How to make your jewelry look new without buying (hardly) anything

How's that for a teaser?

1. Clean it

Sonic cleaner, about $35
Many of you endure far more rigorous grooming regimes than I would ever attempt: Clarisonic this, injectable that. But don't forget your gems! A sonic cleaner dislodges the grit that your eye can't see.

Your stones (but not organic materials like pearls or coral) will assume new vibrancy, with much more presence and sparkle. (Note to Marie-Laure: Taking a shower in your diamond earrings does not clean them.)

Dull silver is improved by a very light buff with a polishing cloth, not to mirror-shininess, but just enough to remove the dullness that obscures its lake-at-dawn glow. Think of it as microdermabrasion.

Restring pearls every 1 to 2 years, because the thread becomes dingy from body oils; this happens imperceptibly. Here's a gentle, easy method for cleaning pearls from Kari Pearls.

2. Mix it

Try new combinations. Dip into the box and see what comes out, or invite a friend with a good eye over for a nice G&T and some creative parallel play.

Her romp amid your jewelry might reveal the charm of vintage turquoise mixed with your mother's amber beads, an Art Nouveau ring tweaked by enamel bangles, pearls thrown against a 70s resin pendant. A retro brooch can live in bliss with a single feather on a chain.

Here are a couple of pins worn on my beret, one $2 at a church jumble sale, one fine jewelry. Which is which? And why not wear them together?

Plan B: Swap a few items with your friend, for two months.

3. Put it somewhere different

Pin the turtle with a few stones missing on the cuff of a jean jacket.(Destroyed jewelery looks at home on jean jackets.) Pin your aunt's flower brooch onto the belt of your shirtdress. Stick a lone button earring at the side of a v-neck. 

Blog-goddess Belle de Ville of Beladora commented (when I mistakenly posted this earlier) that her favourite trick is to wind a chain necklace around her wrist. 

Wear a ring on your middle finger, thumb, pinky... or all of them. If you feel overdressed, take off one thing, but start with six. (I've moved to Montreal, where women wear a lot more jewelry, and I like it.)

More modern separated
4. If you wear them, separate the ER/WR

Nothing is more stultifying than than the matching wedding ring and engagement ring set. Put them on different hands, wear one at a time, or stack in one more ring with the set to break up the match.

Plan B: Restyle entirely into one new band, but this strays from "without spending" topic.

4. Reno it, low rent version

A commenter wrote that while in bed with a head cold, she pulled apart several Czech crystal bead necklaces and restrung them on fishing line. Her total cost, I'm guessing, was about 40 cents plus the Neo-Citran, and she ended up with several long strands to twist or knot. Buy some real ribbon of silk, linen or poly (my favourite store is Mokuba) and let yourself experiment with the odd bits you don't wear.

You don't need fancy findings; knots and a pert bow at the end of the ribbon will finish the piece.

Here are directions from Martha Stewart Living for a semiprecious stone necklace with ribbon ties.

5. Move out the bitsy, blatantly-branded and busted

If you have things that are too young and girly (teddies, most hearts, hugs and kisses), no amount of finessing will make them look right, and they will drag down the things you really love. You must know someone fifteen to twenty.

What are the chances?
Please Return to Tiffany: is this not the most egregious brand slut strut in the world? Not to mention illogical; if lost, should it not be returned to you?

Give it to your friend's daughter, who is the right age to be a brand ambassador for a company that does not need it.

What's broken? If you have not repaired it in five years, sell it for scrap or repair and give it to someone. Just like your clothes, make room for only what works.

6.  Layer what's left

Sometimes what you have is just fine, but you're bored by wearing the same combos.

Layered lavishly
Start with a strand of coloured stones, beads or pearls.

Add chains, a locket, a charm or chains. Odd numbers work best. Don't heed metals, mix brass with gold, silver with costume, silver with gold.

Something formerly nondescript is bound to sing.

Stack rings, bracelets, necklaces. I am not a wearer of multiple earrings, but maybe you can carry that.

