The Ultimate Guide to Reusing, Recycling & Repurposing Jewelry
Meta Description: Everything you need to turn your inherited, broken, or old jewelry into new treasures with the ultimate guide to recycling & repurposing jewelry. (145 characters and spaces)
We all have old jewelry that we do not love but do not want to let go of, either. Whether it is a memento from a former relationship, a piece you inherited, a gift from a loved one, or a trendy piece you bought for yourself that has not stood the test of time, jewelry repurposing can give it new life.
Table of Contents
1. What Jewelry Can You Repurpose?
A better question might be: What jewelry CAN YOU NOT you repurpose? With a qualified, experienced jeweler as your partner, jewelry remodeling and redesign is limited only by your imagination. The quality materials in old watches, chains, bracelets, rings, pendants, pins, cufflinks, tie pins, earrings, and more can receive a wow-worthy makeover.
Old rings can be made into new rings, or you might opt to convert a dated ring into a daring necklace. What else is possible? Turn a gaudy ring into a gorgeous bracelet, make bold earrings out of boring cufflinks, or transform a clunky pendant into a celebratory anniversary band.
Broken jewelry is also a candidate for repurposing and redesign. Depending on the style and components in your old jewelry, you may be able to create one new piece out of several old items, or several new items out of one old piece—it is all up to you and your imagination.
2. Waste Not, Want Not: Jewelry Recycling for Sustainability
Beyond the exciting possibilities of bringing a tucked away gem into the light again, repurposing metals and stones is an environmentally friendly way to create unique jewelry that makes a perfect gift—either for yourself or someone else.
Recycling jewelry metals and upcycling gems is not a new concept, but it is one that has gained in popularity as the reality of mining’s impact has become more evident. Repurposing gems that cannot be sustainably or ethically obtained may, in some instances, be the only possible approach to attaining jewelry with certain components. Most jewelry designers, for example, will not create new coral jewelry because of the impact on the coral reefs.
Colored stones, such as rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, are also non-renewable. Their durability, however, makes them ideal for repurposing and redesign. It is extremely common for these stones to be reset into new jewelry as they are passed down through generations of a family. A famous example of such a stone is the sapphire brooch given to Princess Diana by Queen Elizabeth, which Diana then fashioned into a pendant at the center of a pearl necklace. The diamonds from the pendant now grace the hand of the Duchess of Sussex as part of her engagement ring.
3. For Something Old AND New, Redesign Old Jewelry into the Perfect Engagement Ring
Considering an engagement ring? Repurposing diamonds and gemstones is a sustainable and affordable option for designing your own engagement ring. Whether you inherited jewelry and want to repurpose it into an engagement ring, or you bought a vintage ring that needs some TLC to be brought back to life, upcycling gems into new wedding jewelry is not only a sustainable approach that will save you money, but also one that will carry the history of inherited pieces from one generation to the next.
Resetting an heirloom diamond or gemstone
Resetting an heirloom ring is an excellent way to keep the history and tradition of family jewelry alive while still creating a design that is a perfect fit for your style. If you have inherited jewelry with quality materials, you may be able to reset the stone into a new setting and potentially have the metal recast, as well. If you only wish to reuse the gems, many jewelers will recycle the metal and discount the value from the cost of creating a new ring. You may also want to develop additional new designs with the metal, or save it for future repurposing or resizing.
If you are considering an engagement ring with a reset diamond or gemstone, start with finding the right jeweler. If your family has a trusted jeweler, it is likely that they are already familiar with the piece you are looking to redesign and may even have created the item initially - this is not at all uncommon among our Carats & Stones clients, many of whom have been customers for three or four generations.
Creating new jewelry from old jewelry
Not all candidates for upcycled engagement and wedding jewelry are inherited. You may have found the perfect stone at an estate sale, secured within a setting that is not your style. Or perhaps you found the perfect vintage setting with a stone that is not quite what you had hoped for. Even earrings, brooches, necklaces, bracelets, and other vintage or estate jewelry can offer the metals or gemstones that are a perfect fit for your one-of-a-kind engagement ring.
