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Re-birth Rings: making your old jewellery into a new custom piece

You may have seen that I spoke on a panel discussion about gold last week. Not your usual conversation about this precious metal! The Shadow of Gold is a beautiful piece of storytelling about some very harrowing truths: the documentary highlights the perils of extracting this gorgeous metal from the earth. I want to thank director Robert Lang for bringing us this important film, and for graciously joining the screening and panel discussion in Halifax.

powerful film, followed by a great discussion

I will talk more about my gold sources in another blog post. For now, I thought I’d better follow up with a bit more information about re-using YOUR gold, since I have been getting a lot of questions about that.  I thought I’d explain how that whole thing works.

This is half-way into the process …

Finished!

The client was pretty excited when she came to pick up the ring. She later dropped me a note saying “Dorothée,
I am thrilled with my ring!
Thank you so much. ” Made my day

 

Many people have gold jewellery kicking around which, for one reason or another, they no longer wear. These might be concerns of aesthetics, size, or they may be deep emotional reasons. Fire purifies and renews!
One way or the other: gold can most definitely be recycled, and made into something brand new. Here is how that works:

Taking apart one ring, and starting to make a new one with the gem

I’ll say right off the bat that it is a lot more complicated than you would think. I cannot simply melt the gold into a new ring; this would compromise the strength of the gold itself, as the precious metal could become brittle from being melted repeatedly. In order to do this correctly, your old gold will need to be refined first to 24k purity, then re-alloyed (mixed with other metals to make it 18k), and then used to cast a custom piece, or made into the 18k gold wire I use to forge you a new gold Onefooter ring from.

The result of the above image: a rebuild for a 20th anniversary

The way this works in real time is that I credit the trade-in value of stamped and hallmarked gold, and subtract that value from the price of your custom piece. Depending on the quality of the stones in your original piece(s), I may be able to use some, or all of them, in the creation of a new piece.

This simple solitaire and wedding band set are about to get a make-over

So come see me in my Halifax studio (make an appointment here), or call me with your questions: 902.422.9460. If you don’t live here, we can work remotely. I can safely ship your materials to my studio, not to worry. 

Here are some examples of rebirth rings I have made for my clients:

18k palladium white gold for the new version of this old engagement ring

 

This massive Amethyst was the client’s grandmother’s . It looked great in its rebirth form atop a 18k yellow gold Twofooter ring

 

A completely newly imagined version of the ring that originally held these stones. This one is 18k palladium white gold – no rhodium plating needed!

 

This full carat stone got a new home in a 18k yellow gold Onefooter ring

Maritime Made

I had the great fortune to hear singer songwriter Lesley Feist in concert this weekend here in Halifax. What an incredible show!

Feist in Halifax on Friday

I have been a listening to her music for a couple of decades.  I am just so deeply impressed how this artist has not let anyone pigeonhole her. Her musical style keeps changing as she evolves as a person. Her latest record, Pleasure, has an unexpected rawness both in musical style and in recording ‘technique’.  Last night’s performance was so incredibly alive, so fresh – this artist was not simply rattling off songs she’s been playing over and over, but she seemed to very much inhabit the space, and truly BE with her audience in the most genuine way.

Come take a peak inside the studio

The fantastic performance made me think deeply about my own creative process.  I want to write further about this, but first, I thought you might enjoy seeing what the other side of that spectrum looks like: what do I do in my studio day in and day out?

Some of you may have seen my Nova Scotia Craft Council Instagram takeover last week in lead-up to our Halifax Summer Show July 20-22.  That Instagram take-over gave a look into my studio and what goes on there in the course of a day – the various tasks that get done, processes, tools, and so on.

If you’d like to have a further look into the studio, check out an episode which was filmed about me by Maritime Made. This Eastlink TV series is kind of like our very own ‘How It’s Made’.  It highlights a broad variety of products which are made here in the Maritimes, and shows how they are made. I have seen several crafters on this show, including Alissa Kloet of Keephouse.  I was delighted to be featured. How do I make a Onefooter ring? Well let me show you!  

