Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Q & A: How to Deal with a Family Ring

Reader Question: I hate jewelry. Really I do. But I DO want to symbolize our union. I was going to make the band from a quarter, as shown on something while browsing.......


My future mother in law just lost her husband, and he liked diamonds. She offered to take the diamond out of his ring, and purchase the setting for me, for the wedding ring.

Everyone I've talked to just keeps telling me to get over it, go with her and pick out a pretty setting for the diamond. I DO want to honor her, and Dewey (her husband), and it would be a touching thing, to have his ring as our wedding bands. My fiance is using his other ring as his band.

Is there some company that would recycle the band he had, and make it into a woman's ring? I did find one, but they were SO pricey it made my teeth hurt. Plus, future ma is kind of bucking the recycling idea....afraid it might break or something. I feel so, well, awkward. Thankful, but awkward. This is a pretty tough and personal matter, so I understand if you don't have any 'feelings' answers, but if you know of some jewelers that would do this for less than two months salaries, that would be pretty freaking sweet. In the meantime, I'll keep searching.

You're so lucky! A family ring! It's saturated with symbolism and it's better for the environment and the budget. Hooray!

I don't think you should make this process difficult for your "future ma" who is being very generous and welcoming.

With that said, I do think it's possible for you to make one more push to have the old setting melted down and recast into a new setting. I have never heard of "recycled" rings being less durable than non-recycled rings. In fact, I think it's a pretty common practice for jewelers to get their hands on formerly-used metals (from industry, maybe?) and repurpose them into rings. Don't quote me as the expert on that (I just remember reading something during my ring research days.). However, I'm sure you could google it and find lots of evidence.

I found lots of independent jewelers--like Sally Brock of Fancy Jewels--who were able to melt down old gold and cast it into new settings. The only problem I encountered was that some of the smaller jewelers couldn't change the color of the gold (e.g., from yellow to white). I imagine there are lots and lots of talented jewelers on Etsy who would be willing to help you out.

You could make the argument that it's even more sentimental and sweet to incorporate the old metal into the new ring!

If you go with a more expensive company like greenKarat, you could ask additional family and friends to donate their old jewelry to the cause (including broken chains, earrings with missing pairs, or break-up jewelry--the bad karma gets melted out, in my opinion). Matt and I were able to drop the cost of our rings from over $1300 to just over $100.

In the end, if it starts to get too complicated and too contentious, I would side with your friends and say just "get over it." You're already doing a huge thing by not contributing to the diamond trade.

Sending good thoughts your way!

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Ellie said...

Melting is totally common and I think you can very reasonably push for that. Otherwise, if she goes with her MIL and picks out a pretty setting, she should remember that she doesn't have to wear it all the time and she can always get an inexpensive band made from a quarter (totally awesome) to wear the rest of the time. It will also make a really nice heirloom to pass down to a child who does like jewelry some day.

kat said...

Although I have no input on where to get this done for a reasonable price I DO have a testimonial for durability. My mom's original wedding ring was also a heirloom and not something she really liked the style of. She worked with a jeweler and he melted down her old ring and made a new one with the same metal and stones. That was 35 years ago!

Also I would like to add that my bro-in-law also hates jewelry. He has a ring and only wears it occasionally. No one seems to mind- I say do what you want to do!

tatgeer said...

We also wanted to re-use metal from a family ring (didn't end up doing it because of cost and because no one could find the ring!) and found that small jewlers said it was cost-prohibitive. They were happy to buy the metal from us and put it in the big pot with the rest of the metal to offset the cost, but the scale of one ring made it too expensive. To be fair, though, we only went to two jewelers, and didn't talk to any larger stores.

Could you show your FMIL a simple (presumably non-diamond) ring you had in mind, and then talk her into using the metal to make something like that?

un-bride said...

I don't know what city the letter-writer is in, but we found a small local jeweler in our city (L.A.) to do just this, for a very reasonable price. I'm sure she can find someone by doing a little research. Yelp, maybe?

And hear, hear! on not comtributing to the diamond trade.

MorganRae said...

A family ring is the way to go!

My grandma had her ring from when her and my grandpa were married almost 35 yrs ago. He pasted a way a long time ago. When they got married she had her engagement band twisted in with her wedding band. Because she didn't know what to do with her engagement ring. So as a wedding present she wanted me to have it, so we didn't have to spend so much on a new ring her's was sitting in her drawer for 20 years. She told me she didn't care if I could just use the value of it and make my own setting and diamonds. Being that I have a very very small diamond for an engagement ring I have been debating what to do with my ring as well. As weird as this sounds, it has turned out to be the most beautiful ring I have ever seen. So I took my engagement diamond and added it to her ring ( it was missing a stone) and then I have her band that is the two rings twisted together sized up 1 size and cleaned and all the tines repaired, I didn't loose any more diamonds. The cleaning and polished makes a huge difference. Came out to be $120. Bigger difference than what a new ring would cost. I feel like I got a family aireloom handed down to me and something wonderful to do with my ring. If want to see a picture of how it turned i'd be happy to show you. Maybe you could use her diamonds in your engagement ring band or use her old band and add yours?

MorganRae said...

oh yeah I wanted to add also.. really do your homework about melting. There are things they can do out their with many different types of metals. My fiance is an electrician so he had to have a ring that wouldn't conduct.. boy was that fun to find a metal that would work. There are many options out there.

KE said...

