When your jewellery is dated

That's "when", not "if", because all jewellery dates, some more rapidly than others.

My friend Ingrid, a hairstylist, once said she cannot walk down a street without mentally re-imagining heads of at least several passers-by. I'm that way with jewellery. The candidates for a fix are those that look out of time, the Dorothy Hamill wedge of the accessory world.

Why not to wear it

It's real, it's good, someone you love gave it to you. You adore peridots, or the tanzanites that match your eyes, but set as they are now, they are no longer congruent with your clothing and accessories. Your taste, size, or lifestyle has probably changed over the past ten to twenty years. Unlike shoes, the piece does not usually wear out, so there it sits, preserved in a box— or you wear it, but it feels off.

"Dated" refers to the design. Materials do not really date, though there are eras when certain gems were fashionable. Onyx, for example, was big in the early 20th century, Southwestern US turquoise in the '60s and '70s, and now, morganite.

A few designs are known as timeless; gold hoops, worn for thousands of years, across cultures are one. A wise staple, but if all your jewellery is of those generic designs, you will not have the joy of a signature piece.

How to know if it's passé?

The more traditional your style, the longer some pieces will look right with your clothes, but a string of fine akoyas with a little fishook filagree clasp will look dated even if the pearls are still lustrous.

Two great ways to submit your jewellery box to the best-by test are a) window-shopping (real or virtual) expertly-designed contemporary pieces, and b) learning from exemplars who are well-put together.

1. Windows
Look at current fine jewellers who reflect your taste, whether traditional or contemporary.

Where to look
Visit gallery sites that show many artist's works, or individual brand's web sites. For the latter, the list is almost endless. Independent fine jewellers also have web sites, but if trawling for ideas, the gallery sites are more efficient.

Traditional/ Luxury:

Gallery sites:
Luxury contemporary: Naïla de Montbrison
Galleries for precious and semi-precious: TwistYlang23.comFacèré
Casual, "relaxed real": Sundance and the cream of Etsy, but not all of it

Vintage sites are excellent for assessing whether your piece has staying power. Good sites to check quality vintage: Beladora, First DibsSamantha Howard Vintage (especially for Scandinavian), Aaron Faber Gallery

2. Your exemplars 
These are women in the public eye whose style you like because you relate to them. Study what they are wearing now. This is not foolproof: I admire Helen Mirren, but do not yearn for her necklaces of busy floral motifs. (Nice pearls, though!)

You can also work from the other direction. If you wish to simplify your life and wear only three or four pieces of elegant, classic jewellery, find someone who does that, and notice the pieces—Sofia Coppola, for example: Cartier tank watch, cream enamel bangle, small diamond solitaire pendant.

You can look beyond Cartier; many makers offer a tank watch or solitaire pendant—but don't cut big corners. Simple pieces should be real. If you want the haut de gamme brands, shop the resale sites like Vestaire, The RealReal, or Beladora.

The point is not to copy, but to observe how their jewellery supports their visual presentation. 

Changing times, changing style

Anna collected craft-show pieces that added interest to the basics she wore when she taught high school science. For thirty years, I saw her often in the stamped-metal dangles shown below.

Paula is a banker who wore gold necklaces you could see from another province; she called them her "power animals". Anna retired this month, Paula will in January and both have told me that they want to change it up. Their styles and budgets are completely different.

Anna: New dangles

Anna wants to lose her "happy hippy" (her term) pair, replacing them with new dangles, which work well with her pixie cut. Her budget is $500 tops, thanks to a generous retirement gift from colleagues.

Left: Old school
Anne's gold, silver, and copper dangles are very '90s; they had a good run. Cost back then, about $100.

Centre: Current and chic
South Sea keshi and vintage coral earrings from Kojima Company; price, $396. The cool grey pearls and warm coral is an unusual combination.

Right: New metal mix
If she prefers mixed metals, Sarah McGuire's Gilded Half-Moon earrings of blackened silver, dipped in 18k gold, update the effect; price, $364 at Twist.

