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Designing Heirloom Reworks

December 23, 2018

Designing Heirloom Reworks

Custom jewels are a huge part of Marrow, and it’s so amazing to see a piece come to life from an early concept. Client projects excite us daily, but there is nothing quite like making a piece you get to keep for yourself! We followed Charlotte, our production manager, on her heirloom rework journey to see the ins and outs of this exciting process. 

Heirloom Ring Gets a Makeover

First things first. What’s an heirloom, and what makes them appealing? A family heirloom is avaluable piece that has been passed on from generation to generation. It has incredible sentimental value, and it’s often given as an engagement ring or a valuable gift for a loved one. 

Unfortunately, an heirloom can be old, outdated, or rusty because of the accumulated wears and tears throughout the years. Luckily, there are ways to rejuvenate your heirloom! 

Related:Marrow Fine Jewelry

Years ago, Charlotte received an heirloom ring from her grandma with four diamonds in a chunky 80’s setting. It was neither her size nor style, so it sat in her jewelry box while I constantly contemplated what to do with it. The diamonds are all different sizes, so there weren’t very many designs that could include all of them.

One of our popular designs at Marrow is a cluster ring—when Charlotte saw the finished piece, she loved how it turned out! And instantly, she wanted one too, and knew she could use her heirloom ring to create one for herself.


Why do people turn heirlooms into a new style?

It might be easier to leave an heirloom alone, but it has more meaning if it’s updated to fit your personality, so that you can wear it everyday. Charlotte wanted to update her heirloom diamonds so they’d fit her style better, but there are lots of other reasons why people re-designed their heirloom jewelry:

Related: Marrow Fine Jewelry Collections

Updating the style

You may receive jewelry that was passed on to you from generation to generation. It seems more natural to leave the item in your box than to revitalize it. However, jewelry redesigning lets you use the stone and re-create a piece that fits both your style and personality. This is aninnovative way to preserve valuable family history and to also incorporate new life into the item. 

You can also combine two or more meaningful pieces to create one jewelry design. Just think about how meaningful it would be to have two different rings that look phenomenal together.

Keep the Sentimental value

Often times, an heirloom is extremely old or outdated. They may not fit your modern-day style. Unfortunately, getting a new ring will destroy all the sentimentality behind it. Luckily, byredesigning an heirloom, it allows you to renovate the ring to your taste as well as keeping the sentimental value. After all, it is a way to keep your loved ones close to you even if they may have passed on to another life.

Didn't work out

If the wedding is called off or you’ve gone through a divorce, you might have some emotional baggage attached to the ring. On the other hand, you don’t want to get rid of it because of its sentimental value. Instead, you can reinvent your ring into a design thatcelebrates your new life.

Customize it

People get bored with the same jewelry that they see every day. They would want to reinvent it to give new life and meaning to the stone. 

For example, those earrings that have been collecting dust on the shelf could be turned into a cocktail ring. Grandma’snecklace could be handcrafted into gorgeous earrings. You get the idea—the possibilities are endless when it comes to giving jewelry a makeover.


Repurposing heirloom jewelry is also environmentally responsible. That’s because you recycle the material instead of throwing it away, helping to minimize the waste of resources.

Instead of buying brand new jewelry, you can use the stones to redesign or re-create something special. When you repurpose your heirloom, you also get to contribute to sustainability! Any jewelry can be repurposed, such as necklaces,earrings, and rings. It’s important to know what type of stone you have so you are aware of the designs that you can create. 

Different stones have various degrees of durability and hardness. You can bring it to the jewelers at Marrow Fine, who will use the hardness scale to categorize gems and minerals like diamonds from soft to hard. 

Stones likesapphires, diamonds, and rubies are tough and durable, and can withstand the remodeling process without any damage. Softer stones like moonstone or turquoise are not the best option for repurposing because they have a higher chance of getting scratched or cracked when being transferred from one setting to another.

Why use an heirloom ring?

People use an heirloom ring for various reasons like aproposalor a gift to a family member. For some individuals, an heirloom ring can save you from spending thousands on a new engagement ring while still giving you the luxury of updating it.

Plus, the bride-to-be might find it more meaningful to wear a ring that has sentimental values. After all, choosing the proper ring is an emotional process, and an heirloom holds historical significance that a new ring can’t even replicate. So, here’s how Charlotte created hers.

Designing the Diamond Cluster Ring

We pulled all the diamonds from the setting and started playing with layout ideas and adding stones. After five years of indecision, it only took 15 minutes to figure out a layout Charlotte loved. We decided on a rad cluster using all four diamonds and adding four Montana sapphires (a Marrow favorite!).



Once this initial design was decided upon, everything else was a breeze. We then moved to the CAD (computer aided design) process. We all loved how low profile it was and the prong placement was perfect! The colors are never exact in the computer model, but this phase is really to make sure the stone placement is perfect.


After approving the design, we 3D printed an exact model of the ring in wax. The wax model is then invested in plaster and cast through the lost wax casting method. Basically what this means is our caster will make a tree of little wax models, pour plaster over it and let it cure.

Then it goes into a kiln where the wax melts out, leaving a perfect impression in the plaster of all the pieces that will be cast. Molten gold is poured into the investment, then dunked in water so the plaster melts away, leaving a beautiful golden tree of future Marrow pieces.



