Something Old, Something New: Your Family Engagement Ring

by Nancy Plante February 01, 2018

Something Old, Something New: Your Family Engagement Ring

For a truly meaningful piece of jewelry, consider using a family engagement ring. Celebrate your love with an heirloom whose history spans across generations.

The Importance of an Heirloom Engagement Ring

Jewelry is often used to mark specific occasions and relationships, like the birth of a child, a college graduation, or, perhaps most famously, the marriage between two people. Although all of these pieces of jewelry have meaning, none is more personal than a ring.

Unlike earrings or a necklace, a ring is often worn every day for an entire lifetime. It is unique because it is constantly visible. With every movement, every gesture, the bright shine and sparkle of the ring is a reminder of its significance.

An engagement ring is a reminder of the love between two people, and the importance of your relationship together. But when you use an heirloom ring, or gemstones from a family engagement ring, you add layers of deeply meaningful emotions and history to this single piece of jewelry, multiplying love with love.

How to Make Your Family Engagement Ring Look New

Your engagement ring should be radiant, like the love that shines between the two of you. Whether your heirloom needs a quick clean or some serious TLC, there are a few practical things you can consider. Follow the steps below to ensure you have a pristine, strong, and beautiful engagement ring that is profoundly meaningful.

Have a Qualified Jeweler Check Your Ring

The most important thing you can do is to have a qualified jeweler check the ring before you present it. No matter how well you knew the previous owner, you can never know the full history or condition of a piece of jewelry. It may look perfectly fine after sitting in a jewelry box for years, but you don’t want to risk having an irreplaceable gemstone fall out, to be lost forever.

A ring can be damaged in numerous ways, some more subtle than others. Exposure to extreme or fluctuating temperatures, dips in pools and ocean water, and forceful blows can weaken adhesives, damage settings, and tarnish a piece of jewelry. A ring can become thin or dull due to daily wear and tear, while overnight friction against bed sheets can wear down prongs. The simple passage of time puts your ring’s setting and gemstones at risk.

A qualified jeweler can carefully check your family heirloom and perform repairs that will beautify and strengthen it. By tightening the settings, partially replacing a thin shank, or resetting gemstones, the ring can be restored while adding a new page to its story. If your piece needs a lot of work, look to your jeweler as an experienced consultant who can advise you of the best course of action.

Before You Present the Ring, Make it Sparkle

Don’t dull the brilliance of a proposal with tarnished metals and faded gemstones. An heirloom ring doesn’t have to look “old” to tell a story. Before you present the ring, you should take it for a good cleaning at the very least. A jeweler can brighten up the metal and make the gemstones sparkle and shine.

Another simple way to enliven your ring is by refinishing it. Over time, tiny surface scratches from daily use can dull the gold or platinum settings of a ring. An experienced jeweler can polish out these scratches, leaving the ring breathtakingly improved so that it looks like new.

White gold rings can also be refinished with rhodium, a white metal that is related to platinum, that will leave your family engagement ring with a crisp, white finish. It’s perfect for anyone who prefers white gold to rose or yellow gold jewelry, with the added benefit of long-lasting durability.

Resetting a Ring Can Revitalize an Heirloom

Much of the material magic of a family engagement ring lies in its shank and gemstones. But wedding and engagement rings are typically worn every day for years; to ensure the safety of the gemstones, the settings in these rings must be particularly safe and strong. If your jeweler feels that a simple repair will not be enough to stabilize a damaged piece, you might consider resetting the ring.

When you talk to a jeweler about resetting a ring, you have two basic options: you can attempt to replicate the original setting as closely as possible, or you may choose to combine the heirloom gemstones with a setting that reflects your new marriage. Whether you recreate the family ring or follow your own aesthetic is a personal choice that is filled with potential.

For the best of both worlds, consider asking your jeweler to create a new setting that differs from the heirloom ring while retaining one or more elements of its original style. Imagine, for example, a damaged family engagement ring that featured an engraved design. The gems could be reset into a more modern setting that is accented with a touch of simple engraving. This new design would recall the original features of the heirloom, while allowing you to add your own style and meaning to the engagement ring.

Consider Meaningful Engravings

A family ring is deeply personal and carries its own unique history. Some heirloom rings have initials or names engraved inside, where you can literally read the story of that particular piece of jewelry. An engraved ring conveys treasured memories through time.

Whether your engagement ring or wedding band has been refreshed or reset, consider the impact of adding a meaningful engraving. Use dates, names, or initials to remember the past and commemorate the present, and make your ring even more special for the family.


By understanding how to treat an heirloom, you can make your family engagement ring look beautiful and new. Take the time to properly clean, repair, reset, or engrave your jewelry, and you will be rewarded with a meaningful engagement ring that will be treasured for generations.

Nancy Plante
Nancy Plante


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