Whether you call it upcycling or jewelry redesign, it’s a movement: During lockdown, women decided to revive their old jewels, like a grandmother’s brooch, a necklace that wasn’t their style anymore, or an engagement ring that felt tired. And in comes the jewelry-makeover gurus–designers who will help you transform those old pieces into something a bit more modern.
“People love the idea of reusing pieces they already own,” says designer Jessica McCormack, the London-based designer who is known for taking a client’s large diamonds and transforming them into understated, everyday pieces, like pendants hanging from long chains. “If you have a piece of jewelry that means a lot to you, all the more reason for it to be something you truly want to wear.”
Here are six designers who are known for remaking pieces while infusing their own distinctive style into the jewelry. Plus, their best advice about what to expect from the process.
Jessica McCormack delivers modern retro-styled jewels.
Sound advice: “It’s good to look at your collection over a lifetime and think about how you want to build that out. Redesigned pieces can act as a building block for your whole jewelry wardrobe.”
What you’ll get: “They know we’ll make a piece feel relevant, whilst retaining its craft. It’s finding that balance, and then most importantly looking after the emotional value of a piece.”
The redesign: “Someone brought us a solitaire engagement ring that we made into a beautiful Ball ‘n Chain necklace. Another client brought us an old diamond claw line necklace that we made into an incredible fringe cuff bracelet—I am obsessed with it.”
How to get in touch: Visit jessicamccormack.com.
Brent Neale offers a pop of color and bold style.
Most people come to Brent with inherited pieces that just aren’t their style, but they want to hold on to for sentimental reasons.
What to expect: “It starts with a conversation about what the client wants—sometimes clients are very specific, other times not. The next step is to start working on sketches. I draw and paint everything by hand, a leftover skill from my days at FIT! Once approved, we put the piece into work in the jewelry district here in NYC where every single piece is made and manufactured.”
The redesign: A recent widow wanted to reimagine her engagement ring, so Neale reset the round stone in a gypsy-style ring and surrounded it on either side with the birthstones of client’s young son and her husband. Another client inherited her grandmother’s pinky ring with an exceptional center stone. “We sourced shield cut diamonds for the sides and made her a killer gypsy ring that I had a hard time parting with!”
How to get in touch: Visit brentneale.com.
Corina Madilian of Single Stone uses old diamonds and jewels in unexpected ways.
Why redesign: “Many of us have those mementos sitting in the back of our jewelry box that we never think we’ll wear but are too special to give away. When you combine love with creativity, we can transform these items into beautiful and wearable creations that will be enjoyed and treasured for a lifetime.”
The process: “We meet personally with a client or virtually, assess their collection, their wants and their budget. Once we have a design, we present them with a sketch and upon approval we begin the process of creating their piece in Los Angeles, where all of our production is done.”
The redesign: A client brought a Victorian-era brooch that she positioned on a bold gold cuff making it a real statement piece. Another client had a classic platinum engagement ring with a diamond center stone and diamond and sapphire side stones. They used the stones in a bold yellow gold gypsy-style ring.
How to get in touch: Visit singlestone.com.
Renna Tahir of Renna turns basic gems into style signifiers.
The motivation: “With family stones, I find people have a strong desire to wear jewelry that once belonged to a loved one, but often don’t as it is ‘not their style.’ Resetting an heirloom piece is a thoughtful way to keep a special person close to you while also creating something you will enjoy and want to wear.”
On redesigned engagement rings: Tahir gets the most requests to redesign engagement rings. “Women wear their engagement rings every day, and after 10, 20 years, it simply becomes time for a refresh. I have seen many classic platinum engagement rings come in with the request to change to yellow gold and even mixed metals: yellow and blackened gold are very popular right now, as are chunkier settings.”
The process: “It’s a collaborative process; I want to get to know the client, how they plan on wearing the piece, and what their vision is. My designs usually play with geometry or negative space, which most bespoke clients know already before coming to me; this is my niche. After I have a firm understanding of what the client is looking for, I then sketch and provide several variations for them to consider. All of my jewelry is made in New York City.”
Recycle and new: “Recycled jewelry is and will continue to be very important to younger generations. I already used recycled gold for all of my pieces, which tends to be a big draw for the clientele that come to me.”
The redesign: A client brought in a 4-carat fancy intense yellow diamond solitaire ring and wanted a monochrome setting. Renna combined the oval stone with a circle and filled the empty space with yellow diamonds melee. “It is a bold ring, but the metalwork is so meticulous and delicate it doesn’t appear as bulky; it’s really a work of architecture.”
How to get in touch: Visit rennajewels.com.
Jenny Klatt and Stephanie Wynne Lalin, co-founders of Jemma Wynne, use diamonds and gems in sleek, modern designs.
Why now: “Now, more than ever, people want jewelry that is wearable, meaningful, and sentimental. By offering the service of working with clients’ stones and heirloom pieces, we are giving them just that.”
What to expect: “We have become known for our two stone (and now 3 stone!) open rings that we have been making for the past 10 years, and people come to us for that specific style more than anything. More recently, we have been working on necklace and bracelet styles for clients who love mixing in the chunky feel of our gold Toujours chains with their diamonds.”
The redesign: A client had a traditional 5-carat emerald cut diamond ring with emerald cut side stones from her grandmother. As a busy mother of two, she wanted something with “a more modern feel and that she would feel comfortable wearing every day,” so they reset the center stone in gold bezel set east-west on a thin gold band making a big stone understated. Another client had a white gold necklace with multi-shaped diamonds that sat in her jewelry box for years. They reset the stones in pave baskets and hung them from their signature gold Toujours chain.
How to get in touch: Visit jemmawynne.com.
Sisters Kim Carosella and Nicole Carosella of Sorellina redesign jewels while keeping the original spirit of the piece.
Don’t get too attached to the original design: “We find that a lot of people are timid about redesigning their vintage pieces because they feel like they’re parting with the history and sentimentality of the piece.” The sisters take elements from sentimental jewelry and create something fresh that still respects the original piece and the person who gave it to them.
The process: “I want to know everything so I can incorporate really special, one-of-a-kind details in my designs. For instance, after several conversations with one client, she told me her grandfather had always wanted a dragonfly tattoo. In her final design, we had a dragonfly discreetly engraved on the back of the pendant we made for her. It’s an unforgettable detail that makes the piece truly unique to her.”
The redesign: A client had a 4-carat emerald-cut family diamond and wanted a “show-stopping” ring. “I decided the piece should have a classic, art deco feel to go with Jess’s unique style and sketched out a design that featured a baguette diamond halo around her family diamond, and had baguettes stepping down to a half-eternity band.” They sourced vintage baguette diamonds with a similar color and clarity to the center stone and had the platinum ring made in New York City.
How to get in touch: Visit sorellinanyc.com.