find additional information that might help with a search, Kirsten Berg, a used-book buyer for Powell’s Books, in Portland, Oregon, uses the WorldCat database, which contains bibliographic records contributed by more than 50,000 libraries. Available through most libraries, WorldCat is generally free for library members.
Where to Go: Abebooks (abebooks.com) is an online clearinghouse for thousands of book dealers, including Powell’s, that allows you to search for new, used, rare, and out-of-print books at participating stores for free. You can also sign up for free automatic notification if the title or edition that you’re searching for is found.
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What to know: Make sure you haven’t overlooked the spare buttons that come with most new clothes. They were probably in a small bag attached to the price tag. No luck? “Tailors will try to find something close,” says New York City tailor Ramon Diaz. “But in most cases we’ll just replace all the buttons.”
Where to go: A good tailor with a bountiful spare-button stash. If you want to do your own legwork, visit eBay and search for “buttons” in the Crafts category (subcategory: Sewing Notions & Tools). At both ascuteasabutton.com and M&J Trimming (mjtrim.com), you can search through hundreds of available button styles. Tender Buttons, a New York City store, has thousands of buttons to search through; if you can’t visit, mail in a sample of the button you’re trying to match and the staff will conduct a search for you at no cost. Call first: 212-758-7004.