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3 Ways to Restore Heirloom Jewelry

Re-furbished wedding set that was originally worn by our clients mother

For many people, the most symbolic piece of jewelry they will ever wear are their engagement rings and wedding bands. Not too long ago, the rule of thumb was for the groom to spend 1 – 3 months’ salary for an engagement ring. However, as more brides and grooms are no longer wishing to start their married life strapped in debt they are opting for more economic options that are just as symbolic and meaningful to them.

One option is to propose with an engagement ring that was originally worn by the bride or groom’s mother or grandmother. In addition to lower cost is the added meaning of wearing something that belonged to a loved one. When done right, a re-purposed ring can look every bit as good as the ring purchased brand new and last just as long. Here are 3 ways to do it, from lowest to highest cost:

Our clients mother's wedding set before we refurbished it.
Re-furbished wedding set that was originally worn by our clients mother

This vintage engagement ring set was originally worn by our clients mother. The image to the right, depicts the refurbished set, where we upgraded the center diamond, re-tipped worn prongs, replaced missing accent diamonds, re-polished and finally re-plated the set to the look of a new one.

  1. Resize and Refurbish – If she likes the style, this will be the lowest cost. However, there are some things to consider:

  • Does the ring need to be resized? - If the ring needs to be resized, you’ll need to have a qualified jeweler examine it to see if it can be resized. Some older rings may have already met their limit on resizing or the metal on the shank has worn down so much that it can’t be resized without replacing the shank or remaking the ring. If the ring has diamonds all the way around the shank it may have to be remade.

  • Check for cracks in the metal – Although many cracks can be filled in by a jeweler. You’ll want a jeweler that will examine these cracks for a more serious problem such as porosity. Porosity is a result of improper casting, which creates tiny bubbles (pits) within the metal itself. Sometimes this porosity doesn’t cause any problems for years. However, if cracks are developing because of porosity, the ring may have to be re-made.

  • Check for missing or chipped stones. – Small melee (accessory) stones can often be replaced with little cost. If you have chipped stones, you should consider replacing them as well.

  • Check for broken or worn prongs – Again, not a huge cost but necessary if you want to give her a ring without worrying about stones falling out. Most qualified bench jewelers are capable of re-tipping prongs. Although, you’ll want to find out if the jeweler will guarantee their work. We guarantee our work. If a stone we replace were to fall out, we’ll replace it free of charge.

  • Re-polish – Gold rings tend to wear down and accumulate dents at a faster rate than platinum rings. While, platinum will accumulate a lot of scratches over the years without ever wearing down. If the gold has worn down too much it must be repaired, re-shanked or re-made. If not, a good re-polishing may be all it needs to make the ring look new again.

  • Re-plate - If the ring is white gold it may need to be rhodium plated again. White gold is an alloy that contains gold and silver or nickle. However, most white gold alloy is electroplated with rhodium (a platinum group metal) to give it it's silvery white finish. Over the years this plating wears of and the ring must be re-plated to return it back to it's original appearance.

  1. Upgrade or change stones – Changing the center diamond to a larger or higher quality diamond may be a lower cost option than a complete makeover while preserving the symbolic meaning of the gift. The original diamond could also be used in another piece of jewelry as well, such as a pendant. Or, you could change out the original diamond for a colored gemstone that matches her favorite color.

  2. Complete Makeover – Some people may feel uncomfortable with the idea of changing the ring that was once worn by their loved one. However, an engagement ring is a ring most women will wear every day. If the older ring isn’t a style you or your fiance won’t want to wear every day for the rest of their life, then you may want to consider modernizing the ring. A makeover can be as simple as making a few changes to the existing ring to a more complete makeover that involves pulling all the stones, melting down the metal and recreating a new ring out of the materials from the original one. The cost, although higher than the first 2 options, may still be considerably lower than a new ring, as long as you're reusing all the original materials in the new piece.

Clients original pieces she wanted re-purposed into new pieces
New pieces for client re-purposed from older pieces.

The gold and pearls from our clients pieces, in the above image to the left, were re-purposed to make the earrings and cross in the above image to the right, while the amethyst were saved for a future piece.


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