Rejuvenate your old jewelry

Wednesday, 4 February 2009 | Tags: , , , , ,

If you've got a jewelry box full of old gold and out-of-date sparklies that you never wear, you're actually be sitting on a gold mine of raw material, just waiting to be restyled into a fashion-forward piece. We find out what you need to know to recycle your old treasures into stylish fashion statements.

The Basics

Having your jewelry restyled can be a lot cheaper than buying something brand new since you’re only paying for the labour, not the material (which you already own).

It’s also becoming more popular as a green alternative since reusing old material creates less of a demand to mine new material, and so is less harmful to the environment.

Choosing a Jeweler

  • Consult your local business directory to find jewelry shops in your area. Call them to find out if will take your old items and melt them down or rework them into new pieces. (Usually smaller, independent shops do this kind of work.)

  • When you’ve narrowed down your choices, go into the shop for a consultation (usually free, but be sure to ask first). Also request to see a portfolio of pieces they’ve done. (Or, on the phone, ask if they have a photo gallery online that you can look at.)

  • Make sure you choose a jeweler whose work style you like, and don’t forget to ask about rates.

Artistic Inspiration

Once you’ve chosen your jeweler, s/he will consult with you and discuss the end product you may have in mind. If you aren’t sure what to do, let the jeweler make recommendations to see if anything catches your interest. You may also want to look through magazines and online to pick out styles that you like in order to give the jeweler an idea of your taste.

Depending on the pieces you’re recycling, the jeweler may work with our pieces intact, altered, or melted down (e.g. gold, silver) to form the new piece.

Recyclable or not?

Not all jewelry can be recycled, and the list varies by jeweler, usually depending on their process. Materials can range from non-jewelry vintage and antique items (e.g. silver spoons, coins, etc.) to pure metals and gemstones.

Many jewelers will ask you to have gemstones (especially diamonds) appraised or lab-certified before they work on them. (We think this is a good idea too, for your records.)

Different materials better lend themselves to recycling. For example:

  • Yellow gold melts down better than white gold. White gold cannot be transformed into yellow, and vice versa.

  • If melting down yellow gold, the purer the better. Impurities such as solder seams in chains or rings can create problems.

  • If melting together different pieces of gold, the number of carats of each must be the same. If you try to combine different carat levels, the metal can take on a porous appearance (i.e. bubbly surface imperfections).

  • Platinum is very difficult to melt and re-use.

  • If your gold is deemed unsuitable, some jewelers may still buy it from you at scrap rates. (Also white gold and platinum.) They can use it towards purchasing new material to work with.

  • Depending on the piece being created, the jeweler may need to buy more material to add to it. For example, a 15 gram ring may require 25 grams of gold. The extra is “lost” due to filing and processing.


To have jewelry recycled into something new can range anywhere from under $20 for a pair of inexpensive earrings, to thousands of dollars for a custom wedding ring.

Kristina’s 14kt gold jewelry was recycled into a ring with a new peridot gemstone and re-used pinpoint diamonds by Martin Smith of The Perfect Gift in Vancouver. She paid just over $1000 for the labour and the new peridot. If she wanted to buy the equivalent ring brand new, she would have paid over $3100.


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