When considering the pros and cons of designing a ring from old jewelry, the list of variables can be extensive, especially if the vintage piece you plan on using has a lot of value to you, like a family heirloom. If you focus on a few important principles, it will keep you from being overwhelmed. Here are some important things to consider:
Set a goal for your creation
People in San Francisco have a reputation for being unique and creative. Even so, there’s a certain practicality that goes in making a wearable work of art. It may sound unromantic, but you need to have a goal for what you really want to achieve with your project of using vintage jewelry to create a new ring. If your goal is to embrace a part of your family history or a cultural tradition, for example, your ideas for the new ring will follow that path. If your goal is to create a work of art that is brand new, bold, and doesn’t need to preserve any of the form of the vintage piece, then it will be helpful to know that from the beginning. Don’t worry about making a formal mission statement, just a one-sentence description of what you really want to achieve with your project. Write it down and think about it for a couple days.
Make sketches of your ideas
This part of the process will vary depending on whether you have pretty firm ideas already or if you are open to suggestions and would like to talk to a designer. (If you have been through this process before, you may already know what the possibilities for your new ring might be. If so, you can skip this section.) If you have a specific gem in mind, with a specific weight, quality, shape, and cut, you’ll indicate that in your sketches also.
The design part of this journey is important because materials used in making a quality piece of jewelry of any kind (not just rings) have different attributes. As long-time designers we will inspect your vintage piece and make a careful analysis of the quality of the materials you have and what additional materials you will need to create your one-of-a-kind new ring.
Know the materials
As professional jewelers we help you understand the characteristics of the materials used in your older jewelry. Vintage metals can have a wide variety of characteristics, and may not respond well when melted down to re-create a new piece. While it’s true that high quality gold holds up well over time, some gold jewelry made in the past also contains other metals mixed in with the gold. These alloys might not stay strong through the recreation process and your new piece would likely end up being too fragile for wearing and enjoying. Whenever you use a vintage piece to make new jewelry, there is an element of risk. If you purchased the vintage piece at an estate sale, this risk might not matter as much as it would if the piece is part of your family history.
If you know quality jewelry when you see it, you already know a hallmark is the stamp to look for to determine the metal content of a piece. Sometimes hallmarks also indicate the manufacturer, which is helpful in determining quality. These hallmarks are typically located on certain places: the clasp of a necklace, the inside of a ring or bracelet, or the post of an earring. Sometimes with many years of wear, the hallmark may be worn off, but close inspection and magnification may reveal the stamp. If not, a test for the material will need to be made.
When it comes to using vintage gems to make a new piece of jewelry, it’s important to understand that older gems, even diamonds, may have flaws in clarity, or chips and cracks that can only be seen when the item is under magnification.
Consider the craftsmanship
Since this blog article is specifically about making a ring (and not another kind of jewelry) from a vintage piece or pieces, the quality and craftsmanship of your new piece should be a reflection of how you plan to enjoy the new ring. Is it going to be a ring you wear every day? Is the new ring going to be something you would wear for special occasions? Are those special occasions formal or informal? Will the design and the craftsmanship be a reflection of the creativity and uniqueness of the wearer? After you have considered these important points, it’s time to connect with us to set up an appointment.
Discussing your ring
Having done your homework for this project, you are ready to sit down and discuss all the possibilities for your new ring. At this point you will bring all sketches you have made, along with your goal for this new project. As professional designers and jewelers we will listen carefully to your ideas, share valuable experience and expert advice, and explain options to help guide you in making the right decisions for your project.
Once we have studied the qualities of the vintage piece, and you have decided on the design for the new ring, the next step is patience. Naturally you will be anxious to see the new ring as soon as it is ready, but creating one-of-a-kind jewelry takes time and should not be rushed. Knowing how excited you are to view your new creation, we will give you an estimate of how long the work will take, so you can plan accordingly.