A Onefooter starts by cutting a one-foot length of precious metal

I am a Goldsmith

Sometimes people are surprised that I call myself a goldsmith, since I also work with silver. I thought I’d demystify that discussion for you.

There are two main reasons for the decision to use this term. The first is actually rooted in the 18th century. I always thought that with the American war of independence was created not only a division of countries, but also of spelling. That the North, what was to become Canada, remained loyal not only to the British crown, but also the British spelling of English words. Turns out it’s not that simple, and Canadian spelling does not exclusively follow the British. But in any case, there are marked differences, such as ‘color’ south of that border, and ‘colour’ north of it. Or ’jewelry’ and ’jewellery’.

When I initially started my company, still finishing my degree in jewellery design and metalsmithing at Canada’s premier institution for that degree, NSCAD University, I did not yet think very big. I named my sprout of a company ‘jewellery designer, metalsmith’. A few years later, I realized that I was going to perhaps one day sell in the USA, and that this term would prove an obstacle. I did not want to box myself in by using the British/Canadian spelling.  Hence I had to find a different way to describe what I did by way of a new business name.

Fire melted old gold jewellery into this little gold nugget

As you may know, I was born and raised in Germany, and only came to Canada as an adult. In my own cultural heritage, a jeweller is someone who sells jewelled body adornments, not who makes them. It is a retail position. Whereas the person making those items is known as a “Goldschmied” – someone smithing gold. But they, and I, also work in silver. But as it turns out, that term, silversmithing, is applied to the fabrication of vessels – be it of silver, copper, brass etc. You might start with a sheet of metal, and apply hand tools such as mallets and hammers over stakes, in order to displace the metal and shape it into vessels. I am also trained in this craft;  in artschool these courses were referred to as ‘holloware’. Of all the terms, what I am is clearly a goldsmith.

Coloured stone like sapphires and spinel look great on 18k yellow gold

So this is how I arrived at the decision to use the word ‘goldsmith’, even though I also work in silver and copper, and I also set jewels. Particularly in a day and age where anyone can purchase beads and wire, and may call what they create ‘jewellery’, it is perhaps important to make the distinction. I added the word ‘designer’, because I have a university degree in jewellery design, a tough course of study, taught by this country’s highest award-winning professors – I feel I have earned the title.

This 18k custom Twofooter ring was a dream to make

I also like that the term gets to the heart of my passion: I truly loooooooove working gold. There is nothing like it. The weight of the material in your hand – this in itself is beauty to me. When you start working gold: forging it, cutting or filing it, it behaves completely differently from other metals. It even sounds differently. I love its qualities so much. I appreciate its durability, its refusal to be destroyed by time, yet be so malleable. I find it to be a metaphorical inspiration for how to live my life: have heft/meaning, shine with a warm glow, do not let external circumstances destroy you, and yet remain malleable, carrying warmth.

For the ‘Precious’ Series, I wrap luscious 22k gold around rough diamond cubes

Balance

experimenting with stone placement for one of my Vancouver clients

After coming back from Harmony Arts Festival, there was much to do – catching up on gallery requests that had come in while I was away, and starting on the custom rings ordered at the festival in Vancouver.  It is always exciting to make custom pieces for clients with stones which they hand-picked. But it is also never easy – with each ring being unique and different, there is a lot of thinking, playing, and decision-making involved to figure out where exactly the stone should go.

Dana Grund and his family put on a lovely gathering to celebrate one year at King’s Wharf

 

And I was delighted to celebrate my colleague, custom jeweller Dana Grund‘s one year anniversary of being in his elegant new space at King’s Wharf in Dartmouth, NS.

 

 

 

Dana’s shop was buzzing with the celebrators last Saturday. Thanks for inviting me! I love that about the maritimes – this sense of mutual appreciation amongst crafters.

Dana Grund’s elegant custom design shop at King’s Wharf in Dartmouth

To celebrate what’s left of summer, and to assure balance in my life, I took a little bit of time off last Sunday, when I went sailing on the beautiful Nova Scotia shoreline. A couple of the photos here were taken by artist Shelagh Duffett, who has gorgeous photos on her blog  – click here to read it!

