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.
Although beautiful, copper (in pure and alloyed form) is often responsible for turning skin temporarily green.
You just bought a cute new ring, but you’re distressed to discover that it’s left an unsightly algae-colored stain on your finger! What gives? Although jewelry stains on your skin are certainly undesirable, there’s no need to fret. Stains from metal are fairly common and can happen with any quality of jewelry—although you may find that cheap jewelry is more likely to cause jewelry stains.
Why Does Jewelry Turn Skin Green?
A green stain does not mean that you’re allergic to metal. (If your jewelry causes your skin to itch, however, look into getting tested for a metal allergy.) Rather, the green stain is caused by a chemical reaction between the metal and the acids on your skin (or the acids in your lotion, soap, or body care products). Most often, this happens with copper—or metal alloyed with cooper, like rose gold, among many other copper alloys. The acids present on your skin cause the copper to corrode, creating copper salts, i.e. that blue-green business that looks less than lovely on your skin.
Copper isn’t the only culpable metal, however. Silver in sterling silver can sometimes leave a dark stain on your skin as the metal oxidizes. Fortunately, white gold, stainless steel, platinum, and rhodium-plated jewelry is generally immune from unpleasant stain issues.
How to Remove a Jewelry Stain from Skin
Green jewelry stains aren’t permanent and will likely go away within a day. To speed up the process, apply a little nail polish remover or makeup remover to skin, and wipe the stain away. You can also try exfoliating the area with a damp cloth.
How to Prevent Jewelry from Turning Skin Green
To minimize your jewelry’s exposure to corrosive acids, remove your jewelry before showering, applying lotion, handling cleaning fluids, or hopping the pool (chlorine is not friendly to jewelry!).
You can also take semi-permanent preventative measures by applying a coat of clear nail polish to the part of the jewelry that comes into contact with your skin. This creates a barrier between the acids on your skin and the metal. There is even a special jeweler’s version of clear polish designed especially for this purpose called Jeweler’s Skin Guard. Before applying, be sure to gently clean your jewelry and polish it with a jewelry polishing cloth. Since the clear polish will chip off over time, you’ll want to reapply it periodically.
Have you found any clever ways to prevent your jewelry from turning your skin green?
Photo: Alaridesign via Etsy
The ladies of Downton Abbey surely have the best jewelry on television!
Antique jewelry draws us in for many reasons. Often, there’s an interesting story accompanying an older piece (and it’s not very difficult to imagine a fascinating back story, either!). Moreover, some antique jewelry may be of better value and quality than similar jewelry made or reproduced in the current retail market. And then there are those of us who simply like the look of older pieces (especially after a few episodes of Downton Abbey). From wherever your love of antique jewelry comes, with the right resources, you can start your own special collection.
Shopping for and collecting antique jewelry can be more complicated than it may initially seem. Peter Shemonksy, an appraiser for Antiques Roadshow recommends jewelry collection amateurs begin with “a passion for learning, an inquisitive mind, knowing how to ask the right questions, a good visual memory, patience, and some money.” If you’ve got that thirst for knowledge, the first step is to consult the best resources.
Know Your Stuff
Shemonsky recommends familiarizing yourself with Understanding Jewelry by David Bennett and Danielle Mascetti and Warman’s Jewelry: Identification and Price Guide by Christie Romero. Full of beautiful illustrations, both books will help you learn about important style eras and jewelry designers. Warman’s Jewelry includes a price guide, which likely will not perfectly match current market prices, but it may give you a general pricing guideline. After learning about trends in jewelry, you may find that there’s a particular time period you’d like to focus on in your jewelry collection.
The next thing to look for is a professional-quality 10x triplet magnifying loupe. This small tool that fits in your pocket will help you see detail like you’ve never seen it before. A magnifying loupe can help you decipher tiny engraved text and possibly even distinguish a counterfeit from the real thing.
Triplet Magnifying Loupe
Once you’re ready to put your knowledge to use, get some hands-on experience with actual jewelry. Shemonsky recommends “getting friendly with one of the jewelry specialists and inquir[ing] about the pieces you are interested in, even if you may not be at the point where you’re ready to buy.” Both jewelry specialists and antique vendors are seeking to build relationships with possible clients, he explains. If anyone doesn’t seem interested in answering your questions (within reason, of course!), move on to a vendor who’s eager to talk about their offerings. Local jewelers, especially those who specialize in antiques or estate items, are another good resource. If you do find a piece that you’d like to purchase, Shemonsky advises to always ask this question: “Is it authentic and is it in original condition?”
Inspect Pieces Carefully
Before buying, handle a piece yourself and closely inspect the back (magnifying glass in hand!). Is there a jeweler’s signature? A stamp indicating the karat of metal? Pay special attention to the craftsmanship or any repair work. Does the quality of work on the back match the quality of that on the front? Shemonsky explains that there are several lower-quality reproductions of antiques on the market, so be wary: “it is easy to copy style, but copying craftsmanship is very expensive and not cost-effective in today’s market. So think with your eyes and compare with your brain.”
Antique Pearl Bracelet, Dated 1862, Natural Saltwater Pearl
Stay True to the Reason You Started the Collection
In any artistic realm (music, visual art, fashion, jewelry), there is an endless amount of pieces in the world coupled with all of the information about those pieces. It’s enough to overwhelm anyone. Collecting antique jewelry will remain a fun hobby, however, if you keep your original goals in mind. Along the way, a vendor may attempt to persuade you to purchase something that simply doesn’t suit your aesthetic, or a blog may put down your favorite era of jewelry—but just remember that this is your collection, and your taste reigns supreme.
You may also be interested in:
Photos: Downton Abbey, Perfect Jewels via Flickr, Amazon, Justin Celticfinds via Flickr
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
When it comes time to invest in an important piece of jewelry, you may want to consider which metal is the most flattering for your skin tone. Although types and colors of metal go in and out of fashion (rose gold is currently having a moment), for a lasting piece, you’ll appreciate having something that brings out the best in your skin—whatever the current trends are.