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A piece of jewelry passed to you from a loved one carries special meaning. It signifies family, love, and strength over the years. You, as the receiver, should be happy and excited to inherit such a cherished piece of family history.
However, since heirloom jewelry can encompass so many different types of items—from high-end pieces to functional, everyday jewelry and many things in between—there can be inherent issues or problems. Many customers ask us for advice on how to care for heirloom jewelry, and unfortunately, that’s a somewhat complicated and problematic topic to cover.
I know what you’re thinking – “That’s not true! How can something so precious be valueless?”
Since heirloom jewelry can be from anywhere, made from anyone, and made of anything, in addition to its age, it is virtually valueless. That’s not to say the piece doesn’t have monetary or sentimental value, but it’s valueless in terms of replacement value. If your heirloom jewelry were lost or stolen, it may be impossible to replace it. If it was damaged, it may be impossible to repair it in a manner where it would look or function the same.
What you can do is get your jewelry appraised. Find out what it’s worth, and see if it’s possible to insure it. Here’s some helpful articles on the subject:
We tell our customers to bring their jewelry in every 6 months for a cleaning and check-up. This keeps jewelry looking new and fresh and safe from serious damage.
Heirloom jewelry is no different. The issue is, some pieces may have been well maintained, while some have not. If your heirloom jewelry hasn’t been looked at in ages, you may be left wondering “Why did my jewelry break?” or “Can I get my jewelry repaired?” Unfortunately, there is no cut-and-dried answer. If your heirloom jewelry is old, repairing it could be difficult to impossible, especially if an intricate or specific part boke.
Imagine you have a beautiful car from the 1950’s. Something shiny, classic, and easily identifiable as something from days long gone.
Would you drive that car back and forth to work every day?
Would you park it at Newark Liberty International Airport while you were out of town on vacation?
Would you use it to pick up your kids or groceries?
Or, would you bring it out only on special occasions, and otherwise keep it safely and securely stored away?
I think we both know the answer. Heirloom jewelry and classic cars should be treated similarly in this manner. We don’t recommend you wear heirloom jewelry every day. We don’t recommend that you treat it like your other jewelry. We do recommend that you take care of it and treat it like something very special.
Having said all that, not all heirloom jewelry is made equal.
The good news is that earrings and necklaces tend to last much longer than other pieces because of how they are worn. Heirloom necklaces and earrings should hold up better over time, but there is no guarantee. Again, the design, construction, and durability all come into play. Conversely, bracelets and especially rings tend to sustain the most abuse and need maintenance even during their first lifetime.
Just like any other jewelry item, it’s important to consider whether an heirloom piece can be worn every day. Regardless of who made the jewelry, how much it cost, and what it’s made of, the truth is that jewelry doesn’t last forever. If you plan on wearing something every day, it’s going to wear more quickly than something that’s worn only on special occasions.
If you do inherit heirloom jewelry or receive it as a gift, have it checked after you’ve received it. Sometimes you can do minor repairs and maintenance early on, before any serious issues arise.
To learn more about potential problems with heirloom jewelry, feel free to visit either of our New Jersey jewelry store locations in Morristown or New Providence to see for yourself and talk to any of our expert jewelers.
If you’d like to talk to someone directly about heirloom jewelry, you can contact us online anytime by emailing us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or simply fill out our contact form. We’ll answer your questions quickly.