It’s time to bring that treasured family heirloom to the 21st century while still paying respects to the journey it’s been through to get into your hands. Figuring out how to preserve history, nostalgia, and symbolism while making jewelry that fits your personal style is not an easy task. However, we at Frank Jewelers are masters of striking the balance of old and new. Here are our tips for ensuring your family heirloom keeps its emotional legacy as it takes on a new life. 

Quick Overview

  • You can update vintage pieces to reflect contemporary styles while preserving their sentimental value. 
  • Work with an experienced jeweler who cares for sentimental jewelry, offers open communication, and respects design choices.
  • The redesign process includes an initial design consultation, selection of materials, and the creation of the jewelry. 

heirloom jewelry redesign process

The Art of Heirloom Jewelry Redesign

Redesigning a piece of jewelry that has been passed down carries a lot of emotional and creative weight. It has sentimentality tied to multiple people and a story made with each person who has owned it. Preserving the original essence while updating it to align with current tastes is an art that takes care and patience to achieve. 

Instead of viewing this as a whole new piece of jewelry, it’s better to think of it as the kind of change that all things embark on. Just as you aren’t the same person you were ten years ago, the heirloom is on a journey to grow and change. It is embarking upon its next chapter and keeping the memories of its past while embracing the future ahead. This jewelry piece won’t be forgotten in the back of a closet or drawer. It will be worn and see new things and be there to strengthen you with all the people who have owned it before you.

Reasons for Redesign

What prompts a redesign of something treasured enough to be passed down? Most often, it’s an outdated style that just doesn’t fit anymore. As fashion evolves, different styles fall out of favor or are just plain unsightly now. It’s hard to find a reason to wear a broach or cufflinks, but repurposing them into a necklace or earrings can bring new life into something that would otherwise be forgotten.  

Restoration is also a common reason for redesigning a piece of jewelry. Even the most loved, cared-for jewelry breaks down after continuous wear or decades of neglect. By bringing it in to be redesigned, you can refresh clasps, chains, or even tiny details that have worn away with time. It also allows you to change tiny details to make it more sturdy so that maintenance costs can be kept to a minimum in the future.

Finally, being able to personalize the heirloom is a very common reason to revitalize an heirloom piece. Loose gemstones, multiple heirlooms, and a mixture of old versus new are ways that people combine jewelry into a single piece that brings together a whole, dearly loved piece. Updating the setting of a ring or transforming a necklace into several pieces for multiple people to share are also fantastic ways to redesign a piece of heirloom jewelry. 

The Emotional Connection

Emotional connections play a huge role in why we love redesigning heirloom jewelry. Countless memories, emotions, and meanings are woven into every piece of heirloom jewelry, which makes getting to be a part of its redesign so innately special. Whether it’s your grandfather’s cufflinks from his wedding day, an engagement ring passed down generations, or a pendant necklace that reminds you of your mother every time you see it, transforming them into something you’ll wear keeps the narrative alive. 

Redesigning heirloom jewelry also allows new layers of emotional significance to intertwine itself into the piece. Adding personalized elements like initials and dates to an heirloom allows it to reach a higher level of connection. It becomes a physical representation of love and connection and ties our past and present together. 

Expert Tips for a Successful Redesign

In order to do your heirloom jewelry justice when transforming it into something new, careful consideration is a necessity. The first step is looking over their heirloom jewelry. What holds the most significance and gives you the feeling of emotional connection? Next, evaluate the condition of the jewelry. This gives you a good understanding of what you can reasonably expect from any redesign. Then come up with a plan. You can start brainstorming how you want to maintain its emotional value while enhancing its aesthetic appeal. After you have a concept of how you’d like the new design to look, it's time to consult a jeweler.

Choosing a Reputable Jeweler

Choosing the right jeweler is a must when restyling heirloom jewelry. They are tasked with preserving your heirloom's sentimental value while transforming it into something you’ll adore. Finding a jeweler who can undertake the transformation, respects the love and memories attached to the original piece, and will do a quality job can be a challenge. 

At Frank Jewelers, we pride ourselves on having a dream team of jewelry specialists who excel at customization. We've been in business for over 80 years, and our master goldsmith has over 20 years of experience. Frank Jewelers is dedicated to providing the best service possible. 

Communicating Your Vision

Once you have found a reputable jeweler, the fun can start. The design process can be fun and exciting as you incorporate your heirloom jewelry into a new piece that speaks completely to you. A few things to keep in mind are that you need to be able to communicate exactly what you’re looking to do. Doing research beforehand and bringing in quality photos of pieces you like helps to bring your vision to life. It’s also important to speak up! If there is a part of the new jewelry you don’t love, make sure to let them know. This piece is designed to bring new joy into an older piece so you can proudly wear it again. 

Popular Ways to Redesign Heirloom Jewelry

The possibilities are endless when redesigning heirloom jewelry, limited only by your creativity. Some popular methods include:

  • Modernizing vintage pieces
  • Using gemstones in new settings
  • Updating the original look
  • Creating new pieces using the materials
  • Creating matching sets

These methods blend classic styles with contemporary tastes, offering fresh takes on traditional designs.

Use The Gemstones in a New Piece

The most popular way to redesign heirloom jewelry is to place the original gemstones in a new piece. This can be a new ring, necklace, earrings, or whatever your heart desires. This allows you to bring the most sentimental piece of the jewelry with you on the journey ahead. 

