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How to Redesign a Family Heirloom Engagement Ring to Fit Your Style

Written by Anna Currell
September 27, 2023

Your partner just proposed with a stunning family heirloom — congratulations! You're probably thrilled at the meaning behind the gesture, but what do you do when the style of the ring isn’t quite to your taste? An engagement ring is something you'll likely wear every day, so you want to love looking at it and you want it to feel like you. Luckily there are plenty of ways to update a family heirloom for modern times while still honoring the piece’s heritage. Here are our top tips for redesigning a family heirloom engagement ring to match your personal style.  

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Talk to Family About the Ring’s History

Before making any changes, talk to your family or your fiancé’s family to learn about the ring’s background. Ask when it was originally purchased and find out any proposal stories involving the ring. Learning the deeper significance the ring holds for your family can help inform your design choices. You may opt to highlight certain eras, motifs, or stones once you know the ring’s history, and you can take inspiration from the ways it has moved through your family over generations.

It’s definitely a good idea to check in with your family (or family-to-be) to make sure that you have their blessing before you make any changes to the ring. A family heirloom engagement ring often comes with a lot of memories, history, and personal meaning, so make sure you’re clear about your intentions and talk to your loved ones on the off chance they have any objections.

Assess the Original Design

Next, take a close look at the details of the existing ring and note any distinct attributes that you’ll want to take into account when making changes. For example, pay attention to the cut and shape of the gemstones, engraving or filigree detailing across the band, height of the setting, and width of the band. This will help you to begin planning exactly what changes you’d like to make to the ring while still highlighting its best assets. Discuss the aspects of the ring that do and don't appeal to you aesthetically with a professional jeweler; they will be able to advise you about design possibilities that will incorporate elements that are important to you, while reinventing any features you don’t love.

Choose Which Elements to Keep or Change 

Decide which parts of the original jewelry you want to preserve and which you wouldn’t mind updating. Do you love the ring’s central diamond but not the elaborate engraving around the band? Does a modern minimalist setting better match your vibe than one with intricate metalwork? Prioritize the aspects of the ring that you personally find most meaningful or beautiful and redesign the piece to highlight those features. Some elements may carry special significance — maybe the center diamond has been passed down for generations in different settings, for example — so you may opt to keep them exactly as is. Other elements like prong or halo settings may just need minor tweaking to feel fresh and current. Know which details hold sentimental value so you can make sure to retain them in the new design.

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Select Stylistic Updates That Reflect Your Taste

Once you decide which elements you want to keep, it’s time to choose how you’ll update the rest of the ring. Look through photos online or in fashion magazines for inspiration. Pick a setting that complements your style, like a sleek and modern bezel set band or a pave setting accented by smaller diamonds for an open, airy feel. Adding a dainty halo around the center stone can make an antique diamond feel more contemporary. Engraving initials inside the band makes the ring unique to you and your partner. The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to show your jeweler some examples of the metals, patterns, and accents you’re considering.

Consider Reshaping, Refaceting, or Resetting Stones

Diamonds and gemstones are often the most valuable part of a ring, both emotionally and financially. Luckily there are ways to modernize the stones in your family heirloom engagement ring with simple, subtle adjustments:

  • Reshaping: A stonecutter can reshape the outline of a gemstone, shifting it between round, oval, pear, and cushion shapes, for example. This alters its silhouette to match your design ideas or fit with of-the-moment trends.
  • Refaceting: Experts can re-cut a diamond’s faceting pattern to reflect more light and therefore appear bigger. Round cut diamonds, for example, have lots of facets, which makes their brilliance and sparkle even stronger. 
  • Resetting: A jeweler can take stones from their original setting and incorporate them into a new ring base. This fully transforms the style while keeping the diamonds or gemstones intact.
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This ring setting receives a new gemstone

Redesign an Heirloom Thoughtfully to Reflect Shared History

Redesigning a family treasure doesn’t have to diminish its meaning. In fact, you’re essentially adding your own chapter to the heirloom’s story. When redesigning an engagement ring, focus on styles that align with your personality while honoring the history of the heirloom. With some careful updates, your ring can become an even more special emblem of your commitment to your partner and your future as a married couple. Most of all, remember to enjoy the process of making this heirloom your own. Are you ready to update your family heirloom engagement ring to fit your style? Our expert jewelers can help you replace gemstones, reset diamonds, or create a new custom setting. Contact us today to get started.

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