How to Upcycle Outdated Jewelry Into Wearable Art

It's a family heirloom, but it's not your style. Dominion Jewelers can help you transform it.
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A modern necklace made with various loose diamonds (Photo courtesy of Dominion Jewelers)

You feel guilty leaving your grandmother’s bracelet in a drawer, but it’s just not your style. Yet you can’t bear to give it away.

Rachelle Barimany can help. Her specialty is turning customers’ unworn pieces—often outdated-looking family heirlooms—into modern favorites.

“Some family pieces are perfect just the way they are, but if you have things that you don’t like, it’s great to reuse the materials for something that’s more in fashion and a little bit more wearable,” says the Arlington resident and CFO of Dominion Jewelers in Falls Church, where she’s worked since 1997.

Reimagining bling is a joint project for Barimany and her clients. Together they surf the web for inspiration and discuss how the piece will be used: Every day? Only for special occasions?

The store, which her father opened in 1985, can usually turn around an upcycled piece in two to three weeks. “Sometimes, it’s as easy as taking two stones that are a close enough match and setting them into a pair of stud earrings,” she says.

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Old stone, new setting (Photo courtesy of Dominion Jewelers)

Other scenarios can be more complicated—like when a customer showed up with a sapphire that looked like a pebble. “We recut it…and the color just instantly popped,” Barimany says of the stone, which became the centerpiece of a dazzling new ring.

Another client came in with a small pile of different size diamonds she’d inherited. Barimany arranged them in a single, modern setting and ran a chain through it. “It turned out to be one of her favorite pieces.”

Prices range and depend on materials, but resurrecting an existing piece of jewelry typically doesn’t cost more than $5,000, she says. That relative affordability is one reason she’s noticed an increased interest in upcycling jewelry. Dominion repurposes 100 to 200 pieces every couple of months.

“Being the environmentalist that I am, I love the idea of recycling stuff,” Barimany says. “Every part of it is usable—the gold and the stones.”

Plus, the results are more than just pretty objects. “I’m a big old softy, so I am a little bit sentimental about family [heirlooms]. I love the idea of using older pieces to create something new.”

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Categories: Style