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Picking up the pieces

O.C. Divorcees Find That Turning Old Wedding Rings Into Pendants, Bracelets or Other Kinds of Jewelry Is a Golden Opportunity to Recycle . . . and to Salvage the Original Cost

September 04, 1997|KATHRYN BOLD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Leslie Jantzen spent two years after her divorce wondering what to do with her wedding rings before she put her finger on the solution.

"I had a beautiful solitaire wedding ring and diamond anniversary band. I wanted to wear them, but I couldn't do it. They were sentimental. So, they just sat," says Jantzen, 32, of Laguna Beach.

She refused to sell the rings because she knew she would get only a fraction of their original cost. One day, she stopped into Bruce Lambert Jewelers in Newport Beach and confessed that she wanted to convert her rings into some other type of jewelry.

"I asked them, 'Is this normal? Am I off my rocker?' "

Lambert assured her that her wish was, indeed, normal. For years, he has helped his divorced clientele solve the riddle of their rings by making them into new pieces.

Lambert converted Jantzen's wedding ring into a pendant with the solitaire surrounded by platinum and made earrings to match out of the anniversary band. She wears the pieces almost every day.

"After my divorce, I went through a difficult time that I wouldn't wish on anybody. So, this was, like, congratulations to Leslie from Leslie," she says. "Most women just want their rings to be gone, but in my mind I came out on top, so ha ha ha. I'm proud of what I did."

Sooner or later, everyone who gets a divorce must decide what to do with their wedding rings. While some simply stuff them into the back of a drawer like a bad memory, others can't bear to see the precious materials go to waste.

Women such as Jantzen find innovative ways of making their wedding rings last a lifetime, even if the marriage didn't. As for divorced men, most simply convert their gold bands into cash.

"They can't get in here fast enough to sell their wedding band," says Clark Page, owner of Clark Page Jewelers in San Clemente. "They don't even wait for the judge to say, 'You're through.' "

Many women, who typically have more expensive rings, decide to recycle their ring after learning they can't recoup the cost of the jewelry by selling it on the secondhand market.

"Often, they want to get the ring out of their lives, but it's difficult to do," Lambert says. They're lucky if they get half of the original cost of the piece if they sell it on consignment or to a dealer, and if they try to advertise and sell it on their own they risk exposing themselves to rip-off artists.

"You may have a $10,000 ring and agree to meet a buyer at a restaurant, then they grab it and flee. It's not a safe option," Lambert says.

Melting the rings down for their gold is also a poor option. Back in the 1970s when gold fetched $700 an ounce, a divorced woman would gather with her friends for a ceremonial torching of her rings, says Page, who presided over these "melt-down parties."

Yet with gold selling at a six-year low of $300 an ounce, and Page's concerns about insurance liability, melt-down parties have "gone by the wayside."

While the gold might not be worth much, the diamonds can be "of consequence," Page says. Yet divorced women don't want to wear diamond rings.

"A diamond ring still says you're married," says Carlene Baskevitch, a 38-year-old Irvine resident. "I wouldn't wear one even on another finger. If you're single, you want to be loud and clear about it. You don't want to confuse anybody."

Most women also balk at the idea of having the diamond reset into another engagement ring.

"That's kind of tacky. The new person in your life doesn't want you to take an old ring and have it reset. They'd rather buy their own," Baskevitch says.

Two years ago, Baskevitch was left holding a one-carat diamond ring from a broken engagement. She had to decide whether to cash it in or "reinvent it."

"The ring sat there for two years, and I was thinking, 'What a waste.' "

She recently took the ring to Lambert and decided that, rather than take a loss on the ring, she'd enhance its value by turning it into a more practical piece of jewelry. Lambert put the diamond in a gold bracket that rides on a chain on a choker-length slider necklace.

"It's just something I did for myself," she says.

Many prefer that their solitaire rings be made into an entirely different type of jewelry so nobody, especially the new person in their life, suspects its history. A ring with smaller diamonds can be turned into earrings. A solitaire can be used for a pendant, pin or bracelet.

"Diamonds can be remounted, and the gold can be used in a custom design. The ring can be transformed into something wearable," Page says. "Although I do have a mold of a monkey, and I've used it a couple of times."

The cost of resetting ranges from $50 to $200 if no other materials are added.

One doesn't have to have a large diamond to reset a ring.

"A one-quarter carat diamond can be reset as a simple, classic bezel necklace," Lambert says.

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