You've packed away the Winter woolies and you've been cleaning and oganising around your home, but your jewellery box is easily overlooked. However, now that the weather is warming up and there are exposed necks and wrists to decorate, it's the perfect time to sort through your jewels. Make a cup of tea, grab your jewellery box, lay the contents out on your bed, then take note of these tips as you look over each item.
With care, jewellery can last for generations. Like our cars and homes, some servicing and maintenance may be required to keep our much loved pieces looking their best. Many of us have experienced the heartbreak of loosing a piece of jewellery, but we can minimise the risk of lost items by ensuring they are in good repair. As a jeweller I have seen and repaired my fair share of broken jewellery and I know the following advice will help you repair, clean and organise your jewellery.
Clasps - Open and close clasps a few times to check that they are strong and are closing all the way, with no gap that the jump ring could slip through. If the spring inside a clasp breaks, this can not be repaired. If there is a gap where the clasp meets this can often be squeezed shut with a pair of pliers. Claps will wear over time and may need building up (with more metal and solder) or replacing.
Jump Rings - Jump rings are the round links that connect your clasps and chains to your jewellery. Often when a piece of jewellery gets pulled, if the jump ring has not been soldered shut it will open a little. This can be enough for a chain or clasp to slip through. You can tighten a jump ring yourself with a gentle squeeze with some flat pliers. Jump rings also wear over time and eventually need building up or replacing.
Links - The links on gold jewellery in particular may stretch over time. That bracelet which used to fit you may now be too big. A jeweller can easily remove these extra links to get your bracelet fitting properly again. Links are susceptible to wear as well, so check over them for any thin or worn spots where they may be weak and break if pulled.
Missing or loose gemstones - Check over each piece and look for any holes where gemstones have fallen out. To discover if any gemstones are loose, hold the piece of jewellery to your ear and tap it. A rattle indicates a loose stone and you may need a jeweller to tighten it. Check large round stones in a claw setting by gently trying to twist the stone around in the setting. If it moves it may need tightening.
Claws - Over time claws get worn and broken. Have a close look at the claws holding in your gemstones and if you identify any missing, broken or lifted claws these will need attention. If a claw has started catching at fabric, this is a good sign that it needs to be pushed back down.
Pearls and beads - It is recommended that pearls and beads that are worn regularly are re-threaded every 1 - 2 years. Telltale signs that it's time to re-thread them include frayed thread, build up of product on thread (particularly near the clasp), or stretched thread - where there are gaps between the pearl and the knots. Stands of pearls should be knotted between each pearl to prevent loss should the strand break. My rule with pearls is 'last thing on, first thing off' - so put your make up and perfume on first.
White gold - In order to keep white gold rings looking their best, they need to be re-rhodium plated from time to time. Jewellers remove the old rhodium, polish the piece, check the stones and settings and then re-rhodium plate.
Knots and breaks - Knots in fine chains are best removed with a pin and patience. While broken chains will need to be soldered back together again.
Commercial jewellery cleaning dips, gels and impregnated cloths can be used to clean silver and gold. There are also some great DIY, environmentally friendly, jewellery cleaning recipes available online, like this one for silver. Caution needs to be taken with gemstones though. Opals, pearls, turquoise, amber, coral and emeralds in particular are sensitive to chemicals and heat, and often need only a damp, soft cloth wiped over them, or a mild soap can be used to remove build ups of oil, cosmetics etc. Diamonds may be cleaned with a mild liquid detergent and a soft brush or old toothbrush. Many jewellers offer free or inexpensive jewellery cleaning, so take advantage of this when you can, as nothing gets a piece clean like a professional polish and ultrasonic.
Now is a good time to sort out any pieces you no longer wear and think about remodeling them or melting them down to make in to something else, or perhaps selling them. Single earrings, broken chains and ex-boyfriends gifts can be melted down and made in to new pieces, like solid bangles or hammered rings.
Think about the way you are storing your pieces too. Costume jewellery can be hung on hooks - there are some great storage and display ideas on Pinterest. Pearls should be stored wrapped in tissue paper or in drawstring pouches, to prevent them being scratched by other pieces of jewellery. Putting pairs of earrings together on buttons is a great way to keep them together. If you don't have room to store items in the boxes they came in, drawstring pouches can be purchased at variety stores or online.
Some people store their jewellery in safes, or hide it around them home. While this is a great idea, be careful! I once had an insurance customer whose husband had emptied out their freezer after a trip away, unaware that his wife had hidden all her most precious jewellery in there!
A note on costume jewellery
As most costume jewellery is gold or silver plated base metal, it can't be soldered. If part of the metal has broken then glue (super glue or araldite) may be your best friend. Broken jump rings or missing gemstones can often be replaced by looking in craft shops or on eBay.
If you have any questions about repairing, cleaning or organising your jewellery, or if there's something you have always wanted to ask a jeweller, feel free to ask me in the comments.
You can email me a photo of any specific pieces and I will offer my advice!