Kate Middleton may be happy with her 18-karat hand-me-down sapphire sparkler, but the same can't be said of other women in long-run relationships. Ah, the ring, that lasting symbol of love. Or is it?

These days, having the right sparkler is as important as having the right man -- which is why more and more happily married women are altering, upgrading and even trading in their rocks for a new and improved ring-finger stunner.

The reasons are as varied as the methods, whether to commemorate a momentous anniversary -- like actually making it to the 10-year mark, which is no small feat in this country -- or snag what's being called a "pushing present" for the birth of a baby. According to Engagement Rings, one popular upgrade is a three-stone ring to symbolize a couple's past, present and future.

Regardless of the ring-reinvention route you choose, it's all about forgoing tradition and going for the all important fifth C: change. Just look at these women and their before-and-after twinkling transformations.


The Family Jewels

When Danielle Liss's grandmother passed away, she inherited two of her granny's diamond rings. For the 34-year-old Liss, whose husband proposed with a ruby solitaire, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to honor her grandmother by having the diamonds combined into one (five-stone!) ring. "I told my husband that I thought there was no greater symbol than the rings of a woman whose marriage lasted for 59 years, only to be parted by death," says the Las Vegas–based Liss, who plans to someday renew her vows with the new family heirloom.

What's old ...


... is new again:




Bigger Isn't Always Better
The decision to alter her engagement ring came easily for Valerie Zucker. "My solitaire is raised so high that I always felt it was getting in the way of day-to-day activities," says Zucker, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla. "When I found out I was pregnant, I asked my husband if he'd mind getting a ring that wouldn't get in the way of caring for the baby. Of course, at 40, I couldn't exactly put a Mickey Mouse ring on my finger." The solution was a blindingly brilliant eternity band. Zucker is pleased: "It's equally beautiful and can be easily worn in the boardroom and the baby room."

What's old ...


... is new again:


And Baby Makes Three
Katherine Huang of Cambridge, Mass., decided to "tweak" her engagement ring shortly after her son was born. "The night before I went into labor, I slammed a closet door on my hand and my ring is what kept me from breaking my finger. Unfortunately, the ring was bent so badly that I had to cut it off," says Huang, 32. "Since it had to be fixed anyway, I gave it a more streamlined look, with a more integrated center stone and side stones that come up directly to the main diamond." But that's not all -- Huang also got what she calls her third "baby" ring, a ruby flanked by moon-shaped diamonds to celebrate the birth of her son. "Soon it will be time to design a 10th-anniversary gift," she adds. "My guess is jewelry!"

What's old ...


... is new again:


Liz Ozaist has an affinity for sparkly stones. Her most cherished piece of jewelry, next to her engagement ring, is a sapphire solitaire that she received from her late father and wore on her wedding day.