Jewelry Conversion: How To Use Old Jewelry To Make New Jewelry
Annabelle / February 19, 2019
Whether you’re digging through boxes in the attic or rummaging through an estate sale, a piece of jewelry is going to catch your eye… And then you realize it’s a brooch, and you don’t really wear brooches. Or it’s one of those old-timey stickpins that ladies used for their hats, but who wears hats with pins these days?
No worries! Jewelry conversion is the process of changing an item to a completely different type of jewelry by removing, tweaking, and/or adding components to the original piece.
When we receive items for jewelry conversion from our clients, the first thing we do is take a look at the piece. Sometimes it can be impossible to convert because the process will ruin the integrity of the design, so we always perform our due diligence by letting the customer know. A few other things we look at include:
- Metal type: This is always important, especially when working with plated jewelry or costume jewelry made from non-precious metals such as copper or pewter. The conversion process can involve exposure to heat, and this may leave marks on certain areas.
- Components: Parts from the original piece can be used to create the new piece; for instance, if we’re given a pin, we can twist the stick part of the pin into a band for a ring conversion. This ensures the consistency of the metal as well as the overall look of the piece.
- Stones: Any stones in the item are always examined and approved before proceeding to work. Vintage pieces often use glass or plastic stones, which cannot withstand heat. To prevent damage during the conversion process, the jeweler may have to remove and reset them after the metalwork is finished.
The conversion process differs depending on what item is being converted into another type of jewelry. Here are some details for the most common types of jewelry conversion:
- Pin/brooch to ring: A stickpin or brooch can easily be converted into a ring. The jeweler first removes the stick from the part that will become the head, or front of the ring. Depending on the quality of the metal, the customer’s preference, and whether or not the stick is salvageable after removal, the jeweler may use the stick to form the band of the ring. If the customer wants a thicker band or a completely new band, the jeweler will not use the stick metal. The parts are then soldered together to form a new ring.
- Pin/brooch to pendant: As with the pin-to-ring conversion, the stick component is removed from the pin or brooch. Depending on what the customer wants, the stick metal may be used to form the bail, or the loop through which a chain goes through at the top of the pendant. If the customer wants a new bail, the jeweler can supply different types of bails or jump rings for the new pendant. The bail is then soldered to the top of the remaining part of the brooch or pin to create the pendant.
- Earring to pendant: Earrings can make lovely pendants if converted properly (and it’s a good way to make use of single earrings that are lying around!) The jeweler typically removes the back of the earring, if it happens to be a post earring. For dangle earrings, there may be an existing loop at the top of the design that connects the earring to the part that goes through the ear, making it significantly easier to just put a chain through the opening to create a necklace. If there is no such loop, the jeweler solders a jump ring or bail to the top of the earring.
After the conversion, our jewelers perform our signature Jewelry Spa treatment on the pieces. It’s as luxurious as it sounds:
- Polishing: Once the conversion is finished, the whole item gets a thorough polishing to ensure that there are no rough spots of metal. If the piece is vintage, this will help take off all the tarnish and grime accumulated over the years.
- Plating: The conversion process can remove color from a piece if it’s plated jewelry. The jeweler will re-plate the piece if possible to match the original’s color and hide discoloration. This step must be done after polishing, because plating unpolished jewelry results in a lumpy and uneven look. White gold jewelry will always get a coat of rhodium, which is a bright white metal that protects the white gold and gives it a silvery, clean finish.
- Cleaning: The piece is cleaned to remove any residue from conversion and polishing. Cleaning can differ depending on the item; while most jewelry is placed in an ultrasonic tank and then steam-cleaned, this exposure to water and heat isn’t good for costume jewelry. This is because stones in costume or low-end jewelry are often glued on, so the water will loosen the glue and cause the stones to fall out.
Now that you’re an expert on the jewelry conversion process, just think about all the items you can switch up and wear differently! If you’re ready to get started, drop us a line via our custom order service and one of our representatives will be in touch with you.