Not all jewelers are willing to take on the remodeling process: Craig Spark, master jeweler at Melbourne’s Lucy Folk, no longer works with antique pieces. “We often found it was a difficult conversation,” he says. “People come in thinking they have a certain piece, but then find out the material is different.
“And we’ve had cases where people come in with jewelry they’ve bought at auction, online, and it’s not what it says it is and it can’t be reshaped properly.”
Jewelry designed by Matthew Ely: Heirloom diamonds are transformed into a pendant and the stages of creating a ring.
More than that, though, Spark feels the remodel does a disservice. “There’s an element of respect,” he says. “When I make a custom piece, I intend for it to outlive the person I’m designing it for. I hope it becomes a future legacy, not a remake.”
Rogers agrees there are challenges. “We point out the risks,” he says. “We get rings that are 200 years old. The jewelry is pretty sturdy, but it lives a life. It’s not going to be perfect, and it may not be durable enough to wear every day.”
Sometimes the biggest complication is that the customer simply wants a part refurbished, not redone, and that is no longer possible. “They want a zjoosh,” says Fairfax & Roberts managing director Irene Deutsch. “But you can’t use this metal very often, it just doesn’t hold up anymore.”
Joshua Rogers at Fairfax & Roberts, Sydney. Louie Douvis
In these cases, Rogers suggests a facsimile piece that can withstand wear and tear. “Keep the heritage and make a less expensive version that you can play,” he says. “Sometimes that’s the most respectful thing to do.”
New Zealand jeweler Jasmin Scott (whose brand is Jasmin Sparrow) loves working with older pieces. “My grandmother worked in a jewelry store for 30 years and my sisters and I have inherited pieces from her. There are certain styles that haven’t been worn, and we love reworking them to modernize them.”
Scott will often work with customers to create unique pieces of jewelry, such as the time he used a Maori pounamu stone, inherited from a customer’s great-grandfather, and the same great-grandfather’s hairstyle, to make an engagement ring.
“It’s not about remaking old jewelry, it’s about taking objects that are loved by the family and important to them, and starting the next chapter,” says Scott. He cut both of them and put them in a ring. “It has so much depth, it was a very special piece to create.”
Jasmine Scott; a ring he made from Maori pounamu stone; and another ring created from heirloom pieces. Ruby Holland
Jewelry remodeling is laborious and time-consuming, Ely says (she’s been working on a pearl necklace restoration for three years, among other jobs). And Rogers advises looking for a jeweler with extensive experience in the field. “You want someone who uses the same tools that the pieces would have been made with originally. You have to remember that you’re working with history.
“They are important in sentimental value, but they are also important, period. I recently had an engagement ring that was made when the century began with 18. It has seen wars, it has seen plagues. You have to treat them with respect.”
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