There are several recommendations when it comes to proper jewelry storage—don’t let pearls get scratched in your jewelry box, keep chains untangled, make sure your finest jewelry is securely locked away (and maybe even insured!)… but we rarely consider the temperature at which our jewelry is stored.
Fortunately, this isn’t really a huge concern unless you live in a particularly warm climate or a climate with wildly fluctuating temps. If you do live in a balmy zone (even if for just part of the year), however, the following are a few things to keep in mind in regards to safe jewelry storage.
If possible, always store your jewelry at room temperature. This means avoiding attic storage if your attic isn’t temperature-controlled. This is especially essential if you’re storing silver—jewelry or dining ware—as warm temps may increase the oxidation rate of silver (that is, how fast it tarnishes). (Rest assured, however, that gold will not be affected by warm temperatures.)
In a warm climate, the temperature isn’t the only element to keep in mind. If your climate is both warm and dry, consider storing solid opals in water to prevent cracking. Opals naturally contain about 5-6% water, and the water used to store them will help prevent the opal from losing its water due to the low humidity. Simply place your opal in a piece of cotton or wool with a few drops of water and then into a zip-locked plastic bag to help retain the moisture. (Learn more about the different kinds of opals here.)
Light is another factor to consider. Gems that have been color-treated are vulnerable to damage (including color alteration) when exposed to UV light for long periods of time. Store them in an opaque box away from heat sources and direct sunlight.
Finally, think about the storage materials themselves. Heat, humidity changes, and direct sunlight can do a number to both unfinished and varnished wood and can even make plastic brittle and faded over time. Remember this if you store your jewelry in an heirloom jewelry box.
What additional tips do you have for best protecting your fine jewelry?
Antique, vintage, and heirloom jewelry is undeniably special. Some antique pieces inspire joy simply because they have a rich history or belonged to a loved one. Other pieces may still be fashionable and are a staple in your wardrobe. Either way, it’s important to store and a care for your antique jewelry properly, so each special piece will last for generations to come. Although most jewelry care is common sense (don’t store your valuables right by the bathroom sink!), it never hurts to review proper care and cleaning tips.
How to Store and Take Care of Antique Jewelry
At the very least, antique jewelry should be stored in a cotton-lined box in a moderate temperature (an un-air-conditioned storage unit probably isn’t your best bet.) To avoid scratches, no jewelry piece should be in contact with another.
The following are a few tools you can take to protect your jewelry and extend time between cleanings.
Anti-tarnish paper tabs. These tabs are designed to protect sterling silver, nickel, copper, bronze, base metals, brass, tin, and gold. They will last up to six months in a regular container and up to one year in a sealed, air-tight environment.
Anti-corrosion, anti-tarnish zip-lock bags. An affordable long-term jewelry storage solution, these zip-lock bags are designed to protect sterling silver, gold, copper, bronze, tin, brass, magnesium, and ferrous metals (iron and steel) from tarnish and corrosion. These bags are non-toxic and will not leave deposits on stored items.
Avoid spraying hairspray or perfume over jewelry. Apply these and any other body products prior to putting on your jewelry. Also, remove your jewelry before bathing, swimming, exercising, gardening, and doing housework—or any activity where you may exert yourself or be exposed to water or chemicals.
Antique jewelry should never be cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner (jewelry bath). Although these cleaners are quite effective, the pulsation action may damage antique enamel or worsen a loose setting. Vibrations may also ruin delicate filigree work. Additionally, steer clear of store-bought dip solutions. These often contain harsh chemicals that can weaken enamel and otherwise damage an antique piece. Various metals and gemstones may require different methods and solutions for safe cleaning. For a breakdown of how to clean a particular kind of metal or stone, please consult the antique jewelry cleaning guidelines outlined by Past Era.
Be mindful of the settings on your jewelry. If you notice that a stone is loose, place the piece in a ziplock back and take it to your jeweler for repair. If possible, find a jeweler who specializing in antiques.
For those rarely-worn heirloom jewels, a safe-deposit box at the bank is likely your safest, most practical storage option. This article discusses important things to consider before finalizing your jewelry storage plan.
Safe-Deposit Box Basics
A safe-deposit box is a mini safe-like box secured inside a bank. Most banks and credit unions offer safe-deposit boxes for rent. Because you will only have access to the box during the bank’s business hours, safe-deposit boxes are best for items that you won’t need in a moments’ notice or in an emergency. When setting up a safe-deposit box, consider who you’d like to be able to access the box in case you are unable to. Trusted individuals may include heirs, a spouse, or a designated power of attorney.
Unlike the money you store in the bank, the valuables in your safe-deposit box are not insured by the government or the banking institution. Therefore, it may be wise to purchase separate insurance from a company that specializes in policies for safe-deposit box contents or consult with your home insurance agent to add a rider or personal article floater for specific valuable items stored in the safe-deposit box to your home insurance policy.
Finally, make sure you inventory your safe-deposit box and keep a current list of its contents.
Will My Jewelry Be Safe in a Safe-Deposit Box?
There is no guarantee that your valuables will be perfectly safe in a safe-deposit box—which is why insuring those valuables is a smart plan. Although disasters are rare, they can happen. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, roughly 1,300 safe-deposit boxes were collateral damage.
That being said, safe-deposit boxes are typically your safest bet since they are protected from home disasters (flooding, fires, and burglaries), which are more likely to occur than bank disasters.
What about a Home Safe?
Although a home safe is certainly more secure than an unlocked jewelry box—and less expensive than a bank safe-deposit box, most home safes have significant vulnerabilities. Many home safes are less than 100 pounds, so it’s not impossible for someone to walk away with one. They also tend to be easier to crack than bank safe-deposit boxes. The average non-fireproof home safe will only hold up for about an hour in a fire, so if you do rely on a home safe for some of your valuables, it’s wise to invest in a fireproof safe.
The Cost of Using a Safe-Deposit Box
The cost of a box varies depending on its size. Some banks may also offer existing customers discounts on safe-deposit boxes. The following estimates are sourced from Financial Web:
Key deposits are usually $10 to $25 per month, and a replacement key is usually $20.
Photos: Stuart Connor via Flickr, Pixabay, Serendipity Diamonds via Flickr
Nickel allergies are fairly common—in fact, one in eight people will experience an allergic reaction to white gold alloyed with nickel. Although nickel is non-toxic, the body mistakenly believes it’s a harmful substance. Often inherited, the allergy appears more in women than in men—but this may so because women tend to wear more jewelry than men. Usually, a reaction occurs 12-48 hours after prolonged exposure to the offending metal.