Jewleryfilter: save my antique wedding ring
December 11, 2017 9:08 AM   Subscribe

My wedding ring is my grandmother's and I've neglected it horribly. Please give me some ideas and language to use with a jeweler to rehabilitate it and perhaps transform it into something that will last another generation. Or tell me to put it in storage and get a beater instead because I am a danger to rings.

This is my wedding ring. It is white gold, very, very small, very delicate, and currently totally blobular in shape. As you can see, it is also missing one of its eensy-weensy diamonds (just noticed that yesterday). I had it resized (enlarged) when I got married (17 years ago) because my grandmother was apparently a gnome.

Obviously I'm going to have to have the lost gem replaced, but for a few years now I've been contemplating having a jeweler do... something... to improve its durability as well. I wear my ring daily and have a pretty active life and if I have it returned to a round shape, it'll be misshapen within a month again. But I also don't want to screw with it too much because it is an antique and a family heirloom.

Is there a standard solution here? Or does anyone have any ideas? This is the only piece of jewelry I wear, ever, so I don't know anything about anything when it comes to the topic. I'd like to walk into a jeweler and be able to present a few ideas of my own instead of walking and just being a giant shruggie emoticon.
posted by soren_lorensen to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total)
Maybe you just need to get it cleaned up. I have a friend whose dad was a jeweler, and she told me jewelry needs to be maintained, every now and then, you go the jeweler and they clean it and make any necessary repairs. I had no idea, but now I do just that with the stuff I have. Also, get a thing to put the ring on when you are working with your hands.
My stepmother gave me a precious ring that I just knew I would never wear, and I had it made into earrings. The thing is, I don't wear them either and now I wonder if my daughters would have preferred to inherit the ring rather than the earrings. However, that was not an heirloom, but something my stepmother bought for insurance money after her actual heirlooms were stolen.
IMO, it's very beautiful that your ring is so delicate and has such simple and elegant settings, you don't see that often in more modern jewelry.
posted by mumimor at 9:45 AM on December 11, 2017

I speak as an inveterate ring-deformer and (even worse!) ring-loser, and I don't know if this is helpful advice, but might you consider getting a plain, more-durable band for everyday wear and saving this one for Occasions, or at least days where you don't have to do much with your hands? This is my solution for rings I care about. Your ring looks delicate and lovely, but that delicate style is fragile. Since it's already been sized, the shank may have been thinned out, making the metal more fragile still.
posted by halation at 9:47 AM on December 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Could you wear a guard ring that's tougher (i.e., a stronger alloy/less gold) to give some shelter to the heirloom one?
posted by wenestvedt at 10:01 AM on December 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Honestly, asking good jewelers will get you the best answers. In similar circumstances where an antique ring has gotten super thin I've thought about "reusing" the metal for a new ring, but a good jeweler might be able to say whether that ring can be reinforced or have metal added somehow to help it better hold its shape (likely part of the problem with losing the gem).
posted by ldthomps at 10:33 AM on December 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

How about having a jeweler make you an almost exact copy? He could use a more durable gold alloy and make the ring a bit more sturdy. You could then keep your grandmothers ring as a heirloom piece in a jewelry box and wear the other one every day. In case the original was ever lost (say, if someone broke into your home...), you would still have the copy on your hand to cherish and pass on to the next generation.
posted by Fallbala at 10:34 AM on December 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

Just have the jeweler build up the band with more gold. White gold is generally more durable than yellow because of the alloys used, so that is in your favor. It looks like the eensy-weensie (and very pretty!) diamonds are in yellow. A diamond that size will not be very expensive to replace.

I bent a relatively thick 14K ring into D-ring shape by carelessly handling a large propane tank, and it was fixed with no problem.

One of my grandmother's well-worn (!) diamond rings was taken to a private jeweler, and he did an amazing job on it. It looked brand new. Too bad my brother did not do an amazing job with the now-defunct marriage, but I digress.

I would go to a family-owned, non-chain jeweler. If you give us a location, we might be able to recommend someone.
posted by jgirl at 11:16 AM on December 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Please don't feel bad about misshaping your ring. Gold is a soft metal, which is one of the reasons it is so popular to wear as jewelry.

I, too, have a wedding ring that was my (dead) mother-in-law's and she also had tiny fingers compared to mine. I think my ring is white 14k. (Can't pull it off right now.) I got a wedding band that is white gold but 10k, which is stronger (less gold in it), and they are fused, which does protect the other ring.

As another person who does not wear other jewelry often, I say get the jewel replaced and get a "protector" ring to fuse to it (it could even go on both sides to look fancy) and keep wearing it every day. Because what is the worth of it in a box somewhere instead of on your finger?
posted by jillithd at 11:45 AM on December 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's hard to tell exactly how thin it is from the picture, but it's possible for a jeweler to add extra metal, especially at the bottom, to make it more durable. I have an antique band that had been resized a lot and actually broke at the bottom. It was inexpensive for a jeweler to repair it and make it slightly thicker to be more durable.
posted by radioamy at 1:53 PM on December 11, 2017

I do goldsmithing; so I can tell you that you have a lot of options, depending on what you truly want with that ring:

1. To preserve it as it is: you may want to have it cleaned, and that's it, which is something you can do on your own. If the gold is faded or you want to plate it in white gold or rhodium, you could ask a jeweller to plate it for you.

2. To add a stone setting: you could ask a jeweller to do so, and they would solder a prong or bezel and add a stone for you.

3. You could ask to have something engraved or etched.

4. If you wished to use the gold of that ring to make something else, you could go to a goldsmith, and the goldsmith could give you options, from turning it into a clasp, or part of a pendant or bracelet. It depends on how willing you are to break something to recreate it.

You do have options, and if you are willing to spend some money, I would look online to see various goldsmiths, and their work; so you can choose someone whose style is most in tune with what you want to happen to the ring. Most jewellers can do 1 and 2, and even 3, but if you want to do something a little more daring, you are looking for someone who repurposes precious metals for a living.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 3:26 PM on December 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nthing to have a good jeweler just build up the band with more metal and replace your stone. Your ring really isn't in bad shape at all.
posted by desuetude at 9:00 AM on December 12, 2017

It's not that bad. Mine was so worn thin it was cutting into my finger. A good jeweller can do wonders. One idea is to fuse the old ring to a new one. I've seen this done with old, fragile rings and it looks amazing.
posted by Enid Lareg at 2:27 PM on December 12, 2017

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