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Got It Made

How to Give Your Old, Heirloom Jewelry New Life

Got It Made 02/08/2019

 

If you’re lucky enough to inherit a grandmother’s ring or a great-aunt’s locket, you might be struggling with concurrent emotions of being #blessed...and feeling guilty that said necklace is collecting dust because Art Deco isn’t your thing. Well, how about flipping it and turning it into something you will actually want to wear? That’s what the Atlanta jewelry designer Starr Miller of Pieces of Starr does for clients when she’s not hand-carving her constellation motifs on her own line of rings and pendants, and she has tips to share that are true gems.

 

DON’T STRESS ABOUT ANCIENT HISTORY

“My clients always say ‘Well, it was my grandmother’s, and it’s really special to me...but it just sits in the bottom of my jewelry box because it’s not my style.’ I promise you, the worst dishonor you could do to your grandmother's wedding band is to leave it in a drawer. There is no sense in letting gold and diamonds or other semi-precious stones sit there unworn when you could recreate something new and relevant to your style. I say, melt it down, reset it, and make something you love. Grandma’s stone will still be grandma’s stone, and the gold will always carry that warmth.”



KNOW YOUR BUDGET

“Commonly, the most expensive part of fine jewelry is the materials. What makes recycling so attractive to my clients is it can take an invoice from a few thousand down to a few hundred. If it’s in your budget to rework your old jewelry—usually around $500 for labor— do it. But have an idea of what you’re willing to spend, which should guide your decision-making.”

 

 

UNDERSTAND YOUR SOURCE MATERIAL

“Let's say my hypothetical client Miss Jackson comes in with a whole pile of jewelry she’s collected from Mom and Dad. I’ll inspect the metal brought in, parse out any plated or gold-fill jewelry, and weigh the solid pieces on a scale. Unfortunately, plated or gold-fill metal cannot be properly recycled. Solid gold or silver will usually have a hallmark or a stamp on the inside of a ring shank, a clasp, or a chain link. It’s not a foolproof system, though—the absence of a stamp doesn’t mean a metal is crap, nor does the presence of a stamp guarantee pure gold metal. In some sketchy markets around the world, people will sometimes sell plated gold jewelry as solid gold. So weight is important, and jewelers can also use an acid-test system to validate what metal we’re inspecting and what karat it may be.”

 

PREPARE TO DO A LITTLE MATH

“You don’t always to end up with the same number of pieces you came in with. Say Miss Jackson ends up with 15 grams of gold, and she also has 15 small diamonds. With the gold she’s brought in, she could make, for example, two of my slice rings with diamonds along the spine, a fan ring, and a medium celestial band. Since I know what the finished product of each of those weigh, I conclude that after I’ve used her gold to make her desired rings, she will have 2 grams left over.  With any gold left over, she has a few options. She can get back a little nugget of gold for future use, I can take the scrap gold value and credit that to her invoice, or I can make another simple little gold ring to use up the materials.”

 

CONSIDER CUSTOM

“You also don’t have to get something from a designer’s existing line sheet. I’m always happy to sketch something new using her existing materials. But if someone asks me to copy a Tiffany’s ring, for example, I’ll most likely show her the exit. Don’t ask an artist to recreate another artist or company’s work. It ain’t cool. And if something is very outside of my aesthetic or style, I will suggest another artist that will be perfect for what they’re looking for—and any quality jeweler should be able to do the same.”

 

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