If you have already bought the jewelry that contains the components you would like to refashion into an engagement ring, we recommend having a certified jewelry appraisal to confirm the quality of the materials; your custom jewelry designer may be able to complete this appraisal for you. Once you are confident that you have the materials you want, you’ll need to find a custom jewelry maker near you to help bring your ideas to life.
Many jewelry designers use on-screen designs and computer software as their only tool. While we agree that there is value in using the latest technology to ensure your plans are brought forth just as you envision, we believe that seeing jewelry on a screen and seeing it on your hand are different and equally necessary experiences. Because of this, we combine our use of new technology with our traditional, tried and true approach so that you can experience the size and weight of your design in addition to seeing it on a screen.
4. Ideas for Old Wedding Rings: Create a New Future, No Matter the Past
Are you looking to transform a piece of jewelry with negative memories attached to it into a treasured new design you can feel more positive about? After a divorce, many are left wondering what to do with their wedding jewelry—redesigning your wedding ring after a divorce is an excellent way to celebrate you and your new life!
Signal a fresh start and take your wedding and engagement rings out of your jewelry box and back into the world with a design that is brand new and all about you. New metals can surround old settings, or you can use the metals and gems from your old jewelry to create something novel with a life of its own. Whatever your heart desires, incredible jewelry can come from recycled materials regardless of what they used to symbolize.
Turn an old engagement ring into a new necklace and earrings
The only limit to what you can create with your old wedding jewelry is your imagination. While many choose to form a new ring for their right hand out of the materials from their engagement and wedding rings, others prefer to use the materials to create entirely new custom designs.
An engagement ring similar to our Julianna engagement ring design, for example, provides plenty of opportunities to create one or more new pieces of jewelry, as seen here:
Reusing diamond jewelry for asecond marriage
While not everyone is comfortable with it, many couples who consider reusing the diamonds from their previous wedding jewelry to create a new design for a second marriage. Among those who are uncomfortable with the idea, the most common reason given is superstition or a belief that the stone is now attached to a “failed” marriage.
In reality, it is likely that one or more people wore every diamond you have ever owned. Even if a stone has been in your family for generations, it’s unlikely that it wasn’t in circulation before your family took ownership of it. Nearly every diamond that has ever been mined is still in circulation, and approximately 1 in 10 diamonds sold today are pre-owned.
If you have invested in quality diamonds or gemstones and do not hold superstitions about reusing the items, there is no reason not to consider the possibility. After all, you chose the materials for your previous wedding jewelry because you loved them and would be happy to wear them every day. If you included heirloom diamonds or gems in your original engagement ring and wedding band, you might be even more inclined to incorporate them into the jewelry for a second wedding.
If you are planning to propose and are considering reusing the materials from a previous marriage, however, you should discuss this with your partner. While it may be important to you to incorporate your heirloom items in some way, if your partner will be the one to wear them, their comfort and feelings should take top billing. If you are both in agreement that repurposing your old wedding jewelry is the way to go, your trusted jeweler can help you design an entirely new ring using the old materials so that it will fit your partner’s style and finger perfectly.
5. Upcycled Jewelry Ideas to Take Jewelry From Trendy to Timeless
Need an updated style? We have all seen the trends in fashion come and go, and the same goes for jewelry. The aesthetic from one era does not always translate well into the next, but it might take less than you think to make the conversion.
Just like taking the shoulder pads out of a smart business suit from the 80s, updating a piece of jewelry can be as simple as adding a new chain to upgrade an old pendant, or swapping in a modern setting for an old stone. Custom jewelry designers can transform a simple design into a showstopper, or a flashy one into flawlessly understated.
Jewelry redesign lets your jewelry grow with you
While many will think of inherited jewelry or old wedding jewelry when they hear of jewelry redesign, it is not uncommon for adults to redesign the jewelry they received when they were children or teens. The styles that suited you at the age of thirteen is unlikely to be the same as the style you prefer at the age of 31, but that does not mean that the gifts you received in your youth have to go unworn.
