Owning a piece of antique jewellery means that you are in possession of a piece of history which has been preserved by a chain of owners that reaches back into the depths of the past. Although every item will pick up some wear and tear over the years it’s important to know how to care for the item to prevent serious damage. Most antique jewellery owners buy period pieces as an investment, and often intend for the item to be handed down to their children and grand children.
At Laurelle Antique Jewellery we care deeply about the preservation of the items we sell, so we have put together this page to help our customers to care for and safely store their pieces so that future generations can enjoy them.
Keep Out of Direct Sunlight
Although it’s wonderful to see the gemstones and precious metals of antique pieces in the daylight their time in the sun should be limited to when they are worn. Long periods of time in direct sunlight can cause precious metals to degrade, speeding up tarnishing which causes silver to lose its shine and turn black. Prolonged heat can also dry out stones such as opals, making them more likely to crack, and will cause discolouration in organic gemstones such as coral or pearl.
It’s important to remember to keep jewellery in a secure box out of direct sunlight to keep it safe from the sun. It’s also worth keeping such valuable items away from windows – as tempting as it might be to show off an item that visibility can make it an appealing target for would-be thieves.
Store Items Separately
Jewellery is made to be worn, and antique jewellery has already stood the test of time. Items which have survived for a long time are well crafted, but they have been designed to be in contact with skin or fabric. When placed in contact with other pieces damage can occur very easily.
Although gold, silver and platinum do not rust or react with most common chemicals they are relatively soft metals, and can be easily scratched when they come up against harder materials. Some gemstones are also fragile. Natural emeralds are beautiful and highly valued, but almost every emerald has minor fractures known as “inclusions” laced into the stone which mean an impact could chip or even crack the stone into pieces.
Conversely some jewellery contains the hardest naturally occurring materials on earth. Diamonds are at the very top of the scale when it comes to hardness, and both rubies and sapphires are almost as tough. When these faceted gems are allowed to rub up against other, more fragile ones damage can very easily occur.
For this reason it’s worth keeping all pieces of antique jewellery separate from one another. If you are fortunate enough to own more than one piece they should be stored in their own boxes, or in separate, padded areas within a larger jewellery box.
Although jewellery is built to withstand day to day wear the modern world is full of chemicals that can react badly with precious stones. Gold and platinum are unreactive to common materials, but silver will tarnish much quicker if brought into contact with sulphur, which can be found in a variety of common foodstuffs such as onions and mustard. Plastic bags made from polyvinyl also contain sulphur, so it’s always advisable to store items in specially made felt lined containers.
It can be difficult to predict which chemicals will react badly as so many of the products we use day to day have an array of different chemical components. Because of this it’s worth being cautious and removing rings before washing hands or doing any other cleaning. Extra care should be taken when temporarily removing jewellery as it’s very easy to absently place it in an unsafe place and accidentally cause damage whilst attempting to avoid it.
When putting an outfit together you should resist the temptation to lay out jewellery whilst getting ready. Many beauty products can cause serious harm to older jewellery, and aerosols can disperse tiny droplets which may be invisible to the naked eye. Alcohol can also cause damage, so take care to avoid spills at any event you attend.
Keep It Dry
Even antique jewellery can cope with getting a little wet from time to time. Rain or sweat will not cause damage to an item over the short term, however if a piece is left in moist surroundings the water can work its way into the joins between gemstones and metal. This can loosen the gems and make it more likely for them to fall out.
Moisture can also be absorbed by some porous jewellery materials, which can discolour some stones and dull the shine on others.
When storing jewellery that is worn often it is usually sufficient to make sure it is in a sealed container. If you plan on storing your jewellery for a longer time it’s worth wrapping in a clean, dry cloth. If you are worried about moisture you can use small pouches of silica gel, which is supplied with a number of different consumer products such as handbags. Instead of throwing these little bags away you can use them to absorb any excess moisture in your jewellery box.
Every Piece is Different
Antique jewellery can vary tremendously in both the materials it is constructed from and how the gemstones and precious metals are joined together. It’s important to recognise these differences when caring for the piece. For example Art Deco rings, with their geometric designs, are stronger than Edwardian rings, which favoured more delicate metalwork. Some stones are extremely tough and others are much more fragile, and even the carat of gold used can effect how it should be cared for.
At Laurelle Antique Jewellery we find, store, package and send a vast array of pieces from different periods in history, so we are well acquainted with the measures needed to keep them safe. Our helpful staff are always happy to share their experience and tips to make sure that your chosen piece gives you many years of enjoyment.
Why not take a look at our collection of hand-picked items and see what speaks to you?
Our helpful staff are always happy to share their experience to make sure that your chosen piece gives you many years of enjoyment. If you have any questions about the care of a particular piece simply get in touch with us via phone on0333 700 4500 or send us an email at email@example.com