17th April 2024

How to Rework Your Heirloom Jewellery

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There is so much inherent beauty in the longevity of jewellery. Precious metals and precious stones existed in the Earth’s crust long before we were born, and will continue to exist long after we have moved on. Heirloom jewellery is so meaningful. It carries a lot of sentimental value to anybody who is lucky enough to own some. The sentimentality attached to heirloom items can become a quandary. Is it okay to wear and potentially damage a piece of family history? And what if granny’s ring simply looked better on her, and has dated since?

Deciding to repurpose heirloom jewellery for the modern wearer is not an out of the box idea. In the past, before modern mining techniques and mass production, it was a daily occurrence for jewellers to dismantle, re-set, and change pieces of jewellery. Jewellers updated items to reflect trends or the evolving tastes of the owner. Modern consumers are more prone to nostalgia than those in the past. This may be why this practice has become less common. It is also so much easier to purchase brand new jewellery now!

Now the trend for repurposing old jewellery is coming back into vogue. More people are feeling environmentally conscious. Whether it’s the royals resetting significant stones from their crown collection, to Emrata reusing the stones from her engagement rings to create brand new “divorce rings”, remaking the old into new is fast becoming a trend for the 2020s.

Why Should You Rework Heirloom Jewellery?

Melting down and reusing precious metals is already common practice in the jewellery industry. Indeed, it has been since jewellery making began. That’s not thriftiness – it’s common sense. All of the gold that humans have ever mined would make up a cube of around 20m each side – which is really not a lot. Platinum is even more rare. The world’s stock of platinum would roughly fill a standard living room. Palladium is even rarer still! The white metal is around 20x as scarce as gold.

Freshly mining precious metals, while still common, is not a long-term solution to the global demand for them. Not only does mining have a devastating environmental impact that destroys habitats and can often contribute to unfair labour practices in other countries, but there simply is only a finite amount of each resource available.

The practice of scrapping metals, smelting them down, and refining them to create brand new jewellery is one of the ways that the jewellery industry continues to thrive despite this scarcity.

Recycling precious metals does not have any impact on their purity or quality. The process to refine them is the same as the first refining process they went through when mined. It serves to remove any impurities rather than introducing them.

Precious stones can also be re-used, and commonly are. You might remember that recently, for the coronation of King Charles, several of the Cullinan diamonds from the Crown Jewels collection were re-set. They were placed into a re-worked version of Queen Mary’s crown from 1911 to be worn by Queen Consort Camilla.

A client’s unworn pendant that became a gorgeous, one of a kind engagement ring
The finished ring made from heirloom gemstones

When Should You Rework Your Heirloom Jewellery?

There really is no statute of limitations on how long you need to hold on to jewellery before you make changes to it. Jewellery should be worn! It certainly shouldn’t languish away in a box. If you have the budget available for some jewellery work, then why not put it towards upcycling something meaningful!

How Can Inherited Jewellery Become Modernised?

You can reimagine your heirlooms for the modern era in many ways. You can elect to have your jewellery completely dismantled and remade entirely. This will result in any piece of jewellery you can imagine! Once the materials are returned to their original state they can become something entirely new. This doesn’t have to be limited to one piece of jewellery either. Many people decide to repurpose several items at once to form one, new, significant piece. For example, your pieces could become a cuff that features a large amount of metal and several precious stones.

If this idea strikes fear into your heart, then don’t worry. There are more gentle ways that you can repurpose jewellery. One example could be removing earrings from their posts, and creating a matching ring and pendant set. This idea still makes use of the vintage settings. This allows the vintage heritage of your jewellery to remain intact, while still updating it for your current style.

You can also take inspiration from the practical and luxurious jewellery suites of the past. In the past, it was common practice to make convertible jewellery that could be worn at various occasions. Suites would often include a significant stone in it’s own setting that could attach and detach from various jewellery items. A common suite would include a necklace, tiara and ring. The sets were multipurpose. Each individual item could be worn alone or with the larger stone attached.

Our client decided that the engagement ring she was given did not quite match her style
So the metal, centre diamond, and side stones were repurposed to create a gorgeous engagement ring and complimentary stacking ring

Which Jewellery is Best to Rework?

Diamond Jewellery

While diamonds aren’t strictly rare, the market monopoly on them means that they may as well be. They can be hard to get hold of, and are expensive to buy new. Their hardness and durability also make them an ideal stone to reset.

Sapphires, Tourmalines, or Rubies

Much like diamonds, these stones are high on the MOHS scale. They are hard, durable, and ideal for resetting.

Broken or Incomplete Jewellery Sets

That single earring that rolls around in the bottom of your jewellery box? You may never find it’s pair again, but it is not a lost cause. For example, you can repurpose earrings as pendants. They could also be dismantled so that the stones can adorn something new like a wedding band.

Interested in reworking your heirloom jewellery? Contact our bespoke jeweller to discuss your pieces, and what you would like to create!