Giving much-loved jewels a new lease of life

Ruth Tomlinson will create contemporary treasures from worn-out gems of sentimental value

Ruth Tomlinson

I first saw Ruth Tomlinson’s jewellery soon after she graduated from the Royal College of Art, back in 2005, and was immediately drawn to the buried-treasure feel of her intricate goldwork – its seemingly random, organic encrustations of golden granules, the gems nestling in medieval-style settings. More recently, she has experienced a growing demand from her clients for remodelling old gems and jewels – and so, after a recent phone conversation about this bespoke work (from £1,000 for simple remodelling), I decided now was the time to dig out the few, rather humble bits of jewellery left to me by a dearly-loved aunt, along with a couple of other not-much-worn pieces, and ask Tomlinson to give them a new life.

Ruth Tomlinson antique diamond, sapphire and gold ring, £12,000
Ruth Tomlinson antique diamond, sapphire and gold ring, £12,000
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I took my old jewellery to her Clerkenwell studio. The assemblage included a 1960s cone-shaped diamond cluster ring of little intrinsic and no stylistic value; a simple, rather flimsy gold chain and pendant; another pendant on a chain; and an eternity ring that turned out to be set with pastes. She examined them as if they were treasures, as I explained where they had come from and talked about my aunt, her style, her love of fashion, our relationship and what the pieces meant to me. We discussed what jewellery I like, whether I wanted something for everyday wear, how I like earrings, and that I always wear a fistful of rings. We looked through Tomlinson’s collections, poring over ring styles and lengths of earrings, trying various options to suit my face shape and skin colour, and to blend with my other jewellery. Tomlinson explained that she would try to extract and recycle as much gold as possible – some white, some yellow gold. Leaving the bits of jewellery behind felt surprisingly poignant.

Ruth Tomlinson diamond and yellow gold ring stack, £6,820
Ruth Tomlinson diamond and yellow gold ring stack, £6,820
Ruth Tomlinson diamond and gold Hydra drop earrings, £2,380
Ruth Tomlinson diamond and gold Hydra drop earrings, £2,380

Tomlinson says that bespoke remodelling has become the fastest-growing part of her business. “It is about giving jewellery with a sentimental value new life,” she says. “Our style is already quite nostalgic and sensitive to historical references, so this type of commission is a perfect fit for us.”

Ruth Tomlinson antique diamond, sapphire and gold earrings, £13,850
Ruth Tomlinson antique diamond, sapphire and gold earrings, £13,850
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A few weeks later, Tomlinson called with the news that the jewellery was ready and, back in the studio, I was unprepared for the emotional response generated by the sight of the scintillating reborn jewels. The tiny diamonds sparkled proudly with new-found energy, set in small but perfectly proportioned yellow-gold drop earrings shaped as autumn leaves and feathered with Tomlinson’s signature granular effect. And they appeared again in a set of three narrow white gold bands – the gold left unplated, so that it had a chic matt, grey-toned appearance. Each band was different, designed to be worn singly or together in different permutations. The metamorphosis was nothing short of mesmerising. I’ve worn them, earrings and rings, every day since.

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