The diamond solitaire. It’s an iconic engagement ring, but many future brides are looking beyond the traditional, in favour of a truly romantic solution: designing their own ring using vintage, family stones with a story behind them.
But can you really create a modern piece to cherish when it’s made from Granny’s old diamonds?
Jeweller Ami Blastock, who often works with vintage stones, told us: “I love the idea of using vintage diamonds and think it all adds to the romantic side of being part of the story. A diamond passed down through generations can hold so much more sentimental value than any monetary value you can put on it.
“I do this regularly for engagement rings but I also upcycle gold and gemstones for loved ones to pass on or to remember someone special by. The design can be as simple and modern, or as intricately detailed, as the bride wants. The designing and redesigning to make that special piece becomes part of the journey for the diamond.”
In a geological sense, diamonds have always been with us of course, but their history as jewellery is surprisingly sporadic. They are thought to have been discovered in India around 3000 years ago, but it took another 2000 years for them to be used as jewellery.
Initially, poorly-formed diamonds were simply thrown away because craftsmen lacked the knowledge about shaping them, but in 1375, the Point Cut was developed, revolutionising the craft.
After that, it was only another 100 years before the tradition of giving a diamond engagement ring was born, when the Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented such a gift to Mary of Burgundy.
Over the years, the popularity of diamonds meant that craftsmen discovered increasingly innovative ways of cutting them to maximise brilliance.
Using vintage diamonds
More recently, cutting and setting techniques have evolved at breakneck speed, so even diamonds from just a few decades ago have a very different look to today’s gems.
Because modern diamonds will out-sparkle a vintage number, many jewellers recommend not mixing the two. Another tip to bear in mind when using vintage stones is to research period setting details, such as filigree and engraving, so you can offer informed input into the design process.
Ami explained: “Goldsmithing as a form of creating something beautiful will always have a combination of period techniques, used alongside what each jeweller has learned and tweaked through their own experience.”
Your jeweller will take a very close look at your gems and recommend settings accordingly, cleverly working around quirks or faults. For example, diamonds often have a slight colour cast; yellow tones look better in yellow gold, or try rose gold if your gems have brown or grey tones.
Inclusions – the microscopic faults in a stone – can often be minimised by clever grouping and using a bezel setting (a raised surrounding for a stone, with a lip overlapping the edge), although many vintage jewellery lovers feel the story of a stone is inherent, chips and all.
Ami also uses this method: “I prefer to bezel set diamonds as it is more secure and is a tried and tested technique. But I also love how the precious metal – whether it’s yellow, rose or white gold, platinum, palladium or sterling silver – frames the diamond, making it the focal point of the ring.
“If you are planning to upcycle diamonds and gemstones, get them looked at for flaws. Some may be unusable but always go to a jeweller that you know has a good reputation for upcycling and reusing vintage materials.”
And you don’t need an enormous diamond to make the design work; even a number of smaller stones can be pavé set, sitting them close together, covering the surface.
Whatever gems you’ve inherited, there will be a way of making them work for your own aesthetics.
As Ami advises, the right jeweller will invest their own emotion and energy into making the piece perfect for you: “Take your time with the design, this is a piece that you will wear for a long time and, as the person making it, I would want you to love it forever.”
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Whatever your choice of ring, keep it safe in the Lismore little ring bowl. This beautiful crystal essential features the distinctive Lismore Diamond cutting pattern.