It is not uncommon at all for us to make custom jewelry for our San Francisco customers using the gifts they received for their confirmation, Bat Mitzvah, Sweet Sixteen, or high school graduation as the foundation. Many parents and grandparents who are shopping for younger people in their lives will purchase gifts with future repurposing in mind.
A pendant design such as our Stella diamond and rose gold star necklace, for example, does not have an age limit. However, should the recipient lose her fondness for the star design or grow to prefer a different metal, it can be repurposed into a new piece in the future that carries all the sentiment of the occasion but which is a better fit for their updated taste:
6. How Many New Pieces of Jewelry Can You Make?
While many people think of jewelry repurposing as a one for one trade off, this is often not the case. It is just as common to use the materials from one piece of old jewelry to create several new pieces. And in our decades as one of the most trusted family jewelers in San Francisco, we have just as frequently designed one new piece of jewelry from several old or broken pieces of unwanted jewelry.
The best way to answer the question “How many new pieces of jewelry can I create with my old jewelry” is to gather up all of your unworn or broken items and bring them in for a free consultation. We can appraise each piece and identify which materials are candidates for repurposing, which can be recycled, and help you get a sense for what is possible to recreate from them. The examples below will help you get a sense of what may be possible, as well.
How to Repurpose One Tennis Bracelet into Four New Pieces of Jewelry
When repurposing jewelry, there is no reason to create one new piece for each item you intend to repurpose. Often, a single piece can be upcycled into several new designs that create a coordinated jewelry suite, or into a series of different items for yourself or other members of your family.
A tennis bracelet such as the Cinque Terre from our designers at Carats & Stones, for example, contains 35 brilliant white diamonds totalling nearly 4 carats and offers a world of possibilities and can be used to create several different pieces for yourself or to be given as gifts to your loved ones, as seen in this example:
How to Repurpose Several Pieces of Jewelry into One New Piece
If you have several pieces of unworn jewelry, whether inherited or otherwise, you can often use their materials to create one new piece that is a better fit for your style. Before you begin redesigning in your head, however, you should know that some smaller gemstones can be difficult to recover and reset, and stones which are damaged or have many blemishes or inclusions may not be candidates for repurposing.
Your jeweler can examine your unworn jewelry and help you understand what is possible based on each item’s condition. Together you can create a new design that you will be glad to wear out of the house instead of relegating it to the back of your jewelry box. If you have a drawer full of unworn rings in your jewelry box because you do not wear rings anymore, for example, you might consider repurposing them into a pair of earrings, as seen below, or another item that will get more use.
7. Repurpose Inherited Jewelry
While there are some instances where jewelry redesign is sought explicitly to remove the meaning attached to an item, such as when repurposing wedding rings after a divorce; there are other instances where repurposing is desired with an aim to preserve your jewelry’s history, which is often the case with heirloom jewelry.
If you have inherited jewelry after the death of a loved one or upon reaching a milestone in your life, you may find yourself with a piece that is in need of repair, or one which needs updating or restyling to suit your taste. A frequent concern in the latter instance is whether repurposing an inherited item will cause tension or hurt feelings. You know your family best, so use your experience to help you consider how you should approach an heirloom redesign.
What is the proper etiquette for repurposing inheritance jewelry?
Is it common in your family for the recipient of inherited jewelry to restyle it? If this is the case, you can likely discuss your plans openly without concern about receiving an adverse reaction. For instance, if your grandmother gave you a necklace from her collection to celebrate your college graduation and shared that she created it from a brooch given to her by her grandmother, you might say “How did you decide to create a necklace? I was thinking of creating a new pair of earrings, but I wanted to hear about your experience first,” to start the conversation.
