Today is my gorgeous sister Terri Berry‘s birthday.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TERRI BERRY!
Yesterday, TerriB’s husband, Tim Berry, presented her with a custom ring I designed. TerriB was in on the plan. Earlier this year, when gold was at a then-record-high of $1330 an ounce, I started taking the stones out of old jewelry and selling the metal. (Gold has since topped $1800 an ounce, before easing back to the mid-$1700 range.) I offered to do the same for TerriB. She had a ruby-and-diamond earring and necklace set that she never wore. The stones came from an old cocktail ring of my mother’s and had been redesigned once, but not in a very appealing way.
She requested that the stones be used to create a personalized version of my Siobhan perma-stacked ring. The Siobhan has become a popular design to customize.
I had TerriB pick out four skinny bands from the original Siobhan design to include in her ring. Then I made three thicker bands, whose look was dictated by the size and shape of the stones she had. Here is the result.
Here’s how the ring stacks up next to the original.
When I’m redesigning old jewelry, people frequently ask if I can make their new piece out of their old metal. I tell them that I can do it if they insist, but it’s labor-intensive and not very practical for tiny amounts of metal. First, I would have to refine the old gold, returning it to its pure, 24K state and removing all alloy metals and solder. (Click here for my explanation of 24K, 18K and 14K gold.) Creating new jewelry with unknown levels of impurities in the metal increases the chances of defects known generally as porosity. Then, because 24K gold is too soft to withstand much wear-and-tear, I’d have to re-alloy the metal, taking it back to 14K or 18K. Remember my post about quantity, and how it’s always less expensive to work with large quantities rather than small quantities? That should help you understand why this is way too much work to do on what’s usually well under an ounce of metal. And, speaking of small quantity, if I reuse your metal, that’s ALL the metal we have for the new design. Metal is lost while shaping and polishing a new design — even a simple ring — so your new piece will be smaller than your old one. It might be a millimeter difference, but it will be there.
I prefer to recycle gold in a more efficient way, as I did this year, by selling the metal to a company that buys it in large quantities to refine, re-alloy and resell. I do it with old jewelry, but goldsmiths go so far as to sweep up the gold dust left over from their work until they have enough to melt it into a block and resell. Last week, one of my goldsmiths and I were rolling around a one-ounce button-shaped lump of gold that he was preparing to sell, and he mused, “We’re probably using recycled gold more often than we use any recently mined gold.” Even in 2001, when gold was below $300 an ounce, it was too expensive for anyone to waste. Trust me, no one is throwing it away now.
Looking at TerriB’s ring, I don’t think it would be more attractive or meaningful if it used her old metal. And, while I love to reuse old stones if they’re worthy, gorgeous blogger/client Susan found that even her original stones weren’t necessary for creating a piece with emotional impact. Ultimately, the beauty of custom jewelry is in the eye of the beholder … not the provenance of the raw materials.
All photos in this post are by SquareMoose.