We’ve all done it; when a piece of jewelry that we like but don’t love breaks, we set it aside with a thought to “get it fixed someday” and then that “someday” never comes.
Or perhaps your unworn jewelry has been stowed in the shadows for other reasons. Whether its an inherited heirloom that isn’t your style or a gift left behind from an old relationship, there are plenty of reasons that our once-loved pieces of fine jewelry fade into the never-worn articles we rarely think about.
Whatever the reason, one thing remains the same: if you have jewelry that is broken or that you don’t wear collecting dust, you have investments that aren’t working for you.
To help you put them back to work, we’ve prepared this guide to help you decide if you should repair or modify your broken jewelry.
Looking to learn more about professional jewelry repair? Read our free Comprehensive Guide to Jewelry Repair for answers to all your questions.
Should You Choose Jewelry Repair or Modification?
Choosing to repair or modify your broken or unworn jewelry is a personal decision, and the factors you’ll need to weigh will vary. Especially with heirloom jewelry passed down from one generation to the next within a family, some people may even experience guilt when considering whether to repurpose a piece of jewelry. While only you can decide what you’ll feel comfortable with, we’ve provided some tips and other things to consider to help you arrive at your decision.
When Should You Choose Jewelry Repair?
If you loved your piece of broken jewelry precisely as it was before it was damaged, ask your jeweler first about jewelry repair. Even with heart-wrenching damage such as a chipped diamond, you shouldn’t rule out the possibility of repair until you’ve consulted with an expert. After assessing the size, quality, age, and cut of your diamond as well as the extent of the damage, they’ll determine whether your stone is a candidate for recutting. Even with a diamond that can’t be recut and reset, your insurance may cover your stone’s replacement.
To learn more about typical jewelry breakages and repairs, read our guide to The 5Most Common Jewelry Repairs.
When Should You Choose Jewelry Modification?
For inherited jewelry, once-loved jewelry that is no longer your style, and even jewelry gifts from past relationships, you may find that modification is the right path for you.
Repurposing old jewelry takes it from bleak to brilliant, making it the ideal option for sentimental heirlooms which have suffered from neglect or have gone out of style. While some may experience guilt when questioning whether to repurpose a piece of inherited jewelry, we believe repurposing these legacy items into jewelry you’ll be happy to wear is the best way to honor the memory of the loved one who passed it along.
It is unlikely that your family member wanted you to wear a piece of jewelry that you dislike or for you to keep it locked away in a box, after all.
Modification is also an excellent option for the broken jewelry that can’t be completely repaired, old jewelry that is no longer your style, and jewelry given as gifts by partners who turned out not to be your style, as well.
The Hidden Benefits of Repurposing Your Old or Broken Jewelry
Modifying your broken or unworn jewelry offers some additional benefits that you may not have considered. When considering what to do with a piece of jewelry that you aren’t wearing, no matter the reason, it can be helpful to view it as raw materials instead of as an accessory. These materials can be sold for money, but they can also be repurposed into something new, which can be both cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
Save Money by Upcycling Old Materials
Call it recycling, upcycling, or repurposing. The result is the same: the raw materials in your unworn jewelry can serve as the foundation as well as the frills of new jewelry items that you’ll adore. The diamonds, gemstones, and even metals of your least-loved jewelry can be used to create a new, custom designed piece you’ll want to wear daily. If you’ve always wished for a diamond solitaire necklace but hesitated to invest in it, repurposing a diamond from your inherited jewelry will allow you to create the necklace of your dreams without the cost of a new stone.
The Environmental Benefits of Repurposing Your Jewelry
While you may not always be able to directly recycle the metals from your unwanted jewelry into a new piece, you may receive a credit for the metal to be applied to your new piece. Many jewelers offer this credit for your new design because they will have your old items melted down and refined so they can be used again. Not only does this provide you a financial incentive, but it helps reduce the impact on the environment -- similar to reusing a diamond or gemstone in your new piece, recycling your metal materials minimizes the mining necessary to source new metals for jewelry. Many jewelers seek to use sustainable materials, such as recycled metals, as much as possible, so you can be sure that any materials you don’t apply directly in your repurposed design will go on to create jewelry that delights someone else, too.
Explore the Possibilities of Repurposed Jewelry
When considering the modification of existing or broken jewelry, the question to ask isn’t “what is possible when repurposing my jewelry,” but instead “what ISN’T possible?” If your dream design includes a 4-carat diamond and you have an emerald ring you want to repurpose, there’s no amount of wishing that can turn your emerald into something it isn’t. Your jeweler, however, can work with you to design a custom piece you’ll love with the raw materials you have or may be willing to purchase the elements you don’t wish to use and offer you credit toward those you do.
If you love the materials but wish for a new design, however, your jeweler can work with you to repurpose your items into the custom design of your dreams. Below are just a few examples of what may be possible when modifying your broken or unworn jewelry.
Turn a Lost Earring into a New Ring
You’ve searched high and low for your missing earring, and you’ve finally accepted the fact that it’s gone forever. Now what? While you can work with your jeweler to design a duplicate stud from new materials to complete the pair, you might have other options you wish to consider. The stones from your remaining earring could serve as the centerpiece for a custom-designed ring, for example.
Turn Family Heirlooms into Wedding Bands
Perhaps you’ve inherited heirloom jewelry that you adore but which is impractical for your life or not quite your style. With the help of your jeweler, the stones from your