Something old, something new – remodelling heirloom jewellery

Something old, something new – remodelling heirloom jewellery
Transforming heirloom jewels into a new ring means you carry the memories, but wear something you have co-created so it feels unique to you. Image: Harriet Kelsall

Creating an engagement ring or other special wedding piece from inherited jewellery is a way to get a unique design with a true-love-story attached – and co-designing your very own ‘something old, something new’ is also an exciting journey

Wedding jewellery should always be special, but choosing engagement and wedding rings can be tough. When you’re shopping for new pieces, the whole business of the four Cs (colour, clarity, carat and cut) may sometimes make what should be a heart-led decision feel like a complex process of finding the right stone at the right price. Little wonder then, that some couples choose a different route – converting heirloom (estate) jewellery into a brand new design.

Richard Warrender of W&W Jewellery certainly believes it’s the character and history of old pieces – rather than their notional value – that inspires some couples to visit his company’s studio to commission something fresh and original from an heirloom. “I have the greatest respect for the four Cs when it comes to new gemstones, but vintage stones are often so interesting, so characterful. And, of course, each piece of old jewellery has its own story.”

Something old, something new – remodelling heirloom jewellery
W&W Jewellery believes each old piece has its own story – which is why it is such a creative process creating something new and unique

More couples are turning to a bespoke approach, and incorporating inherited pieces that already have family history and sentiment attached. Laurie McGrath, senior designer at bespoke jewellery specialists Harriet Kelsall, says this is often how the story of designing an engagement ring starts. The heirloom to be remodelled may be a ring that has outlived its wearability or doesn’t feel quite right on someone else’s finger, but she adds that there are a variety of other pieces that may be the starting point for a new piece. Sometimes it’s an old brooch or it may be a variety of different pieces that have been languishing in a drawer or jewellery box but deserve to be worn and enjoyed.

With so much sentimental value behind them, old pieces can be cleverly redesigned to be wearable and yet still retain something of the original. At Harriet Kelsall, they can even incorporate the old gold into new pieces and, if there are multiple smaller stones in a brooch, ring or necklace, these may be a great fit within a wedding band (Laurie McGrath says jewelled wedding bands are becoming more and more popular among their clients).


“The starting point may be a ring – or an old brooch or necklace – that deserves to be loved and worn, not to languish in the back of a drawer”

Something old, something new – remodelling heirloom jewellery
Before: A lovely old diamond cluster ring that deserved a new life
Something old, something new – remodelling heirloom jewellery
After: The Harriet Kelsall designers made the diamonds shine

At W&W Jewellery, the team can source new stones to bring out the best in the old gem, or even find a vintage stone to work within the design. Richard Warrender says there are numerous ways to ensure that an old-cut stone looks beautiful within a new and original piece. The team incorporate digital technology to design a bespoke setting that makes the very best of the character and cut of the jewels.

Something old, something new – remodelling heirloom jewellery
Sometimes an old stone is so lovely it speaks for itself, but it's always possible to source new or similar vintage stones to go with the heirloom, says W&W Jewellery

Often, the process at Harriet Kelsall starts with a few photos being emailed across, and from there sketches and ideas are discussed before an appointment is made to take an expert look at the original piece and fine tune the design before disassembling the old jewellery and beginning a skilled remaking process. Occasionally there are nice surprises. One rather unusual inherited piece only revealed itself to be a yellow diamond once it was removed from the setting that had obscured its true colour. With its history, rarity value and captivating hue, it made a quite stunning engagement ring matched to two pure white diamonds.

“Vintage stones are so characterful, and each one tells its own story”

Something old, something new – remodelling heirloom jewellery
At Harriet Kelsall, the involvement of the client is key to the creative process – and each final piece is a one off design

At both W&W Jewellery and Harriet Kelsall, the key thing about creating something fresh and original from heirlooms is the active involvement of the client. From the design of the setting to the sourcing of additional stones, this is a process of co-creation that ensures the piece feels precious and personal to the wearer.

Perhaps that – more than anything else – explains the allure of a new piece from old treasure. As Laurie McGrath of Harriet Kelsall explains it: “Designing an engagement ring or wedding rings starting with an old piece always feels meaningful – a process of welcoming a new member to the family and starting a new chapter of the family story”.

Something old, something new – remodelling heirloom jewellery
A beautiful original ring from Harriet Kelsall

Find out more

W&W Jewellery is located in Battersea, SW11; Harriet Kelsall is at three locations. It has a studio at Halls Green near Hitchin, Hertfordshire and a store in central Cambridge. Its recently opened London store is located in Regent’s Park Road, NW1;

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