Caring for Antique and Vintage Jewelry
by Veronica McCullough
Glass stones, rhinestones, crystals, jade, coral, turquoise, opals, onyx and other gemstones will crack and pop out if exposed to temperature extremes. The stones can handle hot or cold temperatures fine, but they cannot handle going from one extreme to another. If you are in a nice toasty building in the winter and you have to go outside and it is freezing, protect your jewelry with scarves, coats, hats, gloves, etc. If you leave a piece of jewelry with such stones sitting where strong sunlight can hit it ( like vendors do at flea markets) or in a locked up car in the dead of summer, you will probably cause damage to the stones or glass.
Don’t throw all your jewelry in a pile in your jewelry box – for obvious reasons. Use dividers, small boxes and in some cases, small Ziploc baggies (which you can get in the craft section at Walmart). Plastics like Bakelite, Celluloid, Lucite and Thermosets should never be kept in sealed bags. They need air circulation. Keep plastic and copper items away from other jewelry. Copper and Silver should be kept in sealed baggies, and they will stay polished being kept away from the air.
If your jewelry collection is exceeding the space in your jewelry boxes, a simple and inexpensive solution is small plastic drawers that you can find at Walmart or Big Lots. The small drawers have three drawers and measure 9 ½” high x 10 ½” wide x 12” deep. In the craft section at Walmart you can also find Foamie Sheets for 33 cents each in any color you like to insert into the drawers as a cushion. Now you have a perfectly soft padding to place all your jewelry on. These containers are stackable and easily fit into closet shelves or on a table in your bedroom. Just one three drawer container can hold up to 100 brooches.
The last important issue about jewelry care is : Don’t be like my mother ! She has lost more rings, earrings and bracelets for one of two reasons. She fails to take the time put the item on correctly, or she takes it off when she is at work or in her car and drops it somewhere in to her pocket book ….. never to be found again, or never to be found in good condition again ! Keep a special cosmetic case in your pocket book with small pieces tissue or old handkerchiefs, and some small plastic baggies. If you have to take your jewelry off, you will know exactly where it is, and you don’t have to worry about it getting scratched or damaged.
When I go out jewelry hunting, and I sometimes buy hundreds of items at a time and I carry a backpack full of plastic containers with pieces of soft paper towels and small Ziploc baggies inside. I always have to instruct the seller not to wrap the jewelry for me. I do not want everything balled up in a baggie or wrapped in newspaper or harsh wrapping paper. This way, if a stone falls out or something comes loose, it is inside the paper towel and inside the baggie and I have not lost it !