Making it Modern: The Process of Redesigning Heirloom Jewelry

Do you love that emerald and diamond brooch your great grandmother wore during your childhood, but can’t find the right occasion or outfit to let it shine? Luckily, we have very artistic and talented jewelers here in Marin who love reimagining heirloom pieces into something that you’ll actually want to wear. Here are some inspirational redos from a handful of them.

Sofia Jewelry

Since 1994, Sofia Jewelry has been designing, creating and selling its pieces, but is especially known for the ability to create custom items — including the resurrection of older ones, just like your grandmother’s emerald brooch. 

Sophie Priolo, the daughter of the business’s founders, Carl and Susan Priolo, has noticed that people choose to redo wedding and engagement rings the most, but for any piece of jewelry that someone brings in, the process looks similar. New ideas are brainstormed and mused over, and the stones are taken out of the original piece to see what’s available for the new one. 

Sofia Jewelry Ring
Sofia Jewelry’s New Ring

CAD, or Computer-Aided Design, is then used to render a three dimensional model and make sure that there are no hiccups with the plan. Then, a physical wax model is created, and only once this is approved by the customer can the metals be used to create the actual product. 

One memorable redesign that Priolo recalls was for a client that brought her great grandmother’s pin. She wanted to make three rings with the stones; one for herself and one for each of her two daughters. There even ended up being extra stones, so Sofia Jewelry created an additional pair of earrings. 

“If they have enough stones, we see people use them for matching, or pieces that complement each other’s designs,” she says. “Another common thing we see a lot is people using their stones and designing their individual pieces together so they can all be a part of the experience.”

Priolo has noticed that people can sometimes be hesitant to take a valued piece apart, but thinks that “jewelry is meant to be worn,” so this process can “give it new life.”

California Girl Jewelry

California Girl Jewelry is a women-owned business that’s been in the industry since 2009. Among their specialities are redesigning and restyling jewelry, but co-owner Denise Forbes prides their expertise with color to determine what metals will compliment the gemstones the most. She calls this the company’s “superpower.” 

The two things people bring to Forbes the most are engagement rings after a divorce or jewelry that’s been inherited from one’s mother-in-law. A notable project California Girl Jewelry worked on was a diamond ring — originally a 3.0 carat solitaire — that the client wanted a halo of diamonds around. 

California Girl Jewelry
California Girl Jewelry Ring Before
California Girl Jewelry
California Girl Jewelry Ring After

“We designed a ‘two-sided halo’ of colorless diamonds where the halo is visible from the top and side of the ring,” she says. “Additionally, we added a satin-finish to the gold to draw the eye to the sparkling diamond.”

With such an intricate skill set needed for this work, Forbes says that “we’re more of artists than we are jewelers.”

Ashley Morgan Designs

Ashley Berman has also been an active member of the jewelry industry for several decades, but only recently opened an eponymous studio in Ross. 

Berman says that wedding rings are brought to her the most frequently, since people sometimes want change after so many years of sameness. But throughout her experience she has been able to help customers revamp heirloom pieces, too.

In one instance, a client had brought an engagement ring to Berman that had been passed down through multiple generations. Although they loved it, she says, they also wanted something fresh and exciting. 

An example of CAD being used. Photo courtesy of Ashley Morgan Designs

The original ring featured a round, white, brilliant cut diamond, but Berman and her client worked together to create a new piece that still showcased the original diamond with a variety of additional ones, too. 

“Each stone had been hand-picked to create a ring that celebrated style, beauty, and a deep love of family, and the final result was a truly singular work of art,” Berman says. 

“This is something that I absolutely encourage,” Berman says, speaking of the process. “My philosophy is that the stack of wedding rings that many of us wear on a daily basis should never feel boring; instead these rings should grow and evolve as your marriage does, representing the parts of you that you hold most dear.”