Family heirlooms hold important historical and emotional value. They are admired and passed down from generation to generation, often in the form of a piece of jewellery. Like most hand-me-downs, this piece, although beautiful in its own right, is outdated in its design or not suited to the style of its new owner. As a result, it sits at the back of a drawer or in a safe, forgotten about or worn occasionally for a family function.

As a bespoke jeweller and as someone who wears a redesigned family heirloom every day, it brings me huge pleasure to help clients rediscover the joy in these unworn and under-appreciated pieces by reworking them into something they will never want to take off. In this article I will explain why you should consider updating a piece of jewellery you already own, my unique approach to the redesign process and the true costs and timeframes behind such a project.

Why you should remodel your heirloom jewellery piece:
You might ask yourself: why should I bear the costs of reworking a piece of jewellery? For me, there are several clear reasons. Sentiment is an important one. If this piece was given to you, it was because the previous owner wanted you to have it and wear it. Re-designing the piece into something that suits your style and that you will love wearing honours the memory of the person you inherited it from. Not only is the history kept alive but also the spirit of the previous owner. Their memory and stories surrounding the piece will live on as you carry it with you until it is time for you to pass it along, creating yet another rich layer of history.

You should also remodel heirloom jewels because they often feature impressive gemstones which are not easily found in today’s market. It is a huge financial advantage to already have that stone in your possession and will afford you the ability to spend more on the design of the piece. The result will be an exceptional design that is rich in history and that now includes your contribution to that story.

Finally, by breathing new life into an inherited piece of jewellery, you are also giving future generations a piece of family history with a modern twist.

How to choose which jewellery piece to remodel:

Deciding which piece of jewellery you want to remodel might seem like a daunting task. Here are a few helpful tips to consider when looking through your jewellery box.

1.  Prioritise precious metals and larger gemstones:

Consider whether or not the piece is created from strong enough materials to survive a remodelling process. Often, the emotional value behind a piece is higher than the monetary value of the materials it is made from. Focus on jewels with large precious stones that are set in gold or platinum, as they are easier to remodel. Do not be put off by oddly cut or hand-cut stones as they very often make the most interesting design pieces.

2.  Avoid reworking belaboured designs:

Set aside your pavé rings and heavily detailed pieces. Deconstructing them involves a cost-heavy and time lengthy process. If you like a certain pattern or design element from these pieces in your jewellery box, bring them to me and I will find a way to emulate a similar style in whichever piece you decide to redesign. It’s important to note that recreating elements with new materials in a redesign is sometimes a more cost-efficient way of achieving the desired result.

3.  Look at your whole jewellery box:

Whilst you may want a single final remodelled piece, it’s worth bringing several options to consider from your jewellery box. It might well be that stones or precious metals from a number of your heirlooms will, when combined, form the dream piece. Together, we can cherry-pick the pieces that have the most remodelling potential and which will be the most cost-efficient.

The Hattie Rickards Remodelling Service:

The first step in any redesign project is to identify which pieces of jewellery you want to remodel. I am here to provide you with guidance throughout this process which can be quite emotional, especially as we inherit attachments to objects which seem to embody the person from whom we received them.

Once you have decided what to remodel, you then need to think about how you want your new piece to look. To create this vision, I will ask you to take me through the rich history of the heirloom, the stories it tells and the sentiments it holds. It is important to honour these stories and for them to remain a part of the design. Then, we will clarify the various ways for the stones and metal to depict the existing feelings and history whilst telling a new story. Through these discussions I will begin to build a picture of your style by exploring your jewellery taste, seeking to get to know you, and working with you to establish your vision.

My unique approach to remodelling is in many ways no different to creating a new piece of jewellery. I encourage my clients to think out of the box, to focus on what they want to wear beyond the physical limitations of the existing piece. My job is to take the piece you have provided me with and create your new dream jewel. At Hattie Rickards Jewellery, my craftsmen, artisans and I have developed our own form of jewellery wizardry. By reworking settings and adding gems into the design, we can create new settings and change the shape of the existing stones. Together, we can reinvent the wheel on any piece you bring me, completely transforming your not-so-suitable piece of jewellery into your dream. 

Once we have finalised the concept, I will then draw on all the images, stories, and thoughtful answers you have shared over our conversations to develop several design variations. I will provide you with sketches of my interpretation of your dream piece to try and find the design direction that most resonates with you. It is through these initial sketches that we will start refining your chosen design direction until we have landed on exactly what you want. The last step here is a detailed plan and technical drawing of the piece, ensuring that the new design meets your idea and feels right to you. 

Once you have approved the final drawing, my team can then begin to develop a computer model of the design, allowing you to visualise in 3D your heirloom stones in their new design. The stones from your heirloom or unworn jewel will then be unset and ready for their new home. Once this is done, careful craftsmanship can begin. I work in collaboration with some of the best British makers and master craftspeople with decades of experience to bring your design to life. We work with passion, care and meticulous attention to detail. 

Once the design is complete, I will hand your remodelled piece to you in person, along with any unused elements of the original piece. This unboxing moment is one of the most moving parts of my job. This is when the marvel of bespoke jewellery is seen. 

Costs and Timeframes:

In any remodelling project, my goal is to create your dream piece of jewellery for your dream budget. To do this, transparency is key, and so I make the client aware from the get-go of the financial investment they will need to make to bring their vision to life. I have worked with varied budgets and in all cases have managed to create the perfect jewel for each client.

The starting price for remodelling jewellery at HRJ is £5,000, as it is difficult to produce something exquisite for less than this amount. Why this price if you are providing the main materials? I cannot emphasise enough the technical and design skills that are required to transform these unsuited pieces of jewellery into a final piece that sings. Remodelling costs bespoke jewellers more time and money in-house than it does to start from scratch, as we need to use our time and expertise to come up with a complete transformation of the design. 

As well as this, in some cases, we will not be exclusively using the materials from the original piece, as additional metal and gems will be needed to bring your vision to life. I will of course source any additional stones, choosing only the best and most beautiful to suit your budget.

In terms of timeframes, a remodel project can take two to four months. This time scale includes brainstorming, redesigns with the client, finalising the chosen style, unsetting the gemstones from the original piece, sourcing any additional materials needed in the redesign and of course creating the final remodel. 

A successful HRJ remodel:

One of my favourite HRJ remodelling success stories resulted in not one but two new pieces. A client came to me wishing to redesign her engagement ring. She wanted a piece she could wear every day and felt that the grandeur of her current ring was not suited for everyday wear, leaving it in a safe unworn for over a decade. The original ring featured two cushion-cut diamonds set against an oval backdrop of smaller pavé diamonds. With such large centre stones, it was apparent from the get-go that one would be enough for a wearable yet statement engagement ring. To create her new engagement ring, I reset one of the cushion-cut diamonds into a diamond halo ring. The next question was what should we do with the other large diamond? We decided to create a second piece of jewellery that would focus on the remaining cushion-cut diamond. This design became an oval spinning pendant, with a bezel-set central cushion diamond surrounded by a sea of pavé set round diamonds. On the reverse side, the diamonds’ cullets were beautifully displayed.

This is the perfect example of the surprising and exciting journey that is remodelling jewellery. Not only was my client able to create an engagement ring that she can wear as part of her everyday wardrobe, but she got the bonus of a modern pendant. One ring allowed me to create two new pieces of jewellery that were more suited to her style and tastes.

If you would like to learn more about the HRJ remodelling service, please feel free to contact me. My team and I are entirely at your disposal and are here to answer any questions you may have.

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