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How to Replace Gemstones

Written by Annabelle
March 26, 2020

Changing the gemstones in a piece of jewelry can make a big difference! If you have an old ring that you’re not a fan of, or Grandma’s family heirloom, consider switching out the stone to drastically change the aesthetic. Read more to learn how to replace gemstones.

Choosing the Right Gemstone

Before you dive in headfirst into the wonderful world of gems, here are a few things you should consider before you replace gemstones. 

  1. Color & Metal: Think hard about what kind of aesthetic you’re going for. Are you a white gold lover, a rose gold fan, or a yellow gold traditionalist? Gemstones look different depending on the metal surrounding them. Typically, darker stones have great contrast with white gold, which is the brightest and lightest metal color. This combination makes for dramatic statement pieces. White gold also works well with lighter stones for an airier, delicate, and subtle look, and can help diamonds look bigger than they actually are.
    Rose gold and yellow gold can also contrast well with dark stones, but since these metals are tinted they will affect how certain colored stones display. For instance, a yellow citrine that looks bright and sharp against white gold will look more subtle in rose gold as its warm hues blend with the metal.
    Aside from the color of the metal, you should also consider the color of the stone you want to switch to. If you have a preference for green, this will limit the selection of choices available to you.


    Citrine stones in different metal settings.

  2. Shape: Some settings are designed for only one shape; if a particular ring is made for only round-cut stones, you won’t be able to fit a trillion-cut amethyst in there without modifying the piece via head replacement. However, a regular prong setting can be used for a variety of shapes including round cut, princess cut, and cushion cut. It can be worthwhile to speak with a jeweler for their opinion, as the shape of the stone will also affect the final look of the piece.


    An emerald cut blue topaz and the original glass stone.

  3. Cutting: Aside from the shape of the stone, gemstones can come in two forms: cabochon and faceted. Cabochon stones are smooth and rounded on the surface; they can highlight the internal inclusions of a stone or its color, providing a unique lightplay not seen in faceted gems. Faceted gems, on the other hand, are cut to sparkle as the facets catch the light. Certain gemstones are more commonly found in one style depending on the nature of the stone; for instance, turquoise is usually cut into a cabochon because the stone is opaque.


    A blue glass stone ring next to a newly sourced amethyst replacement.

  4. Durability: Not all stones are made equal, and if you’re rough with your jewelry it’s not a good idea to invest in a soft stone that will easily break or wear down over time. Emeralds are notoriously fragile thanks to the multitude of inclusions inside the gem, and pearls and coral can be destroyed with any exposure to harsh chemicals. Depending on the color of what you want to source, a jeweler can recommend a durable alternative so you can source a stone that will hold up to your wear.
    Of special note are stones that fade in the sunlight, or evening gems. Amethyst, citrine, aquamarine, and kunzite will fade with a lot of sunlight exposure, so keep that in mind when selecting these stones.


    An emerald with noticeable inclusions

  5. Budget: As tempting as it is to go all out to replace gemstones, affordability is the number one thing for most people to keep in mind. The price of a stone depends on its quality, size, and availability. If you’re asking for a 2 carat padparascha sapphire, you should be prepared to shell out quite a lot for this extremely rare stone. On the other hand, an affordable alternative to this orange-pink stone is a treated topaz, or a pretty pink morganite. A well-informed lapidary can work with you to get a stone within your budget and criteria.
    Remember that lab-created stones are always an affordable alternative to natural stones, which are priced according to their rarity! Lab-created stones are exactly the same as a natural stone in terms of chemical structure, but they’re much more affordable and can get you the exact same aesthetic without breaking the bank.


    An antique ring with two lab-created gemstones; a sapphire and blue topaz

Gemstone Sourcing and Setting

Once you’ve decided on the stones you want, it’s time to source them! A jeweler and lapidary will check to see where the stone can be procured. Lab-created and common gemstones can usually be sourced within 1 day to 1 week. As for large gemstones and rare varieties, the lapidary may have to check with overseas vendors, extending the sourcing time to weeks or even months. 

When the lapidary receives the stone, it may need to be cut to fit the setting. This adds an additional 3-5 days to the turnaround time. Once the stone is ready, the jeweler sets it and polishes the item to finish the job. 

Now you’re ready to replace gemstones! Switch it up and make that piece just right for you. If you’re ready to get started, comment below and we’ll help you out!

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Do you have to have the replacement gemstone cut to exactly the same dimensions as the original stone in a 4 clawed setting, or would there be a tolerance of say, up to 1mm or 1.5mm?


Great question – there definitely is some tolerance, but the specifics will depend on your stone size and ring design. I’ve followed up directly via email regarding your 4 clawed setting 🙂


I have to replace a ruby that is: 10.69mm x 9.06mm x 5.37mm. I have found an Aquamarine that is just 10.5mm (i.e. slight less than 11mm) by 9mm and am checking on the depth measurement. Coukd the A2uamarine be a suitable replacement – given your stipulation that it should only be worn at night?


This definitely sounds like a suitable replacement! I’ve followed up via email to confirm that there are no special issues posed by the setting design 🙂