Turn Old Jewelry Into a Custom Design: How to Repurpose Heirloom Jewelry

The jewelry industry is expected to generate $18,608 Million in 2019. It’s an industry that steadily increases its revenue year-to-year, with 9% growth expected by 2023.

It’s no surprise that jewelry is also ranked as the number one most common type of heirloom.

However, not all of us are blessed with being left a beautiful piece of treasure that we connect with and love. Some heirloom jewelry can be extremely worn, or too flamboyant to wear in everyday life or just plain unattractive.

This is where custom design comes in.

There are a lot of different approaches to breathing new life into older jewelry. Is it something you should just do yourself? Or is it in your best interest to consult a professional jeweler?

Deciding which approach is best for you depends heavily on your overall vision for the piece and your craftsmen abilities.

Below are the three key ways vintage jewelry can be redesigned, and which types of repurposing are easy to do at home, or better off left to professionals.

Restoring and Repairing Antique Jewelry

One-of-a-kind art deco cocktail rings of the roaring 1920s, romantic pieces of the Edwardian era and chunky, and colorful body ornaments of the disco era are coveted classics to many fashion-lovers and collectors.

These might seem like the simplest way to turn old jewelry into new jewelry: just giving it an update and restoring its luster. But it can be one of the most complicated and risky options for bringing new life to jewelry.

When people want to repurpose jewelry, they often also want to conserve it, meaning they want the minimal amount of alterations made, to keep it as true to its historic form as possible.

This process often begins with clearly defining what needs to be fixed. And then, analyzing these focal points to establish a realistic expectation of the repair. Most jewelry can be saved, but the degree to which it can be saved varies on the wear.

Because of the sentimental and even monetary resale value of many heirloom pieces, a high level of risk is involved in these projects. They take time and an experienced eye and hand to undertake.

Tactful craftsmen should only undertake a restoration or repair project. These projects are too meaningful and high-skilled for the hobbyist at home to undertake.

Giving Heirloom Jewelry a Modern Update

If your ancestors didn’t have impeccable fashion taste or a large jewelry budget, their heirloom treasure might feel more old than chicly vintage.

Updates or modernizations are cases where a person wants to maintain some historic charm. But, they want to add their own style or align a piece with the current jewelry trends and make it wearable for everyday use in the 21st century.

Some examples of modernization projects include:

  • Adding more or different gemstones.
  • Changing out the type of metal.
  • Adding more “bling” to a design.
  • Converting a string of pearls into a bracelet.
  • Taking out gemstones and turning them into studs or pendants.

Giving heirloom jewelry a modern update can be less tricky than a restoration project.

Gemstones can be extracted with the tactful use of prongs and screwdriver or prong pusher. Pearls can be restrung with only a few simple tools. Whereas changing the type of metal a ring is made of is out of reach for most DIYers.

It’s important to reiterate the risks of damaging a piece of jewelry that is involved with taking on projects like these without the guidance of a professional.

Creating Something Completely New From Vintage Jewelry

One of the most exciting approaches to customizing old jewelry is a total redesign.

Someone might want to undertake a redesign because of taste, or because an old piece of jewelry is too far gone to restore. During a redesign, there are no limits.

Metals from a brooch can be melted down and recast into classic earrings or a trendy new ring. Gemstones can all be completely removed, reoriented and even reshaped. Links for an old watch can be taken apart and reformed to create a necklace.

But jewelry rings aren’t limited to items that started out as jewelry. It also encompasses turning unlikely everyday items into something new too. Like turning the key of a typewriter or a piece of China into a pendant.

Choosing the Right Redesign

It’s important to have a clear idea of what you want before you commit to a redesign project, which will translate to having realistic expectations and satisfaction with the final results.

If you’re considering taking on an heirloom jewelry project yourself, take a practical look at your skills.

Undertake a similar project to another piece of jewelry first to really test your abilities. You can easily pick-up an inexpensive piece of old jewelry from a thrift store, that you’ll be less upset about damaging if the test-run doesn’t go as expected.

If you realize that your goals go beyond your skill set, you’ll want to consult with a jeweler who specializes in custom design.

You’ll want to pick someone who is artistic, does all of their work in-house and by hand. Great work doesn’t have to be the most expensive, so don’t be fooled by overpriced jewelers. Ask to see examples of work, ask about warranties and if there is a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

For answers to questions or to set-up a consultation, contact us! We’re one of the top-rated jewelers in San Antonio. Reach out via email at Designs@MosesJewelers.net or phone 210.490.2404.

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