Jewellery in Depth: Vintage Ring Remodelling Project

Jewellery remodelling is always great fun and really interesting.  As each of my clients have different tastes there is no set design offering. Sometimes it is as simple as reworking gemstones into an existing design, sometimes it might be overseeing a collaboration with the right designer. In this instance it started with a set of simple pencil drawings and worked its way into a CAD design, which in turn became a wax model and finally a stunning ring.

Why the case for ring remodelling?

These kind of stories are always interesting, and for those of you who are curious, here is the journey of a 1950s emerald ring remodelling as it became a modern and up-to-date piece of jewellery that my client could wear regularly.

1950s vintage emerald and diamond ring

It is quite common with jewellery remodelling, that clients have been gifted a ring, bracelet, pendant etc – from somebody who means a lot to them.  The jewellery is only meaningful because of the giver – and so remains in a box, unworn.  This was definitely the case with this emerald and diamond ring that had been left to my client.  It was a strong reminder of the person who had left it to her, but she herself wanted to be able to wear the ring daily, and the current design did not encourage her to do so.

New Beginnings – What you really, really want

The ring itself was an interesting piece of jewellery.  An emerald was surrounded by diamonds in a starburst kind of arrangement.  None of the stones were exceptional, but the effect was pleasing (although I was particularly unimpressed with the setting of the emerald, really badly done!).  I had the ring checked by a jewellery specialist, just to ensure that there were no details which could mean she had a historically important (and therefore very valuable) piece.  However unsurprisingly while it was interesting, it wasn’t like pulling a priceless work of art apart.  So we were good to go.

Next step was to get an idea of what my client would wear everyday.  She likes fairly graphic jewellery pieces, and of course the challenge here was a fairly detailed and fussy piece.  She wasn’t that keen on keeping any of the elements so I got sketching.

Visualising the perfect ring

The start to a project involves rough sketching..

Tapered baguette diamond ring sketch
Ring remodelling sketches of emerald ring remodelling
Earring concept sketch
Emerald ring remodelling favourite concept
Tapered baguette diamond ring sketch

My client showed me some of her favourite jewellery, and also images of pieces that she liked. If it had been that she liked a particular designer then we’d have probably approached them to work together.  As it was, she liked a lot of different looks, and we had to narrow down.

At one point we’d simplified down to simply using the tapered baguette stones, on another we looked at taking the emerald out of the question and making a pair of statement earrings with a fun coloured centre stone.  It doesn’t matter if we aren’t nailing it at this stage, because the images will generate loads of feedback and we can refine.

Eventually we got the design concept she wanted to take further.

The art of CAD (bringing the ring to life)

Once we had an approved concept it was time for CAD to do its magic.  I much prefer having a hand drawn sketch in the first instance, as CAD isn’t always the best at providing an accurate representation of the finished piece (it’s too perfect), but for a design like this – the size of every diamond matters, and the emerald too for that matter.

The CAD team started out with some stone layouts, which were obviously going to be wrapped around the ring, but were crucial to the overall design.  They ranged from very random, to very structured. My client picked the layout below.  At this point I had the stones framed and ‘set’ to provide a better idea of how the setting was going to look.

Stone layout needed to be decided on prior to CAD imagery

The preferred design was felt to be somewhere between ‘chaos’ and order!

ring stone layout
Emerald ring remodelling stone layout final

Having confirmed the stone layout, we could continue with the CAD model..

Emerald ring CAD drawing

The CAD design was the first time my client was able to see what her ring was going to look like.  It was a complex process, every diamond had been measured to ensure that they fitted the final design.  Great care had also been taken with the emerald, it was important to ensure a secure fit.

Ring Production

Cast ring setting for remodelling

A wax model was made of the CAD diagram, and from this the ring itself was cast.  It looks quite rough at this stage, and dull, but metal always does pre polishing, and as the ring was white gold as well, it was darker than platinum.  On the plus side, it was also lighter, and was going to receive an extra thick rhodium plating to ensure it gleamed.

There weren’t enough stones to run the full circumference of the ring, but a pattern had been traced on the base of the ring for consistency.  All that remained was to put everything together..

One emerald and diamond ring — remodelled

It all worked out beautifully...

Emerald and tapered baguette diamond ring
vintage emerald and diamond ring for remodelling
So just to jog memories, here is the original ring
Before and after rings
And here is the new version, with the original setting!
Client is happy!
It looks great worn.
The finished piece
We're really happy - it is a stunning ring.

Final notes

This was an involved and complex piece of remodelling, as there were a lot of stones to manage.  The ring took about two weeks to design and another week to render in CAD, another four days to produce the wax components and then cast, and two more weeks in the workshop being refined and polished.  Not every project is as demanding as this one, but we are obviously proud of the result, it is a very special piece of jewellery and is now being worn a lot.

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