Antique jewellery has already survived for hundreds of years, but to ensure that it survives for long enough that future generations can enjoy it care must be taken to preserve it. Antique pieces are often bought as an investment for the future, so what steps can you take to keep wear and tear to a minimum and preserve these beautiful objects?
Storing Antique Jewellery
It’s very important to make sure that your antique jewellery is stored securely. Obviously you want to ensure that it is guarded against theft, but it must also be protected from contact with other pieces. Jewellery is strong enough to stand up to contact with skin and clothing when worn, but any contact with other jewellery or hard materials such as metal can cause damage. Invest in a good jewellery box with soft felt lining and indentations that can be used to hold the individual pieces separately and prevent them from moving.
Most jewellery will be crafted from gold, which will not tarnish or rust, but extreme changes in temperature can cause the prongs which hold gems in place to loosen. Over time this can increase the risk of gems falling out, so be sure to keep the environment around them consistent. Whilst rusting is not usually a problem moisture should also be kept to a minimum to eliminate the possibility of mould forming.
Silver jewellery will tarnish over time even if kept in a very controlled environment, becoming dull and steadily turning black as the outer surfaces interact with the atmosphere. You can help to slow this process by wearing silver jewellery regularly as contact with skin will prevent the silver from oxidising. If a dark patina forms it can be cleaned using silver polish or a silver cloth, although care should be taken not to apply polish to gemstones as some can be damaged by the chemicals.
Cleaning Antique Jewellery
Whilst there are specialist cleaning products for precious metals it’s worth using gentler techniques to maintain your jewellery. Mild, soapy lukewarm water will be sufficient for most pieces. You can use a soft toothbrush to get into hard to reach sections. It’s important to remember to be gentle, and to rinse and dry the piece after you are finished.
It’s worth paying attention to what other materials are contained within a piece. Some gemstones, such as pearl and opal, can be particularly susceptible to scratching if not handled with care, and can react badly to cleaning products or hot water. All antique jewellery will have already survived for a long time, but older pieces may be more fragile and should be handled with appropriate care.
If you are worried about damaging a piece it may be worth paying for a specialist jeweller to perform the cleaning, but resist the impulse to have them undertake other work. Regilding a piece may seem like a sensible idea, but it should only be undertaken when absolutely necessary – repeatedly electroplating new layers of gold onto a piece can obscure hallmarks and reduce the overall value of the piece by making it appear to be a modern replica.
Handling and Wearing Antique Jewellery
Your jewellery is most at risk whilst it is being worn. A lack of care can lead to a piece taking knocks that can cause serious damage over time, so it’s important to be mindful of what you are wearing. It’s a good idea to make sure that the jewellery is suitable for the level of activity you are planning – long dangling earrings might not be the best choice for an evening of dancing, for example, and particularly delicate chains might only be suitable for a night at the movies.
You can limit the possibility of damage to worn jewellery by adopting a few simple good habits. For example, when removing a ring always take care to grip it by the shank, not the shoulders or prongs which hold the gemstones in place as this can cause the more delicate metal to deform and loosen the gem.
Whilst simple pieces like wedding bands can be worn every day it’s advisable not to adopt the same policy with more elaborate pieces. The more complex the piece the greater the risk of accidental damage, so pay attention to the number of gems and individual settings, as well as the thickness of any wire work. It’s also worth bearing in mind that older pieces may be constructed from higher carat gold, which is more valuable but also far softer than lower carat gold.
It may seem obvious, but avoid immersing jewellery in water for long periods of time, particularly if that water contains soap or other chemicals. Gently cleaning and then drying a piece is unlikely to cause damage, but long periods of immersion are unlikely to be good for the item. You would be surprised at how often we hear of extremely valuable pieces of antique jewellery being damaged by the wearer doing the washing up!
Although it’s generally a good idea to avoid getting moisturiser on antique jewellery there are some pieces which actually benefit from it. Opals should generally have a little moisturiser added around once a year as this prevents the stones from drying out and cracking. Antique cameos, which are generally carved from bullmouth shell, also benefit from this kind of maintenance.
At Laurelle Antique Jewellery we are passionate about the preservation of every piece we sell. We want our pieces to find good homes with owners who will care for them and derive many years of enjoyment from them.
You can find more helpful tips about caring for your jewellery, along with many other articles on related items, in our advice centre.
If you are interested in owning a piece of beautiful historic jewellery why not take a look at our full collection here. Looking for something specific? You can get in touch with our helpful team on England: 0333 700 4500 or send us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to help!