Quality jewelry is synonymous with fashion, but with pieces made of rare and unique materials, those who wish to tout them wisely must also consider the financial costs and care associated with ownership.
“I see people acquire jewelry for personal pleasure, as well as investment purposes,” Jill Burgum, senior director of fine jewelry at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, says. “There are different mindsets involved. Yes, jewelry contains precious metals, diamonds and gemstones, all of which have a base- line value that is always in flux.”
Burgum says while jewelry pieces often have great sentimental value to owners, the resale and insurance market gives greater consideration to condition and the value of the raw materials.
“Timing can be a factor, as was the case with the gold market a few years ago,” Burgum says. “Prices shot through the roof as gold rushed to nearly $2,000 per ounce. Today, current spot market pricing for gold is slightly more than $1,200 per ounce. Politics affects the colored gemstone market. Diamonds cycle in shape, cut, color and size interest — but tend to hold the most long-term value.”
Maintenance and Storage
University of North Texas Associate Professor and Area Coordinator of Metalsmithing and Jewelry Ana Lopez says diamonds, gems and stones tend to hold up well over time as jewelry, but acquire a dull appearance as environmental oils and grease build up on their surfaces. A simple steam cleaning can be done at home or by a professional, clearing out debris from crevices and restoring shine.
Impurities in the air and water can also tarnish and weather away metal materials through oxidization, but Lopez says they generally remain hardy. Gentle polishes that won’t strip surface metal are recom- mended.
“The noble metals, like gold silver and platinum, they’re called the noble metals because they have a low reactivity and they’re relatively chemically stable in their most pure forms,” Lopez says. “So those don’t tend to react with air.”
When jewelry isn’t being worn, Lopez says it’s best kept protected in a box lined with Pacific cloth, which limits oxidation and scratches. If owners wish to cover jewelry in plastics, those that are free of chemicals or contaminants that would react with the jewelry materials are best.
“You don’t want to use any kind of plastic bag that you might buy at the grocery store,” Lopez says. “But you can buy bags made of pure plastic that don’t contain any sulfides and other damaging materials and you can keep your jewelry in there. For a little added protection, you can also purchase strips that absorb moisture and chemicals out of the air. They’re essentially anti-tarnish strips.”
Burgum says if jewelry is brought along on one’s travels, the same care should be taken to protect it. Cosmetic products may also discolor or damage jewelry.
“The same rule applies to traveling with jewelry,” Burgum says. “Utilize pouches, plastic bags or small boxes if possible. Be aware that pearls are sensitive to hairspray, perspiration and perfume.”
Replica pieces can be custom made to stand in for everyday wear, preventing possible damage to the high- dollar, authentic pieces. Lopez says over the centuries, replicas have been made for many reasons and have a rich cultural history.
“People have done it for the appearance of having something more precious, people have done it because the material itself had political significance,” Lopez says.
Lopez said even one of fashion’s iconic designers was well known to wear replicas
“Coco Chanel was famous for wearing replicas with the real thing, so you never knew if the pearls around her neck were the real thing or if they were made from plas- tic,” Lopez says. “But that was one of her signature style things. She completely mixed it up and it goes to show that there’s a great history of embracing a mixture. And it wasn’t always for the sake of protecting the real jewelry, it was also for the freedom of having a lot of different things to wear. “
Burgum says the decision whether to insure a piece is always up to the owner, but going without is a gamble. The cost 0f coverage changes with an item’s value and long range costs should be considered.
“Keep in mind that there are costs associated with jewelry insurance, beginning with obtaining retail replacement appraisals,” Burgum says. “This might be a small amount to a large sum, given the scope of work conducted. Insurers often require appraisal updates every three years. Then, there are the premiums, scheduled in conjunction with renters or homeowners insurance or separate plans. Again, consider the costs.”
While many jewelry owners may look at their pieces as investments, Burgum says jewelry is best enjoyed for its intended purpose and not necessarily the price one hopes it will go for at auction.
“More often than not, the retail price paid for an article of jewelry never recoups,” Burgum says. “What does that indicate? Jewelry is a luxury good designed to wear and enjoy. Life is short.”