Independent jewelers do this kind of thing regularly - I would make sure to go to a real goldsmith rather than a jewelry seller, since they are more likely to be able to help make something you love instead of handing you a book of settings they can order in. There are several in central OH if you're in the midwest.

the Lady said...

I have to respectfully disagree with Sara's opinion. I think if the bride really doesn't like jewels, then she shouldn't have to wear them. I agree that it's a beautiful thing for the future MIL to give her ring, stone and all, up for her future DIL, but I don't think that a bride should be stuck wearing a piece of jewelery that is supposed to symbolize HER commitment to HER groom For The Rest of Her Life, but doesn't. Sara, I am actually very surprised to see you say "get over it," (at the end, and in the words of others) siding with family and friends, when you were so particular to make your wedding about the commitment between you and Matt, and the values You Two held, not the values other people held!

Just because someone gives you a brand new pair of shoes does not mean that they will fit your style or taste, and you will not want to be stuck wearing them each time you see that person. Think how extreme it would be in the case of a wedding ring, which is supposed to apply to your relationship (not that of the MIL & passed FIL's) for the rest of your entire, long, life.

Also, in my experience, there are lots of local (non-corporate, non-chain) jewelers who will do things pretty cheaply.

In the end, I think that the band (or bejeweled ring) should fit the bride, her lifestyle, her feelings. If she wants to use the diamond, fine, but if she doesn't like to wear them, why the heck should she?!

(Ha ha, word verification is "warth", one letter-switch away from "wrath"! (Which I don't have, I just feel that this is a decision the bride and groom should be happy with, seeing as how the bride is going to be the one wearing the dang thing!))

the Lady said...

P.S. - it definitely sounds like there are some emotions tied up in this issue for both the bride and mil. I think that if the MIL is nice enough to offer her ring (and not just being controlling), that if the bride decides she doesn't want it, that a nice, calm, collected, private conversation between the two of them, wherein the bride gently yet resolutely (and then sticks to her guns) refuses the ring and gives an explanation why, should be just the ticket. If the MIL really likes her that much, and respects her as a person, she will hopefully understand, though it may take her some time to do so. Also, the bride could offer to keep it and joyously give it to her future daughter or son in the future, when that time comes. Now *that* would be a beautiful thing!

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ the Lady: Thanks for disagreeing! Seriously, I think it's so good to offer different opinions.

Your response made me go back to the original question to reread it. I originally read the "I hate jewelry" part but then kind of overlooked it because the question about how to melt down the old band in a cost-friendly way seemed to be the central question. When I said the "get over it" bit at the end, I simply meant: "If your commitment to melting down the old band rather than getting a new one becomes too complicated or too difficult, just compromise a little on your environmental commitment (and at least be thankful that you're not contributing to the demand for a new diamond)."

But, I agree with you: If the reader doesn't want to wear a ring at all, she shouldn't have to. Or, if she doesn't really like the look of diamonds, she shouldn't feel obligated to accept something just because it's a family heirloom. You said it perfectly: "I don't think that a bride should be stuck wearing a piece of jewelery that is supposed to symbolize HER commitment to HER groom For The Rest of Her Life, but doesn't." Right on!

I got kind of confused because at the end of the letter, it did sound like she wanted the diamond but that the issue was about the band. I should have clarified before attempting to answer the question.

I hope I'm making sense!

Rachael Eisner said...

Everyone is making sense. I'm going to go out, and set task #10 researching jewelry. If I can melt down the jewelry I have from my mom and her ex, plus that band....I'll be set with a simple ring, that will represent us, the joining of our family, and not be an obnoxiously huge diamond that means nothing to me. Especially if it is really cheap to do, I'll be happy. The only jewelry that will ever matter is the ring I put on after we're hitched. Thank you ALL for your help! I have been slightly freaked out about all of this. ;)

The Thirty Something Bride said...

My mom gave her diamond to my fiance so that he could ask me to marry him. Otherwise it would be a no-ring engagement or an engagement in a few years. I had the ring reset and I love it, as does my mother. The diamond is 96 years old and I am the fourth generation to wear it. That makes me proud and incredibly humbled as well.

I think we all agree that what feels right is best. I would sit down with your MIL and tell her exactly what you told us. It go better than you anticipate! :)

The Thirty Something Bride said...

It MIGHT go better than you anticipate. You all mean what I know, right? :)

megan said...

as a recipient of a family ring, i am so very touched that my fiance's mom was willing to give me her orignal set. my fiance bought a new diamond for it, and she kept the original one for her granddaughter. that being said, if you're going to wear a ring either way, i'd say accept this one (and push for melting, unless she doesn't want you to have the ring, just the diamond, which is understandable). i'm telling you, anytime someone comments on my ring, i can't help but gush that it's an heirloom. for me, at least, i can't get over the fact that his parents love and accept me that much. it's not only a symbol of my fiance's love, but his family's love, too.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if your question addressed this or not, but is it possible your MIL doesn't want to melt the ring down because she wants to keep it? If her husband just recently passed away maybe she's ready to give up the diamond but isn't ready emotionally ready to melt down his ring.

the Lady said...

Hi Sara!
Total sense! As is easy to do on the net, I misconstrued *your* "get over" as being like that of the family and friends, which I took to mean - "just take the ring and get over how you feel about not wearing jewels."

And I agree with Anonymous too - I don't see why anyone would think that melting a metal would make it less strong! That sounds like either a really funny misinformed thought, or a funny little excuse to not have the band melted.

Best of luck to Rachel E!

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