How to Wear Cherished Jewellery that is not Your Style

Update, remodel, restore or up-style the jewellery you love but can’t wear

What should you do if you have been gifted a piece of jewellery you can’t wear?

It could be said that antique jewellery is making a comeback, but I disagree, it never went away. Our relationship with jewellery revolves around ways of wearing that actually haven't changed much in the last hundred years, especially in this cost conscious society.
Antique jewellery is something which has deep intrinsic value. Passed on with love, it offers the wearer meaning and usually contains a story. But many pieces end up languishing at the back of a drawer as they are either too fragile to wear, or not to the wearer’s taste.

If it is just a diamond or other gemstone that you would like to re-house, there are lots of lovely contemporary designs you can choose from.

1.       Determine your priorities

If you have been gifted a 1920s Cartier brooch, but you don’t like the design, then it would make more sense either to keep the Brooch to pass on, like a work of art, or else to sell it, as certain jewellery designs always carry a value to them. Conversely, if you have been left a ring or pendant with an interesting stone in it, but little else to differentiate, then you are in a better position to consider up-cycling the design, or restyling it.

I’m not sure if my piece is valuable or not, how can I find out?

If you aren’t sure, take your jewellery to a registered valuer, or jeweller you trust, for a closer evaluation. We are very careful with pieces we receive, as the last thing we want to do is dismantle something that is really valuable in it's current format! We'd be happier recommending that if you don't want to wear it, you consider selling it, as the money that you receive could then pay for a new heirloom for yourself.

This is a late Victorian target pendant with floral detailing. It's is a beautiful piece of jewellery which also can be worn as a brooch. The stones are set in silver on an 18kt gold frame. As is, the client never wears it, the style not being anything that works with her style. It's nicely made, though not by a known jeweller and with no particularly artistry. Pieces like this will go for £2 - £4,000 at auction.

2.      Is it worth changing?

A few weeks ago a client showed me a pretty round ring, set with bright coloured stones. She wasn’t quite sure what they were, but she thought with some remodelling, they would make an attractive new ring. I wasn’t as sure, the stones looked very worn. Closer inspection revealed they were what is referred to as ‘paste’, or glass. Popular for imitating gemstones in the last two centuries paste jewellery was more affordable for a larger audience. Most paste jewellery is not particularly valuable. As such, remodelling the jewellery would not have created a piece of any greater value and the ‘stones’ would most likely have suffered further damage on removal.

The centre ring here has lovely bright gemstones, which are a stone indicator that they are made from glass. The setting itself is likely brass or silver with a gold vermeil applied. Rings like these are great fun, but not worth remodelling.

How do I know if my jewellery is paste?

We've written a bit more on checking your gemstones here. Paste jewels are brightly coloured, often more than the real thing! They may be foil backed in their setting (it increased the shine). Under strong magnification, you may see little air bubbles in the jewels. There is nothing wrong with them, but quite often they were set in brass which had been gold or silver plated too. Basically fashion jewellery of the time!

3.      Don’t change it – what are the options?

It is always worth considering how things might work together. A pair of eternity style bands create a frame for other ring shapes. Rings can also be stacked up. Chains can be wrapped around wrists, pendants reworked as charms or unwanted earrings lined up through a safety pin to create an unusual brooch.

How you wear your jewellery can change the feel of the actual piece. The old 1940s ring on the left is an old engagement ring. Wearer doesn't want to wear it as such. It's sentimental, being her late grandmother's, but the stones and ring have very little value. However flanking the ring between two delicate diamond bands, the stones appear to float, and the ring becomes much more interesting. In addition, the two rings can be worn separately or together, it creates a little wardrobe!

4.       Change It – What Now?

A 40th birthday present that was slightly off the mark (the downside of a pushy retailer not actually listening to what the client wanted!). We worked with our good friend Sarah Jordan to keep some of the elements of the original piece while remodelling them into a jewellery set that could be worn and enjoyed more often.

If you have been through the options, and decided that remodelling your jewellery is improve the appearance and enable you to enjoy wearing it then a lot of companies offer remodelling services. The options are;

  1. Adjust existing design to work more effectively. In the case of the Southern Indian earrings pictured below, we changed the posts to a Western style, to enable them to be worn. And in the case of this amethyst brooch, we restored it back to being a ring with a beautiful rose gold band with split shoulders.
  2. Incorporate elements into a different design. This is the most cost effective way to upcycle into a new design, and is good when you have precious stones you’d like to reuse. The pendants at the start of this article are often a popular choice for reusing diamonds.
  3. Incorporate elements into a design made for them, as in the case when a client received a necklace as a gift that wasn’t to her taste. In the image above we partnered with Sarah Jordan, to produce a unique designer creation, including earrings which could be dressed up or down with the necklace elements.
Fun little project for clients (in addition to their wedding rings!) to remodel some ear studs bride had been gifted from family. Stud pegs can be thicker in some Indian jewellery because it stopped the heavy gold rolling in the ear. Unfortunately it meant these very pretty earrings were unwearable! The good news was that the amount of gold taken out of the earrings made a very significant dent in the project budget!

5.      Can I have a piece made with the metal in my existing jewellery?

It is a nice idea to try to hold on to the metal which is already in existence and it's not impossible. It takes a lot of energy to melt metal and in addition, once melted, sometimes it will become increasing brittle and fragile when there is uncertainty around the alloy. To get back to the original strength the metal would need to be completely refined. This uses a massive amount of energy, and correspondingly cost. We've written more about it here. It all depends on the project.

The left hand image shows a platinum eternity ring where the metal sides are very worn, and starting to compromise the diamond security. We used the original metal and added more to rebuild the shank and make it stronger. Because the shank was remade by hand, this was possible.

Final Thoughts

Always live with the jewellery for awhile before you you do anything. It is not different to when you embark on a big DIY or refurb project, you want to know how it will work for you. I suggest you always decide whether you want to wear it or not after you have given it a really good clean, and actually have lived in it for a few weeks. Sometimes you might be surprised.

For everything else, there are solutions and options - get in touch!

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