There’s nothing more special than a family heirloom packed with sentimental memories and meaning. But if said ring is sitting in your jewelry box because it’s not your style or feels outdated—or maybe it’s your own engagement ring that you’ve outgrown—it’s time to give it a new life. Luckily, updating your engagement ring or wedding stack over the years is totally normal. You’re probably not wearing the same fashion styles you wore five or fifteen years ago, so your ring preferences may change just as your closet does. After all, jewelry should be worn and enjoyed, not packed away!
“What’s so beautiful about repurposed jewelry is that the wearer gets to enjoy an old piece that has sentimental value, but in a way that speaks to their own personal style and aesthetic,” shares luxury jewelry designer and diamond expert, Stephanie Gottlieb. “It honors the original and the new wearer at the very same time.”
Meet the Expert
Stephanie Gottlieb is a luxury jewelry designer and diamond expert known for her unique and bespoke pieces. She is the founder of the popcorn-cut diamond engagement ring and has created pieces for celebrities, including Britney Spears and Sam Asghari’s wedding bands.
If you’re looking to upgrade an old ring or create a custom design with elements from a family piece (and have the approval to do so), there are a few guidelines and best practices you’ll want to know before heading to the jeweler. We’ve tapped Stephanie Gottlieb, a total pro at ring revamps, to share some of her wisdom regarding reviving outdated settings, stones, and so much more.
How to Give Your Old Ring a New Life
So you’ve got the ring, necklace, or brooch you want to transform—what now? It can feel super overwhelming to land on the perfect ring, but you don’t have to rush to figure it out. Gottlieb recommends first scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest to see what catches your eye, then saving the designs that spark joy as references for your jeweler. After that, it’s only a matter of refining a few key elements.
Zero in on your design choices.
“We tell our clients to think about how much change they want to make,” Gottlieb says. “Some of our clients want to completely change the look and feel of the ring, and often they want something less traditional, or less ‘bridal’ feeling as they enter a new phase of their life.”
Ask yourself, do you want a more glamorous ring? Something simple? Are you drawn to platinum or yellow gold? According to Gottlieb, you should figure out those design details before starting the process, including whether or not you want to add colored gemstones or side stones, deciding if you’ll be wearing it with a band, and choosing between a traditional or fashion-forward aesthetic.
Focus on larger and more valuable stones.
If you’re bringing in a family piece that feels outdated or just isn’t your vibe, Gottlieb says it’s best to focus on reusing the larger stones. “We focus the design on accommodating the more valuable elements from the piece, and then decide if the smaller (usually pave) diamonds can be used to support the new design or perhaps are better suited for a separate piece like a new wedding or stack band,” she explains. “It’s always important to consider the quality of the stones to make sure that nothing is chipped or damaged before designing a new piece for those stones.”
A popular approach has also been to recreate the original look of your ring, but with a more modern setting, like adding side gemstones for a three-stone design. Ask your jeweler what they would recommend and get creative with the process “Over the years, technologies and techniques have improved, so modern jewelry designs are often more refined and less clunky than older pieces,” she adds.
Don’t be afraid to use multiple jewelry pieces.
You can easily incorporate pendants, pins, necklaces, and earrings into a new ring too. Did your grandma have a special necklace she always wore and you’d like to include that in your piece? It’s totally possible. “What we usually do is remove all stones from each piece, assess the quality, and match stones that will work nicely together,” Gottlieb explains of the process. “You’d be surprised by what we can create from stones taken from multiple different pieces. Matching the quality and scale is the most important consideration when mixing stones.”
Important Jewelry Considerations to Remember
There are a few things to note before you hand over your piece to be revamped. “We generally do not reuse metal from an old piece of jewelry,” says Gottlieb. “It tends to create a new gold material that has a lot of porosity, which makes it quite difficult to work with and unstable for everyday wear. Any stones with obvious chips, cracks, or abrasions are also generally avoided.” Furthermore, if repurposing a family heirloom would ultimately harm the piece too much (and in turn break your heart) it’s probably best to reconsider.
Gottlieb notes that diamonds are the easiest to work with because they withstand wear and tear better than softer gemstones. However, pieces made of small pave diamonds aren’t always worth the revamp. “Much of the value and expense of creating a pave set piece is in the labor to set all of the small diamonds,” she explains. “The diamonds themselves usually cost the same amount of money to replace, so you’re better off buying a new complete [ring] than trying to rework a piece that uses lots of little stones.”
And for brides rocking a family heirloom as an engagement ring, but looking to give it a subtle upgrade, Gottlieb notes that many of her clients are pairing their old rings with a separate gemstone or diamond for a “Toi et Moi” look. “This is especially common when a bride doesn’t love the diamond shape she inherits for her engagement ring,” Gottlieb shares. “She can pair it with the diamond shape she does prefer, and get her ‘something old’ and ‘something new’ all in one.”
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