Create a Right Hand Ring from Upcycled Heirloom Jewelry: The Millwee 
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Create a Right Hand Ring from Upcycled Heirloom Jewelry: The Millwee 

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What is Heirloom Jewelry?

One of our favorite things about upcycling heirloom jewelry is the story that goes along with the piece. Heirloom jewelry is a piece of jewelry that usually holds sentimental value and has been passed down through the generations. As parents often say ” they don’t make them quite like they used to”. Jewelry used to be a special part of one’s possessions. They were made with quality stones, and quality medals and made with intention. Not the run of the mill, dime-a-dozen that seems to saturate the market today.

What can you do with your Heirloom Jewelry?

Instead of sending heirloom jewelry to estate sales, more people are choosing to pass down their heirloom jewelry to younger family members, thereby maintaining the meaning and family history behind the vintage jewelry item and creating new jewelry chapters through another generation.  However, many inheritors find the original settings to be dated or not their style. Instead of simply putting the vintage jewelry into a drawer or safe, people opt to wear their family jewelry by repurposing the diamonds or gemstones into a new right-hand ring, statement ring, engagement ring, earrings, or necklace using the loose family stones plus some newly sourced diamonds and gemstones as well. One such example of upcycled heirloom jewelry is the Millwee ring

From Heirloom Jewelry to Timeless Statement Ring.

While some people opt to create a new engagement ring using diamonds and gemstones repurposed from heirloom jewelry, another category of “repurpos-ers,” and many of our clients, already have their engagement ring and want to upgrade it or are ready to repurpose their ring after a divorce. Accordingly, many of these clients opt for right-hand rings and statement rings which are rings that are worn on almost any other finger except for the ring finger on the left hand. These statement rings can be worn on the right or left hand, and common finger placement is the middle finger or right ring finger, although pinky rings and pointer rings are gaining in popularity too as fine jewelry expression continues to go beyond simply bridal accessories. Many times, these rings can range in size and design expression from minimalism to maximalism- it really just depends what degree of statement the wearer is trying to make. 


Recently, my team and I worked with a fabulous client that I will refer to as Em. Em had family members pass and she inherited not one but two heirloom rings from two different grandmas. The rings were not Em’s style, and they had seen many years of wear by her grandma so she was worried that if she wore either ring even for a short amount of time she might lose stones out of the vintage settings. In an abundance of caution, she decided it was best to not risk losing stones and opted to design new jewelry pieces around the design spirit of each ring and each grandma. One of her grandmas was named Grandma Millwee. 


Em found us online and booked a design appointment. While Em did send us inspirational photos to guide our designs, not everyone has photos. Whether my clients have a few good inspiration photos of jewelry styles they like or not, what matters most in this design process is that clients make their design loves known, whether it’s through inspiration imagery of rings, rugs, mosaic tiles, graining in wood, flowers, etc. Clients often just tell us what they like, ie “I like green emeralds and teal sapphires, and I want a cluster ring in yellow gold”. 


We met for an hour and this is what we learned.


Design Inspiration

Em sent us three images as design inspiration but alas I cannot share them here due to sharing permissions as they were images that she had found on the internet. One of the inspiration images was a vintage Bulgari ring and the other 2 were more current rings. Two of the rings were stunning examples of modern, chunky statement rings full of color and dimension. All three rings were fairly large in size, nearly covering the entire finger base, and all contained mixes of stone shapes. 


About Grandma Millwee

Grandpa Milwee was a collector and he was in the service, so he was always bringing home treasures from his travels. This ring (see below) is very much about that connection between treasures from the past being brought into the present.  On a trip to Thailand, he brought this ring as well as a pink sapphire twin home to his wife, Grandma Millwee. It was still stamped from where he got it in Thailand. Her Grandma Millwee wore this ring just as it exists for years, and my client remembers her wearing it when she was young. The ring gives her warm memories of the two of them. 

Grandma Millwee Original Ring


About Em

Em loves metal-forward jewelry with clean lines and a structured look and feel. She was open to this repurposed heirloom ring having some negative space in the bands and having a more masculine approach to design. Em did not want to maintain the structure or the stones of Grandma Millwee’s original ring, and the opals and teal sapphires did not need to be the main visual focus. She wanted a newly sourced colored gemstone for the center stone, and she was open to oval cut gemstones in greens or blues to match her grandma’s heirloom teal sapphires. David Yurman is one of her favorite jewelry designers, and she loves big chunky middle finger rings. She wanted this statement ring to be as flush to the finger as possible, and represent organized chaos in the best way possible with zero asymmetry. 


Design Process 

My team and I then began the design process, which could frankly be a blog post in and of itself. We did 3 designs out of the gate and Em really gravitated toward one of them. We focussed on perfecting that design and with some design suggestions from Em, we had achieved design eureka! 


The Millwee Final Design  

Millwee Final Ring Design Proposal Sketch

The Stone Showing

Once the design direction was finalized, we moved on to sourcing a 4-5 carat oval cut aquamarine. We curated a stone showing for Em and created a digital portfolio showcasing 4 oval cut aquamarines for Em to choose from. We use 10x macro photography and videos to capture the essence and beauty of each stone beyond what the human eye can even capture. We provided Em with a virtual stone showing and together, we experienced the different stone options. Below is a peek behind the scenes sharing her aquamarine options.  

Millwee Stone Selection Process with Abby Sparks Jewelry


Millwee Stone Selection Side by Side Comparison by Abby Sparks Jewelry




Em chose her aquamarine and then we moved on creating the CAD for the Millwee. Remember that CAD is chunky, plasti-looking, soulless, and looks like a holographic image of the real ring. The prongs often appear too tall and the metal can seem distorted and overbearing. The stone colors in CAD are oftentimes not accurate, as the computer program still lacks nuance in color application for gemstones, especially natural stones in more rare spectrums of color. 

The Milwee CAD Image by Abby Sparks Jewelry


The Milwee CAD Image Side Profile by Abby Sparks Jewelry


Final Millwee Right-Hand Ring

After we had CAD approvals from Em, we cast her statement ring in yellow gold. We then pre-finished the metal, set the stones, and polished and finished the set piece. The entire process took about 12 weeks from start to finish. Voila! 

The Millwee Ring by Abby Sparks Jewelry. Redesigned with heirloom stones.

The Millwee Custom Ring by Abby Sparks Jewelry


The Millwee Custom Heirloom Ring Repurposed by Abby Sparks Jewelry

Learn more about this stunning piece on the Millwee Product page. Or browse other rings and be inspired to create a unique and special piece for yourself or loved one with heirloom stones!

If you’re inspired by Em’s ring created as a memorial tribute to her Grandma Millwee and you’re ready to work with us to create your own statement ring or right-hand ring, be sure to check out more about our remote design process  or our heirloom jewelry redesigning


To get the design conversation started, book an appointment or give us a call 303-957-6502.