A guide to upcycling jewellery and family heirlooms
There are plenty of reasons why you would want to take old jewellery and turn it into a brand new piece. Maybe you have broken jewellery that you don’t want to see go to waste. Maybe you have your grandmother’s wedding ring and have a sentimental attachment to the piece despite it being much too small for your finger. Or you might have inherited a collection of *quirky* vintage jewellery from your auntie and none of it suits your style.
For any of these reasons and more, upcycling your old jewellery can be the perfect solution.
Upcycled engagement rings
When customers come to us with an old piece laden with sentimental value, many are excited to learn that recycling the gold is a possibility. And recycled gold isn’t just an environmentally-friendly option for a new piece, it’s one of the most beautiful ways to honour your family’s past while creating a future together.
Asking for your partner’s hand in marriage means asking them to join your family in the most meaningful way. Meaning that upcycling jewellery that’s been in your family is a poignant and touching gesture. Repurposing the metal from heirloom pieces to create a new engagement ring design that speaks to your unique love poetically symbolises the way two souls become intertwined through marriage.
What can you make out of recycled gold?
Along with wedding jewellery, we’ve helped customers create a new piece with an entirely different meaning. Whether a signet or stacking ring, the right goldsmith will be able to take your recycled gold and turn it into something handmade that suits you.
What’s most important when it comes to upcycled heirloom jewellery is that you update the vintage ring’s style to match the innate style of the person you’re giving it to.
Wedding jewellery doesn’t have to stay wedding jewellery: Sophie’s heartfelt signet
Upcycling jewellery is all about honouring your closest bonds and holding meaning close to your heart. Because of this upcycling can take many forms and functions, meaning that jewellery pieces can take on whole new symbolic meanings over time.
Take Sophie’s signet ring.
Featured recently in Marie Claire, this inspiring story of upcycling heirloom jewellery warmed the heart of everyone who helped Sophie achieve this gorgeous final result.
When her father passed away, Sophie’s mother gave her his wedding band along with her own (as her mum and dad weren’t officially ‘together’ when he died). This gift from her mother meant the world to Sophie but unsure of what to do with the rings, they sat waiting in her drawer for years. ‘They hold such huge sentimental value but neither fitted me’, Sophie says, ‘[because] one ring is miles too big, the other too dinky.’
That was until last year, when she enlisted our bespoke upcycling service with the help of our Design Director, Kate Earlam-Charnley.
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The best thing about precious metal is that while rings may bend and scuff over time, gold itself never loses integrity. Together with Sophie it was decided that it would be best to melt down both rings and create an entirely new jewellery design, symbolic of the way her and her parents would always remain bonded to each other, even after her parent’s passing.
‘We melted rings down into a new one we designed together, with my parents’ initials (both A.G.) engraved around a little heart-shaped diamond in the centre. It’s such a lovely feeling to be able to finally carry those memories around with me physically everyday instead of gathering dust in a forgotten nook.’
Sophie’s signet ring is a perfect example of how to turn old jewellery into something completely one of a kind. And what was once wedding jewellery can now be worn every day as a reminder of her parent’s love.
How to melt down old gold to make new jewellery
Upcycling gold is an exacting process undertaken by highly skilled goldsmiths in our workshop, and it starts with fire.
We begin by placing your legacy gold into a small dish called a crucible and using a welding torch to heat the metal to over 600 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, the gold becomes a molten liquid and is poured into a basic mould to cool off.
The goldsmith then stretches and shapes the gold in a series of rollers. It’s made thinner and longer until the gold is the right gauge to begin forming it into a band.
Sophie’s parent’s wedding bands ready to be melted down
Melted down gold being annealed and shaped
Then the gold is ‘annealed’, meaning that it is heated until it glows red and then allowed to cool. This process helps the gold to become soft enough to shape and cast, but not so hard that it becomes brittle and can crack.
The ring is then filed down bit by bit, ensuring the band is symmetrical all the way around and forms a perfect circle. When the ring’s profile is completed, the whole thing is annealed again so that it can be shaped into the perfect size to fit whoever will be wearing the ring.
When this is completed, all that’s left to do is polish! This stage of the goldsmithing process will vary depending on the desired finish of the bespoke piece, but in general the goldsmith will use multiple grades of polish to bring the surface of the ring from its natural rough texture to a gleaming, sleek finish.
Gold from her mum and dad’s bands melted together
Gold being stretched and formed into the signet shape
Honour the past, celebrate the future
Honouring the past while embracing the future is what heirloom repurposing is all about.
Using recycled materials means that no new metal has to be taken from the earth, and it allows us to feel truly connected to the precious pieces inside our jewellery box in a way that transcends time and keeps us connected to all those who have passed through our life.
As the world becomes more eco-conscious, we expect to see upcycled jewellery emerge as a major trend in the next few years. So it’s time to get out those old gold pieces gathering dust and get creative.
Love is always worth the effort, and we believe that goes for your jewellery as well.