SB Transformations: How to Repurpose Your Inherited Jewellery

Our Transformations service was created to breathe new life into old treasures, whether it’s an inherited brooch that is beautiful but unwearable or an antique ring too fragile to contend with daily wear.

Whatever you prefer to call it, upcycling, recycling, remodelling or repurposing old jewellery is a brilliant way of transforming outdated pieces into contemporary jewels that will be loved and worn frequently. At Sophie Breitmeyer we have overseen hundreds of Transformations, from resetting antique gems into a new engagement ring to reworking an entire collection of inherited jewellery, resulting in multiple new pieces. 

Previous generations have always been very good at taking inherited jewels that have become old fashioned and reusing the gemstones and precious metals to create something new. Just look at the jewels of the Royal Family, which have been frequently recycled as fashions change so they’re not gathering dust in the safe. Queen Mary, in particular, was a pro at this, taking stones from one set of jewels to make another.

In recent times, this sentiment has gotten a bit lost. But with the spotlight on fast fashion and throwaway culture, and the rise in reusing, recycling and mindful purchasing, interest in reworking old pieces of jewellery has been reignited. “Historically, we were much better at upcycling jewellery than we are now,” explains Sophie. “In the past, people would rework their jewellery from generation to generation to suit their needs. Thankfully, we are seeing a return to appreciating the value of reworking jewels to suit our tastes. There is something very special about creating something new from an old piece of jewellery. By reusing the gemstones and precious metals, you are essentially giving a jewel a new lease of life, without losing any of the sentimental value it holds.”

How do our Jewellery Transformations work?

Using our Transformations service always begins with an appointment with Sophie, preferably in person, to discuss the item or items you’d like to repurpose. Transformations can be as simple as repairing a jewel or restringing a strand of pearls, or as complex as breaking up a jewel into multiple pieces and reworking them to create several different jewels. 

The appointment is an opportunity to discuss what you would like to achieve with your Jewellery Transformation. Clients who are not keen on the antique look usually choose to reuse gemstones and metals in a completely new design, while others like to retain a little of the spirit of the original jewel. Either way, if the Transformation involves an element of redesigning, we first prepare a selection of proposed designs, then, once a design has been agreed upon, this will be translated into a 3D model that shows exactly what your jewel will look like from every angle. Like our bespoke service, we involve the client at every stage of the design process. 


What jewellery can I repurpose?

This is a question we get asked a lot and the answer is: almost anything, as long as it is fine quality. From inherited jewellery that is too bulky or old-fashioned to be wearable to pieces that you no longer like, chains and brooches to strands of pearls, over the years we have transformed every type of jewel and reset a wide range of gemstones. 

There are, of course, some exceptions to this rule, and if they apply to you, they will be discussed during your appointment. For example, quite a lot of Art Deco jewellery was soldered with lead, and in these cases, for health and safety reasons, it’s not possible to reuse the metal. 

Occasionally, we are presented with antique jewels set with gems that have been foil-backed. Popular in the Georgian era, this method of setting stones was used to accentuate their colour. In these instances, reusing the gemstones is not always possible because by removing the foil backing, the gemstone’s colour is lost. Paste jewellery, popular during the earliest 20th century, often catches people out too. A special type of cut glass that was used to emulate a variety of gemstones, it is not financially viable to recycle antique paste jewellery. 

Sometimes, gems are so soft that removing them from their original setting is difficult. While pearls that have been strung are very easy to reuse, pearls that are set or glued in a jewel can be prone to cracking if removed. For very soft gemstones, like topaz, cleaving the stone in half might be the only way of removing them. 

Another frequently asked question is: can I cut a larger diamond into smaller diamonds? Our response is always a hard no for this one. Size plays a major role in the value of a diamond, and dividing it will lessen its worth considerably. And because scratches and a dull lustre are common in antique stones, if your diamonds and gemstones are looking worn, we can re-polish and re-facet them where required. 


A final point to note is about recycling gold. We are always very upfront about what is possible when it comes to reusing precious metals, which is very much dependent on quantity. If you have a gold ring, for example, it’s always better to melt it down and remake it into something simple like a gold wedding band. This way, the sentimental value remains pure, the cost is kept to a minimum and there is no need to dilute the gold by adding more of it. Mixing old and new golds is not as simple as it seems. The process of making gold in past centuries is not the same as today, and combining the two can result in contaminated gold and porosity issues.


What is the cost of remodelling old jewellery?

The cost of repurposing jewellery depends on the complexity of the transformation. As a guideline, reworking a pair of stud earrings and turning them into drops costs around £250. Removing gemstones and re-setting them into a new design requires a bigger budget. For example, designing a new engagement ring using the stones from an old ring starts from £1,750. Recycling metal to create a simple wedding band, meanwhile, costs approximately £200-300.

How long does a Jewellery Transformation take?

The majority of our Jewellery Transformations are delivered within 6-8 weeks. However, as with the cost, this is reliant on the type of transformation, with complex remodels and redesigns taking longer.

To discuss a Jewellery Transformation with Sophie, please get in touch, sharing images of the jewels that you would like repurposed. 

The Modern-Day Family Jeweller

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