It is possible to remodel gold engagement rings, and platinum too for that matter, but can you create a brand new engagement ring by melting the metal from your existing one? Read on...
Engagement ring remodelling is something that a lot of people haven’t heard of, but is a popular service we offer here at Heirloom.
If you are like most women in this situation, this isn’t a decision you’ve taken lightly, your ring means a lot even if it isn’t you. Ladies who have decided that they are not going to enjoy wearing their ring every day in its current incarnation, often feel very guilty. As soon as an engagement ring is slipped on their ring finger, it is more than just a piece of jewellery, it is a treasured keepsake. However, like an item of clothing, to enjoy wearing it every day, ideally it needs to suit your hands and your lifestyle.
In a way, the engagement ring is a very simple item. It is usually made from precious metals and hard wearing precious stones. These are easy to switch into a new ring design.
The challenge is the metal
I’m regularly asked by clients if I can make a new engagement ring from the metal of the existing engagement ring. The short answer is yes. The longer answer includes, “if you don’t mind spending more money”.
Unsurprisingly, this is often rather unexpected news which doesn’t seem to make sense. Looking at the situation simplistically from a client’s perspective, while the design may not be considered ideal, the components are precious and represent the value of the ring. So it should be simple, say for example it is a gold ring, and a solitaire diamond to be re-incarnated. The diamond can be used in a new design, and gold can be melted down. What could be the problem?
As we’ve covered in other blogs, stones are easily removed. But let us move on to the melting conundrum. Take our hypothetical 18 karat gold ring. 18 karats is 75% pure gold, and 25% additional metals which help with ensuring the gold is durable enough for everyday wear. We call this an alloy. Gold is an element, but we don’t know what the additional ingredients are. There are literally thousands of gold alloys in existence. Even going back to the same company who made the ring in the first instance doesn’t mean they are still using the same recipe. Mixing different alloys may not produce a strong new alloy.
For example, if we combine two types of gold it may soften the alloy. Technically, this will contaminate the entire gold investment. We also don’t know if the ring has been made from other rings which have already been melted down. There is a limit to how many times a ring alloy can be melted. The easiest way to explain this, is looking at melting chocolate, bizarre though this may seem..!
Who’s for fondue?
When I was little I used to love making Top Hats. For those of you unfamiliar with these heavenly treats, you take a marshmallow, dip the bottom into melted chocolate, add a blob on top and attach a Smartie.. Yummy! However, away from the memory lane, sometimes we’d have more chocolate than marshmallows. So we’d keep it to melt again. Sometimes we could get away with a second melting, but I learned pretty young that if we melted the chocolate too much, it seemed to curdle and wasn’t very good for dipping marshmallows into. You could even burn the stuff!
Obviously you can’t burn gold, but you can muck it up.. Pure gold can be melted to its liquid form with minimal side affects, because there are no other metals in it. So the gold can move between solid and liquid dependent on temperature. But when you alloy gold with other metals, each will behave differently when heat is applied, and also all have different melting points.
I could get even more technical, but I think I’ll leave the case here – melting a gold ring may weaken the metal, or change it slightly.
I don’t want to ‘mix golds’ though. Can’t you just melt my ring on its own?
Yes, but it depends what for:
We have and do melt down old jewellery and incorporate it into new pieces. BUT, and the key but here is, we use it in isolation from other metals or with very small metal additions. In the case of our case study where we remodelled an old gold wedding ring into an infinity symbol. The infinity symbol is made entirely from the old gold wedding ring. This works well.
Where more detail is required on an item of jewellery, and it can’t be made by hand is where challenges start. Casting jewellery is where hot metal is forced into a mould. It is the standard process for most jewellery today. The reason why it is usually carried out in bulk is that melting gold requires a large amount of energy, in order to turn it to liquid.
In addition with casting, more gold is required than is actually going to be used in the design. A cast piece of jewellery has to be refined, or ‘cleaned up’ and all the metal leftover removed. So in the event that somebody decided to go ahead, melt their gold ring down and remodel the piece, it would still require more metal for the mould. Metal which the client would have to pay for, because it would not be usable elsewhere once combined with their jewellery.
As a result, this price could end up being 10-50 times as much as the metal value! The cost of this exercise will inevitably be more expensive than buying a new engagement ring. And this is before we factor in the additional costs of making the ring.
This is always the bit that surprises clients, until they think about it from a practical perspective. The metal element of a ring will influence costs, of course. However the work that goes into producing a new ring is often as much or more than the metal price. It takes labour and skill.
The options for ring remodelling
So, this is the bad news aside, is there anything that can be done? Of course. We remodel gold engagement rings all the time and there are plenty of ways to make them better suited to individual tastes. In all honestly, it does depend on what you are looking for, and how many concessions you are willing to make.
Lets consider this ring:
1. Keep the stone setting
Sometimes, it is a simple tweak that will change the ring. In this example, the stone is felt to be a little stark against the shoulders of the ring.
The client is very attached to the ring, and wanted as much of it as possible to be involved in the creation of a new ring. She liked the sparkle of diamond shoulders. The shape of this ring would mean it wouldn’t be possible to set diamonds in the band itself (it is called an ‘apex’ or sometimes ‘knife edge’ band because the profile tapers to a soft edge), but we could keep the stone setting. It would come out looking a bit like this;
2. Keep the shank
An alternative option, would be keeping the actual ring band itself (called the shank) and setting the stone in a new mount. The first ring pictured has a good solid shanks we can reshape and rework, and combine with the collet style desired.
3. Recycle the shank and setting
The final option is to recycle the existing shank, and use the payment for this towards a brand new ring setting, retaining the diamond of course.
If requested, part of the original ring could still be incorporated, perhaps a tiny section being melted and added to the ring profile as small beads of metal. In some cases, we can still add a little metal to the new shank.
The majority of our clients choose a brand new ring design for their existing stones. They have to balance between costs, sentiment and style. However if the engagement ring owner is comfortable her fiance approves, she’s most keen to create a ring style which works for her.
The cost factor
For the majority of our customers, the desire is to manage the cost of remodelling an engagement ring. This is because their fiances are likely to have already invested in the original ring. This is what deters them from melting a ring down.
So it is better news that as we’ve seen, potentially there are ways to save parts of the original band, and still create something fresh and new. The best option from a financial perspective is to recycle the gold (or indeed platinum) from the existing ring, and use the income from this to create the ideal design. Whatever the choice you make, at least you have an idea of your options!