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Remodelling Heirloom Jewellery: How To Breathe New Life Into Your Unworn Treasures

Unworn gold and diamond jewellery upcycled and remodelled into modern rings by Kate Smith Jewellery

An unworn necklace sitting at the bottom of your jewellery box that you inherited from your grandmother. It holds a deep, sentimental value to you, but isn't a style you could ever see yourself wearing.

An engagement ring from a previous relationship that is (understandably) sitting in a box, at the back of a drawer that you don't know what to do with.

Now imagine breathing new life into these, transforming them into something new and beautiful; into a piece of jewellery that will bring you joy to wear!

Let's say you have such a piece, but you just don't know where to start.

Well, that's precisely why I wrote this blog post about jewellery remodelling.

The love I have for making jewellery was taken to a whole new level a few years back when I started working with clients to remodel their heirloom jewellery. I got to hear the stories behind the pieces and see the delight on their faces as they saw their 'new' jewellery for the first time.

And this is why I'm pouring those years of professional knowledge and experience into the next few minutes for you so that you come away feeling both confident AND excited about the possibilities for that lonely piece of jewellery that's just waiting for its transformation.

Knowing where and how to begin can be difficult, but guess what? It doesn't need to be. So let's get started...

Before you start the jewellery remodelling process, consider what's important to you

When you look at the piece(s) of jewellery in front of you, ask yourself the following questions:

- Do I want to retain some of the style or essence of the original design?

- Do I want the 'new' piece to be something I will wear daily or as a special occasion piece?

- Is it important to me that all of the materials are used in the new piece?

- If it's only the gemstones that I love - for example - or the metal colour isn't to my taste, would I consider offsetting the cost of the new piece by passing on the unused metal to the designer I work with? (We touch upon this further down).

Answering some of these will help with the next step.

Finding the right jeweller to remodel your piece and nailing down the design

You may already have a design in mind.

Perhaps you've seen something online that you love?

Whilst some jewellers are happy to create from a design of your own or even replicate a piece you have found on the internet, here at KSJ, I create jewellery that is in keeping with the style of work you can see on this website. This means that I won't create anything that bears no relation to my style and I do not copy or reproduce other designer's work.

With this in mind, it is worth asking a jewellery designer straight off the bat about how they work; Will they replicate a design you have seen? Are they happy to work in any style? Or do they only take on commissions that reflect their own style? I promise that this will save you a lot of time if you can establish this at the start.

This is a piece that you will no doubt want to treasure (and wear) for years to come, right? so when it comes to the design, I recommend prioritising style over current trends.

Yes, it's hard to know what you'll be wearing in 20 years time, but I'm guessing you've got a much more clearly defined idea of your own personal style than you did, say 20 years ago? Be led by that, not what is in fashion this year.

Having said that, jewellery is for wearing now. It should spark joy, so go for what you truly love!

If there is a designer whose work you admire, get in touch to see if they remodel/upcycle jewellery. It may not be a service they advertise, but you never know without asking - and it could be the start of something fun and creative for them!

A good jeweller should always advise on the suitability of different materials and gemstones for your new piece. For example, you have a beautiful gold brooch that contains a peridot. You'd like a ring made from it that you intend to wear every day. As peridots are quite soft gemstones, I'd advise against this and suggest we make a pendant instead, or an item that will be less prone to knocks and bumps on a regular basis. Alternatively, we use the gold for the ring but select a more suitable gemstone that will be up to the task of being worn all the time - like a sapphire for example.

When it comes to design, sometimes, less is more. If you have multiple pieces/gemstones, they don't all have to be used. Although your jewellery will mean a lot to you, it's best not to use everything it contains for the sake of it. The remaining gemstones could always be kept for another piece in the future (or a matching pair of earrings now!)

If we are not using some of the metal from the original, I offer our clients the option of offsetting the cost of the new piece with the value of this metal. Whether this appeals to you or not will depend on the sentiment attached to it, but it is something to consider.

Be open to finding information out about your heirloom that may surprise you. In the past, some sparkling stones that were believed to be diamonds turned out to be cubic zirconia or the gold that a client was under the impression was 22ct was actually 18ct. A jeweller will look for hallmarks, and if these aren't present, the carat can still be found using the right equipment.

Check out more helpful tips for finding the right designer to work with here

Consider your jewellery remodelling budget

A common misconception is that having jewellery remodelled is cheaper than buying from new. This is understandable because you have a lot of the precious materials to start with, don't you?

This is correct, but two other factors play a big part:

Firstly, it's likely that more material will need to be added to make your new design. This happens in 9 out of 10 projects I work on. Let's say a client comes to me with 2 rings with a variety of gemstones they love, but one ring is made of 9ct white gold and the other is 18ct yellow gold. We don't mix carats of gold, so one of the golds won't be used in the new piece. And we will likely need to add more gold to the carat that we are working in.

Secondly, the process of re-modelling existing jewellery is more complex and time-consuming than making it from new. Different techniques are used that can make it a longer process. It's important to remember that you are investing in years of expertise and knowledge when it comes to this way of working.

Let your jeweller know if you have a budget you are working within. This will help them advise on what's possible and make the process much smoother.

Choose someone who you find communication easy with and most importantly, find a jeweller that you trust. Read reviews to find out how other clients found their experience and ask to see examples of previous remodelling projects.

What's next?

So why not dig around for your old jewellery, bring it together and take a good look - there might be some surprises there! Brighter colours than you remember, more pieces languishing than you thought you had that could become a beautiful item of jewellery, carrying forward with you the memories these pieces hold with a fresh new look that's completely yours.

Take a look at some more of our recent jewellery transformations to find out what remodelling with us looks like and how the process works at KSJ.

Ready to get started? Get in touch to discuss your own project now.

A contemporary remodelled and upcycled gold ring by Kate Smith Jewellery

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When I’m not at the bench creating jewellery or sitting at the laptop writing my next blog post for you, I can usually be found cuddling our fluffball of a cat, Kenji, watching Tottenham getting thrashed with my eldest son, or playing table tennis with my youngest at the kitchen table. Oh, and I happen to be married to the most supportive man, who still makes me giggle after all our years together. Yep, I lucked out there didn't I?


And here's the thing: I'd love to share with you my latest commissions that are hot off the bench, new additions to the website, with some life chat thrown in there for good measure ...

and give you special discounts. 


Sound good?


Just pop your email below.

I'm Kate


Solitaire twist 0.80ct diamond gold engagmement ring by Kate Smith, Jewellery Quarter. UK.
contemporary gold pendant by West Midlands jewellery designer Kate Smith

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