7. Buy a firestarter

Typewriter-key charm
There is spending here but it need not be precious or pricey. A firestarter is one piece that changes all the things you already own.

It might be a large-loop silver chain, a typewriter-key necklace from Etsy, a pungent purple glass cabochon ring, a souvenir locket you pick up in a Mexican plaza.
Leather and brass bangles

Seventy-three dollars for this set of twelve multicoloured leather bangles by Helene Giza could rev up your summer jewelry wardrobe.

eBay MOP ring

Here's an enormous grey Spanish mother-of-pearl ring in a heavy silver setting, bought on eBay for $90 maybe 7 years ago. I've had more compliments on this than pieces at many times this price.  

Yes, it's fun to buy, but you likely have lovely things just thrumming to be taken out and worn. That pleasure has already been purchased, make sure you enjoy it!


Belle de Ville said…
My suggestion, wrap a great chain necklace around your wrist and wear it as a bracelet.
frugalscholar said…
Your move to Montreal seems to be jazzing you up!
frugalscholar said…
Your move to Montreal seems to be jazzing you up!
Susan B said…
Fabulous ideas! I'm glad to hear you're in a more jewelry-appreciative locale.

I've been playing with mixing different necklaces in a layered look, and have been surprised at what works. I love the idea of a brooch on a jean jacket cuff, will try that next.

Question about the sonic cleaners: I received one for a gift probably 20 years ago now that did absolutely *nothing* to actually clean anything though it hummed and vibrated. Is there a brand/model you recommend?
Mardel said…
Your jewelry posts are always fabulous. I've been playing with mixing things as well, and also putting things aside and thinking about how they can be redone or what just needs to go.

How nice to be in a place where people wear more jewelry. I would like that.
Rubi said…
I love wearing bunches of bracelets of all sorts (including one that isn't really a bracelet, but a short necklace wrapped round the wrist twice), but I haven't gotten into layering necklaces. I'll have to try that when it cools off -- right now the weather is too icky-sticky to wear a necklace.
rb said…
I like to play with my jewelry occasionally when watching TV and just this week discovered that I could get a necklace to be the right length by using a bracelet in the back to make it longer.
Duchesse said…
frugal: Was pretty jazzy already ;)

une femme: My current one is from Amazon:

No idea why yours didn't work, but I *always* use a squirt of Windex and a few drops of dishwashing liquid, and rinse after washing w/ clear water in the cleaner. Booklet says no soap needed but I find otherwise.

Mardel: When Ghandi said "Be the change you want to see in the world" I doubt he was thinking about jewelry, but why not?

Rubi: Yes, somehow a stack of bracelets is bearable but a big necklace, no. I have been known to seek airconditioning to wear them.

rb: I can see how that could work, and so much less work than restringing.
Deborah said…
Beret brooches - I would say the bee was the "real" jewellry and the fleur de lis was the $2 find? At any rate, I'd love to know where you found your bee brooch as I love them. I have one - a friend gave me her grandmother's plainer than yours brooch after I told her I was looking for this as my name is Deborah (Hebrew - bee) and I wanted something older and not gewgaw-y
Ms G'berg said…
I love all of your suggestions, and especially lovelovelove your idea to layer on the necklaces. I am not "grand" enough in appearance to look comfortable in most big statement jewelry pieces; they tend to wear ME. But I have several freshwater pearl necklaces - of various hues & styles - which love being worn together, usually with a chain or charm necklace to add a center. Suits my petite frame.
Duchesse said…
Deborah- You are right! The bee pin was bought at auction many years ago; it is Russian, late 19th century. Beladora ( often carry insect brooches and pins. I'd definitely search for an antique one, the workmanship is superior.

Ms G'berg: That sounds beautiful! It's just a matter of scale, and yes, you do not want to overwhelm your petite frame.
Susan Tiner said…
I miss Montreal!

And I covet your bee pin :-)
Duchesse said…
Susan Tiner: Tell me about your time here! The bee is not worn all that often, but your response will encourage me to take it out more.

The posts with the most