Recycled Wedding Rings

By DiAnne Crown

October 29, 2010 4 min read

Recycle a wedding ring? Absolutely -- but make it romantic.

With gold selling for $1,340 per ounce and diamond prices climbing, investing in an engagement ring these days can be daunting for a young couple. If they're lucky enough to have heirloom wedding rings in the family, the picture is a lot brighter.

Add the sentimental value of wearing a cherished family ring to the prospect of making a sizable down payment on a house with the cash instead and those rings start looking even better. Here's how -- and how not -- to recycle family rings.

Aaron Clouse, 29, and his fiancee, K'Lani Bishoff, couldn't find rings they liked for their wedding until they settled on some very special family rings. Part of the decision was economic, Aaron says, but "the main part is sentimental."

K'Lani will wear her great-grandmother's wedding ring, passed down through generations, and Aaron will wear the wedding band of his father, who died when Aaron was 5 years old.

The couple took K'Lani's unique European-cut diamond ring to Michael Schramm, owner of Schramm-Bacher Jewelers & Gemologists, for an evaluation. Parts of the 80-year-old ring were worn and needed to be rebuilt, and K'Lani wanted the entire ring to be white gold rather than a combination of white and yellow. Other than that, the ring is perfect for the bride-to-be.

"She loves the setting and loves that it's been in the family," Aaron says. It was a great solution, in part because the rings were of good quality.

"Sometimes rings can't be salvaged," says jeweler Shane Denney. If the ring is worn-out or the stones are of poor quality because of the cut or color and the ring itself isn't sentimental, then remounting, repairing or rebuilding wouldn't be a good investment. In fact, Denney says, if the ring was primarily an art piece originally, changing it may actually remove all of the parts' value.

If it is a high-quality ring, however, in good shape or with sentimental value, it may be worth recycling all or part of it.

"Old cut stones can be re-cut to eliminate chips and correct the proportions to make much more beautiful angles," says Denney, who works closely with customers to achieve the most fire, beauty and size for their money. Ideal cut round stones are much more brilliant than the various "fancy" shapes.

"The cut is everything," Schramm agrees. That's where the real beauty of the diamond comes from, he says, but he cautions against re-cutting diamonds to create different shapes. Cutting fees for diamonds are expensive (usually more than $300, according to Schramm), and cutting diamonds can reduce their value because it reduces their weight. Rather, he says, if you want to keep the diamonds from a family ring, find a style with a setting you like that fits those diamonds.

As for the band, Schramm may recommend reusing the old band as is but does not recommend recasting it into a new band. "The alloys tend to get brittle," he explains. "You can wind up with cracking and pits. If the band is usable as is, you can do some new design with the same or additional stones. If not, you can trade in the metal. Right now, that is a huge factor. I've had customers bring in old jewelry to trade and completely pay for their new items."

Denney also notes that so-called "white gold" is actually rhodium-plated and has to be replated for a fee about once a year. Like all gold, it is more prone to cracking and chlorine damage. Denney recommends that the crown be platinum.

Recycling family wedding rings is practical and economical and can be very sentimental for the bride and groom. So yes, recycle. "But with romance," Denney says. "Make it a good engagement story. There's a way to give a gift and a way to accept it. Don't be blas?."

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