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 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. So, this was, like, congratulations to Leslie from Leslie," says Jantzen. "I came out on top, so ha ha ha."
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.
"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.' "
Selling engagement rings on consignment or to dealers, says Lambert, may net less than half the original cost.
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 such "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. But some divorced women don't want to wear wedding rings at all.
"A diamond ring still says you're married," says Carlene Baskevitch of Irvine.
So when Baskevitch was left holding a one-carat diamond ring from a broken engagement two years ago, she took the ring to Lambert and had it mounted in a gold bracket that rides on a chain on a choker-length slider necklace.
"Diamonds can be remounted, and the gold can be used in a custom design. The ring can be transformed into something wearable," Page says.
Sometimes the jeweler melts down the gold, pours it into a mold, and transforms what once was a wedding ring into a cute little charm. Page has a mold of a tiny monkey that has been requested by more than one woman with something to say about her ex.