After the piece is cast, it goes through a round of polishing to ensure the seat under each stone is perfect and smooth. Then the setter works his magic and polishes her up one more time and…. Voila! The finished piece is ready to wear! 

Since we had so many people inquire about this ring, we made a limited edition run of mini versions of this ring. 


The process of remaking jewelry 

As you can see, the process of customizing your own heirloom ring is totally exciting. If you’re getting ideas about how to redesign an heirloom, here’s what you’ll need to know. 

Where should the ring come from?

Some of you may receive heirlooms from multiple family members! It might be overwhelming to determine which side of the family that theheirloom ring should come from. Should it come from the groom or the bride?

This process is challenging, but possible. The best thing to do is to choose the piece that has the most sentimental attachment to give to your significant other. 

Luckily, we have some tips and tricks for you to find the right heirloom ring. (And of course, you can always create more than one!)

Related:Marrow Fine Engagement Rings

Family history

If thatring has been passed on through five generations, then it's the obvious choice for a bride. A ring with history is a ring with sentimental value.

Late family member

If the ring belongs to a deceased family member and holds emotional value and to that person, then this ring will be a great honor to their memory.


It’s essential to find a ring that fits yourpersonality and style. 

What you want

If you want to wear the ring every day of your life, then you should take that into consideration and create the ring for durability and versatility. If you want to wear it infrequently, then it can be more fragile and unique.

Get Permission

The next step is to get permission from the person who gave you the jewelry. It’s a good idea to make sure they won’t mind if you make any modifications. 

When it comes time to ask for the heirloom, make sure to give them time to think about it. You should take the time to describe how honored you feel to receive the heirloom, and why you want to make changes. It could be difficult for a person to let you rework an heirloom ring, but it can be a blessing as well. It might take some time to consider this decision, so avoid making them feel pressured. 

Keep in mind that heirloom rings are precious and personal, and someone providing you with one is giving you the chance to make your engagement or wedding magical.

Know the ring’s history

Before you begin the change, it’s essential to know the ring's history. This will enable you to extrapolate essential pieces of information that could help youredesign the heirloom. It can give you an idea of what elements to use.

What to do with the Heirloom ring?

There’s an endless amount of creative designs that you can use to redesign your engagement rings! Here are some options to consider:

Related:Marrow Fine’s Ring Collections

Old stone with a new setting

A popular heirloom rework at Marrow is taking an old stone (typically set in a clunky, outdated style) and put it in a new, modern setting. This allows our Marrow babes to add personal touches, any additional stones they may want, anda unique wedding band to match with the style of the engagement ring. This strategy focuses on replacing something old with something new. This is the easiest way to combine history with the start of a new beginning.

Change the center stone 

You can change the center stone to something new and breathtaking. Or, you can simply replace it with your partner'sfavorite diamond.

Clean and replated

Old pieces are prone to accumulating dirt or rust from years of wear and tear. Fortunately, simple cleaning and replating can give it an entirely refreshed look!


Engraving the family heirloom is an excellent way to update valuable pieces. Just think about the possibility of addingwedding dates and initial to the ringthat everyone uses for their engagement.

Incorporating parts of the ring to a new piece

Using an existing stone from your family heirloom as an accent stone in a new ring is a creative way toimplement original elements while getting a brand new design.

It can also be used as a center stone in a family heirloom to add sentimental attachment to a new ring. You can melt the metal from the heirloom and reformed it to a new design.

Talk to the jeweler

Before the redesigning process, Marrow inspects the heirloom to see if the stones and material can withstand the reset. Once the stones are approved and deemed strong enough for thecustomization process, we will sketch a unique design to create the masterpiece of your dreams. 

Once you approve the design, we render a 3D CAD (computer assisted design) to show you what it would look like when the piece is complete. This will give you a better idea of what rings, necklaces, and earrings would appear beyond the sketch.

Once the CAD is approved, we begin the remaking process to transform your heirloom piece.

There are so many ways to bring new life to an heirloom, and we love helping our Marrow babes do just that! You can modernize or create aunique design with your heirloom. You can take elements out of the old piece, and incorporate it into a new one. After all, the possibilities are limitless. Here are some ideas that you can consider:

  • Turn the outdated ring into a new low-profile design
  • Turn and heirloom ring into a more modern necklace
  • Turn a diamond from a bracelet of a watch into a ring
  • Resize pearls to a shorter length or combined with other pearls to create a new look
  • Keep the gemstone and change out the metal


Keep the Leftovers

After the redesigning process, it’s a good idea to keep the leftover stones and metals. After all, you never know how much you might want to use them for the future. Using remaining elements into a new ring can make anoutstanding anniversary gift. Plus, your family members might want to use the leftover stones and metal into their jewelry.


Why Rework Heirlooms?

We love heirloom reworks! Heirloom jewelry contains a lot of history because it has been passed on from generation to generation. In fact, an heirloom rework is how Marrow was started.This is an opportunity for loved ones to share their family history, or for you to remember your own. 

If you are interested in one of these mini cluster rings or in creating a custom piece, pleaseemail for timing, details and pricing.

Related:Marrow Fine’s Not Your Grandma’s Pearl Collections

// Images shot by Charlotte Barrows. The second to last image was photographed by Arielle Vey @ariellevey // The last image was shot by Keith Zacharski @inthebarrelphoto

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