Repurposing Heirloom Jewelry for Engagement Rings: The Easy Guide for Beginners

Michael Fried
Michael Fried

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One of the momentous moments in your life has arrived: your marriage proposal! It’s a time of celebrating the present, planning for the future, and honoring the past. What better way to evoke the timelessness of your commitment than with an heirloom engagement ring? 

An heirloom engagement ring symbolizes attachment. It gives the wearer a sense of belonging and connection. Yet, just like family dynamics, heirloom engagement rings can be a tricky subject to navigate. Let this guide help you know the etiquette and options involved with this sentimental piece.

Here’s a peek at what this article entails:

  • Is an heirloom engagement ring right for us?
  • What is the social etiquette of heirloom jewelry?
  • What are my options with an heirloom engagement ring?
  • What if I don’t want the heirloom as an engagement ring?

Is an heirloom engagement ring right for us?

An heirloom engagement ring is a previously worn piece of jewelry from your family tree. It can be the exact engagement ring your grandmother wore and look like this Art Deco Floral Halo Engagement Ring from James Allne. It can be a diamond from your aunt’s necklace placed into a modern setting like this Graduated Milgrain Diamond Engagement Ring from Blue Nile. The options are abundant yet the nostalgia remains. 

Art Deco Floral Halo Engagement Ring on a hand
Art deco floral halo engagement ring on a hand (Photo: James Allen)

Figuring out what your future partner wants to sport on her finger for the rest of her life is an important step. The detective work to find her dream engagement ring can be overt or subtle.

With regard to heirloom jewelry, you can show your partner a picture of someone wearing the estate piece. Or the topic can come up when sharing family histories. Whether overt or subtle, communication is a powerful part of finding the perfect engagement ring.

Social etiquette of heirloom jewelry

It’s important to understand the sensitive nature of a family estate piece. Grandma may need time to mentally transition. Being patient with your family’s process will help you get to know your current and future family, as well as dissipate potential conflict. 

Never assume you will get the heirloom piece in question. Be patient, not forceful, when you ask. You want the giver to be in a place where they are absolutely certain they are ready to part with this gift. 

Find out if there are any expectations with the heirloom piece. For example, is the giver expecting to sit at the wedding table because of this gift? Are they alright if you alter the piece? Knowing if an heirloom piece will stay intact may affect their decision. 

An example of a vintage engagement ring with untraditional look
An example of a vintage engagement ring with untraditional look (Photo: James Allen)

It’s also important to communicate with surrounding family members and let them know you’re using the piece. It’s much easier to talk about a prized estate piece over the phone with your distant cousin than hear about it at the wedding. 

Many families enjoy heirloom engagement rings with no strings attached. However in some instances it may be easier to choose a new engagement ring. If you have a certain piece from your history that you’d like to replicate, create a custom ring with James Allen or Blue Nile. The possibilities are endless and trustworthy. 

If you enjoy the vintage look, there are many new engagement rings that evoke similar sentiment.

Some favorites of ours?

An heirloom-style engagement ring from Blue Nile
An heirloom-style engagement ring from Blue Nile

What are my options with an heirloom piece?

If you have an heirloom in your possession, there are a few steps you need to take. Even if you keep it in its original format, you’ll need to clean, appraise and insure the piece. This is the same method you use if you’re changing the size of the ring. Just keep in mind, it’s nearly impossible to keep the original integrity of the engagement ring if it’s being changed over two sizes (smaller or larger). 

A good jeweler can work with you on finding a complimentary band. You can utilize the band to make an ensemble that fits your style– whether modernizing the look or maintaining a more vintage feel. For example, this Round Brilliant Diamond And Arrow Shape Wedding Ring from JA is a brilliant match for a solitaire diamond engagement ring with a vintage basket head.
Resetting a stone into a new, more contemporary setting is another great option. Your jeweler can take the heirloom diamond and create something like this Wide Band Solitaire Engagement Ring from Blue Nile. On occasion a setting can only be turned into scrap metal after stones are extracted. Talk to your jeweler about this possibility. And as you know, make sure the giver of the heirloom understands the potential changes beforehand.

What if I don’t want the heirloom as an engagement ring?

There are plenty of ways to maintain the sentiment of the heirloom piece outside of the engagement-ring-world. You can take the diamond from an heirloom engagement ring and find a match to create sophisticated studs like these from Blue Nile. If you go this approach, it may be helpful to check out Diamond Stud Earrings Guide: Best Places to Buy Diamond Stud Earrings in 2022.
A diamond pendant is another route to take when repurposing an heirloom engagement ring. Check out how this beautiful emerald-cut diamond as a pendant.

An emerald cut diamond as a pendant
An emerald cut diamond as a pendant (Photo: James Allen)

You can also match diamonds with other stones to create graceful pendants for all occasions. We love the diamond halo on this sapphire and the Petite Emerald and Diamond Curved Bar Necklace from BN. To further your research we suggest reading Purchasing a Diamond Pendant: Everything You Need to Know.

Final Thoughts

This is an exciting time for you! Remember to communicate extensively and be patient. It is well worth the treasure of a fulfilling engagement ring and healthy marriage. Enjoy it!

For more inspiration on repurposing jewelry or buying vintage, check out these helpful articles:

James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. They also have the nicest collection of lab created diamonds online. Save 25% off settings or  Save 10% off Lab Created Diamonds during limited time sale!
What we love about them:
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Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well known internet jewelry seller. They have a very large exclusive online inventory. Their high quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing. Blue Nile have generously offered our readers an exclusive one-time use coupon. (Click Here to save 25% off engagement ring settings)

Please enter your email address to receive your personal one-time use unique coupon code for 25% off engagement rings:

What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisal
  • One free resizing within the first year of purchase
  • High quality images of about half of their diamonds
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • 100% credit towards future upgrades (must be at least double in value)
  • Best in class fulfillment
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