It was this exact shoreline that inspired my ‘Rock’ Series!

Let me explain what exactly I mean by ‘sailing’ – as there are many forms of that. As you may know if you have been following me for a while: I have a fondness for hand build wooden boats. Usually I prefer them kinda big – big enough to sleep and cook on. Our own little boat is the opposite – it is basically a tiny little, very heavy rowboat made of plywood, which can also take a sail.

 

The oars for rowing come in handy to get out of the bay on relatively still days like last Sunday. Photo by Shelag Duffett

But it gets us out there!

 

I love the sense of space, which sailing provides.

 

As dock space is expensive, we keep our “Gypsy Girl” in the woods. It’s quite the haul each time to get her out and back in. And we have to time our sails with the tide – can’t get the boat in or out unless the tide is high. But hey, what are a few compromises if you get to go out on the water!

Back on the dock, sail removed

There are several steps to making this happen each time

We have rigged up a pulley system to get the boat up the hill and into the woods

But eventually she’s all ready for the tarp – until next time!

All tidied up and tucked away in the woods

I took this photo on our way out of the bay. There is inspiration everywhere!

Seaweed is endlessly gorgeous

 

The Privilege of creating Custom Rings

I feel so very privileged to, as a goldsmith,  play a part in people’s journeys.

Several times, I have had the honour to create a special ring celebrating a journey with cancer.

I used the client’s own diamonds to make this rebirth ring

When another woman first contacted me, she wrote I have been searching for probably 3 years for a ring design to reset my engagement ring diamond in. I love your rings and feel like they are exactly what I have been looking for. I have been married 24 years and beat cancer (so far) and this design just really seems to represent the journey of life. Crazy. Unique. Unpredictable” . We spent quite a bit of time discussing material and design options via email, before I custom-made her rebirth ring for her.

Three diamonds out of one ring, and into another = rebirth ring

 When she received it, she sent me an email with a photo of the ring on her hand, and the words Mind BLOWN!!! Thank you so so much. I adore it.”

One customer was looking for a ring that would bring to mind Caribbean waters. We were throwing gemstone options back and forth across this vast land of ours via email and telephone calls, before we settled on this:

This Twofooter ring with gorgeous baguette cut Swiss Blue Topaz hit the spot for her

Upon receiving the ring she wrote Thank you again, very much, for creating such a special piece and for all your time and trouble in helping me.  You were more than generous with your time, which I greatly appreciate.  I shall remember our discussions as part of the lovely experience leading up to my receipt of your ring.”

This client brought her granddaughter the day she came to pick up her late father’s now re-imagined diamond ring

I often get to be part of stories of love -such as surprise engagements (I love surprises!), and celebrations of milestones (I recently gave a client a ’35-years-married’ discount, when he ordered a ring for their anniversary – I couldn’t help myself!).

And most recently, a gentleman had placed a special order through one of my representing galleries, whereupon the gallery owner took the trouble to recount this sweet story:

This is the custom-made half-carat certified Canadian diamond 18k gold ring that the gentleman presented

The whole event was wonderful!! They came in the gallery. Very gorgeous couple.  I asked as she was looking at cases, ‘Would you like to make a presentation?’ He was all smiles and agreed. I showed him your beautiful ring in the little pouch. He took it and sighed with pleasure. He turned to her (and almost went down on a knee…more like he bowed his head to her) and handed her the ring.. She gasped with pleasure!! He put it on her finger and it fit perfectly!! They were so, so happy. They went out all cuddly and ecstatic.
Your work was perfect!!!   Thank you, thank you” .

These are just some of the special moments I get to be part of. Every one of these people and their stories touch me, and I make each ring with care for that individual and their journey.  From time to time, each will pop up in my mind, even years later. I am truly grateful for being able to bring people joy with the work I make.

Family rings are also fun to create, like this 18k palladium white gold ring with sapphire, diamond, blue zircon, and alexandrite.  The stones don’t have to be birthstones – they could simply be emblematic of the person

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