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Vintage Engagement Rings

Resetting an Heirloom Diamond

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Man putting ring on woman's finger

Circa 1950s Engagement

George Marks/Stringer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
It's not unusual for vintage engagement rings to be handed down from one generation to the next, but sometimes their settings need to be repaired or replaced, and sometimes the overall look doesn't suit your style at all, and you'd prefer to place the diamond or other gemstone into a different setting.

Resetting an heirloom diamond is a very personal decision, and often controlled by the amount of sentimental attachment to a piece of jewelry. Was the diamond ring given or willed to you from a family member, or did you buy it at an estate sale or antique shop? It's more difficult emotionally to make the decision to noticeably alter a family heirloom, even if it doesn't suit our style. We don't usually have the same sentimental attachments to purchased jewelry.

Resetting a Diamond After Divorce

After a divorce, some women who don't want to banish the diamonds from their lives make the stones work by placing them into pendants and rings that look nothing like the original wedding jewelry.

Ways to Give a Diamond a Fresh New Appearance

Put some thought into why you want to change the setting. How can you improve the diamond's appearance and make it more usable for your lifestyle?

  • Reset a solitaire diamond and place diamonds on each side of it.

  • Take a diamond out of a very tall, pointed setting and place it into a setting that's less likely to bump against everything you come into contact with.

  • Remove a diamond with a slightly yellow cast from its yellow gold setting and place it into white gold or platinum to reduce the yellow overload.

  • Combine the diamond with colored gemstones, such as rubies, emeralds or sapphire.

  • Place a diamond with slight damage into a setting that camouflages the problem and keeps it from getting worse.

Before You Reset the Diamond

A company that resets diamonds may require that you obtain an appraisal, lab report and mapping of your diamond before it takes possession of the gemstone. The reports provide details that allow it to be identified as yours if necessary.

Consider obtaining the reports even if the jeweler doesn't require them. Learn how to use a jewelry loupe to identify inclusions and other characteristics of your diamond.

Questions to Ask the Jeweler

  • Is my diamond insured for theft and other types of loss while at your location?

  • Will the diamond stay on the premises for resetting? Consider other options if the diamond will be sent away unless you feel comfortable with the way the diamond will be transported and stored.

  • How long will it take to reset the diamond?

  • What is the certification or experience level of the person who will reset the diamond?

  • Can you show me examples of diamonds you have reset? Can you provide references?

Find someone who you feel you can trust, and look for a jeweler who explains the resetting process to you and offers a variety of design ideas to help you choose the best look for your diamond.

When You Want to Replace the Gemstone in a Vintage Engagement Ring

A vintage ring without a gemstone can be lost by the jeweler, but isn't something that's likely to be replaced with another, identical but less valuable piece of metal. That doesn't mean you should hand it over to just anyone. Know your jeweler and follow most of the same advice recommended to set a diamond or other gem in a new setting.

The setting may need to be repaired, and you might decide to add an engraving while it's off for work.

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