If you receive an heirloom item as part of an estate after the death of a loved one, however, you may want to wait until you and your loved ones have had adequate time to mourn before you broach the subject. Your grandmother’s pearls may not be your style, but if members of your family have an attachment to their memory, they may not react positively to talk of repurposing them one week after her funeral.
In any instance, it is best to be guided by the intentions of the giver. It is not uncommon for families to invest in fine jewelry for both their present enjoyment as well as a future purpose of passing it on to the next generation, with the expectation that pieces will be restyled to suit the style of each recipient
If you received a piece of estate jewelry that you will not be able to wear in its current form due to style, size, or another issue, you may find that the best way to honor your loved one is to repurpose it so that you can enjoy it as they did rather than keeping it locked away.
At Carats and Stones, we hate to think that what was once someone’s treasure is now hidden away as a useless bauble taking up space in a box. Bring it to us so we can rekindle its beauty and regenerate its value.
Repurpose a men’s ring into women’s earrings
Frequently, heirloom jewelry is passed down not only to the next generation but to a descendant of the same gender as the original owner, though this is not always the case. If you are a woman who has inherited your grandfather’s watch or ring, for example, you may find that there are plenty of options to repurpose the piece into one that is more fitting of your taste.
A men’s statement ring, such as the Orion black diamond ring, can provide nearly all of the diamonds needed to create a chic pair of earrings, such as in the example below. Your jeweler will be able to help you explore your different options and, if needed, find any additional coordinating gemstones that are necessary to complete your design.
Repurpose inherited jewelry into wedding bands
It is not uncommon for estate jewelry to live many rich and varied lives. A grandmother’s tennis bracelet, for example, might have been the source for the stones in your mother’s wedding and anniversary bands. What is more, it’s likely that many people wore and repurposed the jewelry holding those stones between the time that they were initially mined and your grandmother taking possession of them.
Precious gemstones are prized not just for their beauty, but also for their strength, which is part of the appeal of wedding jewelry created from heirlooms. While they come to you with a rich history, you and your partner will add to that history throughout your lives and possibly pass them on to your own children or grandchildren one day.
8. Investing in New Jewelry for Future Repurposing
Many families consider investments in fine jewelry to be an investment in the future. Over the years, we have worked with many families whose designs are created not only for the current owner but for the future generations who will inherit them.
Sometimes this may be a grandparent buying loose diamonds and gemstones which she intends to give to each grandchild to include in their wedding jewelry. Other times, this may be a mother who buys and wears a pair of earrings which she plans to repurpose and give to her daughters when they are older, such as in the example below.
Consider the entire collection when investing in heirloom jewelry
One of the benefits of establishing a relationship with a jewelry designer that you trust is that they will be familiar with not just your jewelry, but with your family and its history, as well, making them uniquely able to help you see where each piece falls in your collection. If you are investing in fine jewelry with a broad view of not just its current purpose but also its future owner, partnering with a family jeweler will allow both you and your afterbears to repurpose items in a manner that considers your entire family collection and preserves their meaning.
For example, a ring such as the Eliza ring in the case below might be redesigned into a new necklace, as shown here:
9. Your Source for Jewelry Repurposing in San Francisco
Carats and Stones’ expert jewelers transform outdated and unwanted pieces into uniquely personalized jewelry you will cherish forever. Simply bring your jewelry into our showroom, and we will offer you a range of options, helping you envision the statement necklace that’s possible by repurposing Grandma’s hat pin, or the perfectly chic earrings hidden away in a gaudy 1950s cocktail ring.
Our jewelers offer a combination of artistry and expertise to repurpose or renovate any style of fine jewelry, bringing the beauty of the past into a contemporary aesthetic that is an expression of the here and now. When you are ready to pass a piece along, we can help you or your loved one create a gorgeous new design that incorporates your original materials so it can bring them joy for decades just as it did for you.
Book an appointment for a complimentary consultation, call us at 415.875.9438, or stop by our Union Street jewelry showroom in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow district. Our expert designers will work with you and your budget to refashion boring, bad or better-left-behind into fresh, fabulous, and festive!