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We carry our families with us everywhere. We can see our ancestors in the shape of our faces, in the color of our eyes and hair. We’re all walking embodiments of our family history. Some of us get blessed with an extra bit of history to carry around with us: heirloom jewelry!
Few gifts are as precious as a piece of jewelry that’s been handed down from generation to generation. It’s an awesome responsibility to care for something that’s probably been a part of your family for longer than you’ve existed.
At Hamra Jewelers we think that pieces like these should be honored and cherished. Here are three ways to cherish jewelry that has been passed down by generations.
Take care of your heirloom jewelry by safely storing your pieces in a satin or velvet-lined box with compartments. Wrap any silver pieces in tissue paper or silver cloth bags to reduce tarnish. Try to store all the pieces separately, especially anything with diamonds: Diamonds can scratch softer jewelry. Softer stones like opal, amber and pearls should be wrapped in acid-free tissue paper to help preserve them.
If you’re going to clean your jewelry yourself, be very careful with what you use. Never use toothpaste, bleach or other abrasive materials and chemicals to clean your jewelry. If the jewelry is silver based, use a soft cotton cloth and some silver polish. Gold pieces can be cleaned with a soft toothbrush; if the piece is especially soiled, try using warm water and mild soap. You should only use warm water and mild soap to clean gemstones.
No matter how beautiful a piece is, time can dull its precious shine. A great way to cherish your piece of family history would be to get it professionally polished. A trained jewelry expert will carefully and meticulously polish your jewelry, restoring as much of its original color and luster as possible. For jewelry that’s been kept in storage for years or neglected by previous owners, polishing can radically change your jewelry from something ancient and worn looking into something looking shiny and new.
Your heirloom isn’t just a wonderful object: It’s a physical manifestation of your family’s history! Think of all the ancestry. Do you know who you used to own your ring? How many generations was that bracelet passed down from? What does that cryptic inscription inside your great-great grandmother’s locket mean? A quality heirloom will pose all sorts of questions. Cherish the piece by seeking out answers.
After you’ve had the piece cleaned and polished, take a photograph of it. Make a record of who owned it in your family before you. Find out where it originally came from and who made it.
It can be tricky to track down a lot of this information, but there are resources online and in print that you can use to track the origins of vintage jewelry pieces based on the style of the piece and its materials. Even if you’re unable to create a complete timeline for your jewelry you’re still bound to discover things about your family that you never knew and hopefully gain a richer understanding of where you came from.
Once you’ve completed this research, put it down on paper. Make a digital copy of it too and store the paper document with your jewelry. That way when the piece gets handed down from you to the next generation, they’ll have access to the family history. And in the event, you decide to part ways with your cherished jewelry and sell it, knowing the provenance and history of your piece could come in handy as you put it on the market.