Update The Original Look

Updating an heirloom piece’s look is another popular way to restyle it. Updating it can range from touching up worn-down parts to removing small elements that make the piece look dated. We’ve also seen people add additional gemstones to preserve the piece's original charm while adding stones with additional significance.

Create a New Piece Using The Materials

Often, the metal of an heirloom can be melted and reformed into a new piece. This is a more sustainable and ecologically friendly approach than buying a whole new piece of jewelry. Creating a new piece of jewelry with a treasured heirloom piece breathes new life while preserving the sentimental value of the original. This also allows for a little more creative freedom and personalization for those on a budget, as it isn’t necessary to pay for more materials than you need.

Modernizing Vintage Pieces

Sometimes, modernizing a vintage piece can bring a beloved piece of jewelry back from the cusp of obsolescence. An heirloom piece can be beautiful but not your style, so updating the jewelry to match current trends is a great way to ensure it gets regular wear again.

Creating Matching Sets

Another meaningful way heirloom jewelry gets restyled is by turning a piece with multiple gemstones into a matching set. We love seeing well-loved jewelry transformed into matching earrings or a set of necklaces that stack while still maintaining sentimental value. This is also a popular way for daughters to share their mother’s jewelry so that each one can have a reminder of her close by.

redesign of heirloom jewelry

The Redesign Process: What to Expect

The redesign process spans several stages and multiple days, if not weeks. It starts with a consultation, during which you and your trusted jeweler evaluate the materials and review the design. This can take a while, as your jeweler wants to nail the design to ensure complete satisfaction. Afterward, depending on the complexity of the changes and materials needed, your jeweler will keep your heirloom for several days as they make your vision come to life.

In the end, you will receive a beautiful new piece of jewelry with all the sentimental value of the original, but personalized to be perfectly yours. 

Consultation and Design

The consultation and design phase is extremely important. Here is where you ask questions and make your expectations clear. You’re discussing the design, the materials, the history, and any budgetary considerations you have. You and the designer will need to have great communication to make sure that they understand your personal style and any concerns you might have. They will also be communicating any restrictions and concerns they have with delivering your piece, so that you can manage expectations.

Material Assessment

Assessing the materials in the original heirloom allows your jeweler to understand any limitations they will face when restyling the piece. The jeweler will determine whether the gold or other precious metal can be reused in the new piece as well as the integrity of any stones present. The jeweler can advise you on the next steps to avoid compromising your heirloom piece.

Crafting the New Piece

Once the design is perfected and the materials assessed, the jeweler will start crafting the new piece. Depending on the changes, they may utilize different techniques to create your unique jewelry. Your jeweler should let you know the timeframe of when you can expect it to be finished based on their current workload and the complexity of the redesign. 

Heirloom Jewelry Care

Caring for Your Redesigned Heirloom Jewelry

Once your redesigned heirloom piece is complete, you’ll need to take care of it to ensure that it can be passed down for generations to come. 

Maintenance on jewelry isn’t complicated. All you need to do is clean it regularly, store it when not in use, and get it inspected and cleaned professionally periodically. Caring for your jewelry properly can make all the difference in how long the piece lasts.

Cleaning and Storage

To preserve your redesigned jewelry, regular, thorough cleaning is necessary. Oil, dirt, and grime can build up in small crevices, removing any protective coating and adding premature wear and tear to your jewelry. That’s why it's important to clean any pieces that are regularly worn at least every week. We recommend a soft, unused toothbrush, warm water, and dish soap to break down the grime and dislodge any dirt present. 

Proper storage is also crucial to prevent damage. When your jewelry is not being worn, it should be kept in a jewelry box, separate from other jewelry, to avoid scratches and prevent chains from tangling. You can separate the jewelry by buying a case for it, or wrapping it in a polishing cloth made specifically for jewelry. 

Periodic Maintenance

Beyond the at-home maintenance, we recommend getting your jewelry cleaned twice a year by professionals. When you bring in the items to be cleaned, the jeweler will perform a maintenance check to look for loose stones or points of damage. These checks can prevent serious damage or loss, and they will offer to fix them for you so that you can keep wearing the heirloom until it’s time to pass it on to the next person. 

Wrapping Up

Redesigning heirloom jewelry is the perfect way to incorporate a beloved sentimental piece into your life while respecting its history. By finding a reputable jeweler, you’ll be able to make your vision come to life while upholding the reasons the heirloom was important in the first place. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you redesign heirloom rings?

Redesigning an heirloom ring into a modern look can involve any number of aspects from adding new gemstones, reworking the settings, or creating an entirely new piece of jewelry that doesn’t resemble the original at all!

How much does it cost to redesign a ring?

Redesigning a ring can be relatively inexpensive or cost tens of thousands of dollars. Basic projects such as adjusting the size, changing prongs, or adding an engraving are all easy ways to redesign on a budget.

Can I get my engagement ring redesigned?

Yes! Redesigning your engagement ring is a fairly common thing that jewelers see done. Changing the setting, type of metal, and size and style of stone are all ways that engagement rings get designed. We've written a guide on it here.

Can a jeweler make a new ring out of an old ring?

Yes! A jeweler can take an old ring and make it into a new ring. Many jewelers offer ways to repurpose the current ring’s materials to be used in a new ring.

Can I use the gemstones from my heirloom jewelry in a new piece?

Yes! You can use the gemstone from your heirloom jewelry in a new piece. In fact, it’s one of the most common ways to redesign a piece of jewelry handed down.