Bespoke jewellery

Ring Inspiration

How to create a bespoke engagement ring or remodel a family treasure

By Lisa Hill

Photography supplied by Julian Bartrom 

Bespoke jewelleryIf I took a peak inside your jewellery box, what hidden treasures would I find? Perhaps pieces that were once loved that have now lost their lustre, but you can’t bear to part with them? Over time we build up a collection of earrings, pendants, chains and rings that may be broken, discoloured or no longer fashionable. You may have been left a piece of jewellery, a wedding or engagement ring from a loved one that doesn’t fit or isn’t your style.

By using some creativity and talking to the right jeweller, these pieces can be changed in to a different style – one you’d be proud to wear. You may decide to alter a piece or combine a number of items into one new piece. Something as simple as changing the ring setting from claws to a flat mount can make it more contemporary.

I began my own remodelling journey after I was left a precious ring by my Grandmother. After learning this ring contained a diamond from my Great Grandmother’s engagement ring, I was intrigued by the notion of remodelling important jewellery.

Bespoke jewelleryI was fortunate to be introduced to Julian Bartrom, a designer goldsmith who creates beautiful bespoke pieces. Julian is passionate about the creativity and innovation of pieces which symbolise something special for the client. At the tender age of 24, the very talented Julian has won a number of awards and was recently selected as one of the finalists for NZ Jewellery Designer of the Year, winning the People’s Choice Award with his piece Le Dragonfly en Tremblant brooch.

I jumped at the opportunity to get my precious piece of family history checked and to talk with Julian. The story of why my Grandmother had this ring re-designed is not known, but it’s clear that this process of remodelling has been around for a number of years. Upon inspection Julian told me that it was an old mine cut diamond that is rarely seen in pieces created today. Even the way the stones have been set is very traditional of the era it was designed in. Knowing how important this ring was to my Grandmother, and my memories of her wearing it growing up, I definitely never intended to get it remodelled. Julian put it through his 3-step care process. The ring was re-sized, the stones checked to ensure they were secure, cleaned and polished to their original glory so that I could wear it with pride and not have it hidden away in a jewellery box.

With a number of couples today preferring to have a unique engagement ring, I was curious about the process; how you design or remodel to create a bespoke engagement or wedding ring. Julian shared his experience with us.

Bespoke jewelleryWhat is the process if you want to have an engagement or wedding ring designed? 

During an initial meeting we discuss your ideas, budget, make suggestions, look at samples, and get a feel for what you are looking for. We sketch and develop your design so it suits your style. After the first meeting, I email a quotation for your approval. The ring then takes up to four weeks to receive.

Are diamonds still the most popular choice of stone?

Diamonds are a very popular choice for engagement rings and because of their hardness they are also a very sensible option to take. Even after a lifetime of wear diamonds will retain their sparkle where other stones may become scratched.

Have you ever designed an engagement or wedding ring where the stones have come from another ring? 

There is definitely more interest in having existing items of jewellery remodelled. It’s a nice way to include a little family history into the piece and I find that clients are always very happy with the results. This makes the finished design unique and connects the piece personally to the recipient. We can use wedding bands or stones from other rings to create a beautiful bespoke piece.

Bespoke jewelleryHow much does it cost to get a ring remodelled?

Prices do vary due to style of the design, fluctuation in the cost of precious metals, if any additional stones need to be added and the amount of work that is involved in remodelling. Similar to the process of creating a bespoke ring, we review the existing piece and what you are hoping to create, then sketch and quote for approval.

How do you guarantee the quality of your stones to your clients? 

It is very important that you purchase your diamond from someone reputable, whom you trust. Around 80% of the diamonds that our buyer views are rejected, only the most excellent cut and accurately graded diamonds are accepted.

Why not search your jewellery box to see what treasures lay inside … once-loved pieces that could be remodelled into something new. Have fun , as always, BE Timeless, BE Memorable, BE Yourself. ♥


Here are Julian’s top tips for taking care of your precious jewellery: 

• Claws and ring settings should ideally be checked and professionally cleaned every six months.

• Always remove your jewellery before sleeping.

• Never wear jewellery when showering or swimming and do not expose to heat.

• All jewellery should be removed before engaging in sport or manual activities such as gardening or washing dishes.

• Store rings in the ring box provided or a jewellery box. Always lay snake chains and omegas flat, and place bracelets or necklaces in a pouch.

• Regular cleaning with warm mild soapy water and gentle scrubbing with a toothbrush will keep your jewels sparkling and minimise claw and clasp wear.

• Do not expose pearls to any chemicals such as perfume or hairspray.

• Pearls should only be cleaned in specific pearl cleaner or wiped with a soft cloth.

• Store pearls separately from other jewellery to avoid the soft pearl nacre from chipping.