Paula: From power to grace

Paula amassed a big kitty by selling her Tiffany and Bucheron pieces at auction, and sold unsigned gold earrings and bangles to a recycler. Paula has classic taste and an eye influenced by her study of art history. Budget? She made a seriously good living. In other words, this lady can have whatever she wants.

Left: Sweet dreams were made of these
One of her auctioned Tiffany pieces, the trophy necklace of the '80s, but worn very little over the past dozen years.

Centre: Fine and fluid
She still wants the glow of 18k yellow gold; I see her in Sophie Hugues' 20-inch 18k gold chain(detail shown), which she can wear whether gardening or doing the board work she's already accepted. Paula can add a pendant if she wishes. Price, $1, 850 at Twist.

Right: Subtle and special
For a more substantial chain, the price climbs. Mallory Marks' hand-made Venetian Ball chain is exceptional because the chain is entirely hand-made. Hand-made chain is rare even among the luxury brands, and when you see it, you have a visceral sense it's special. Price, $8, 382 at Twist.

What to buy now?

I've long noticed that a woman will cull her wardrobe regularly. She will donate or sell the clothes, shoes and bags, but avoid her jewellery box as if it were wrapped with crime scene tape.

You can repurpose elements into a new piece; sell jewellery by listing on sites like eBay (though some pieces will never sell), or  hold a garage sale and say bye to those 1990 Thai filagree hoops. It's more work than dropping a bag in the collection box, but buck up and do it.

Bye bye, Thai
And sometimes you can drop a bag in a collection box! Have a nice restorative Panaché, and accept that someone will be getting a find.

I've seen a woman hang on to a heavy torsade necklace loaded with hundreds of little chip stones, just because she paid $200 twenty-eight years ago, and remembers how she saved pennies to do it.  When she donates to a good-cause sale, she'll feel great, and so will the beader who will pull it apart to repurpose the stones, or—just someone else.

Because they recognize that some persons will donate "real jewellery", some faith communities and charities have initiated "deluxe rummage sales" or auctions. The ones I've found use an appraiser to set a fair price. If you have the original bill of sale, attach it.

When it's time for new pieces, avoid the poles: too-generic and too-arty. The former is banal, the latter, time-limited. Summer is a good time to look around; many localities have art or craft shows, galleries host trunk shows.

You might even chance upon a garage sale table and be in luck; Gerry got a wide, braided-silver bangle that was too big for the petite seller. It was $10, so stop and take a look!



LauraH said…
As soon as I saw those 90s dangles, I had to comment, they struck such a strong chord. My late husband gifted me with many pairs of similar earrings. Although I haven't worn any of them for years I wanted to honour our history so I mounted them in deep frames - a lot trickier than I thought it would be - and have them in my workroom.

This is a great primer. Love the step by step process and the real world examples. I think I still have something that looks like those Thai pieces...ooops. I'm off to my jewellery box to purge:-)
Madame Là-bas said…
I've been thinking of doing something with small "Nana" pearls that were given to my grandmother when my dad was born 89 years ago. It seems callous but I will never wear them. My jewelry box is being slowly purged.
Duchesse said…
Mme Là-bas: You might enjoy this family heirloom used as beads, applied to a decorative pillow, ornament or detachable collar. ( If exposed for decades to perfume, body oil etc., pearls that old do not often look good enough to restyle as jewellery.) I also saw a strand like this framed in a shadowbox, against a vintage photo of the owner, a charming treatment.

A woman showed me how she had these old, small pearls made into a curtain tie, with tassels on the ends.Order tassels on Etsy and have them restrungbon powerpro thread, not silk, with a tassel at each end. I would even hang them on a wall that way.
Leah said…
"Crime scene tape" - that made me laugh. My mom has, indeed, kept all of her more youthful jewelry and then encouraged us to plunder her boxes over the years, which meant I got some great turquoise and silver rings or bakelite bangles that felt funky and fun in my 20s. But most of it still feels outdated - remember those cloth necklaces with large wooden sliders and a central (often heart) pendant? - and I think none of us would be the worse if she had donated it all (except her original, simple wedding ring which is now my wedding ring!).

For those who loved "artsy" or hippie-esque jewelry back in the day but want a modern, more refined update, I thought of this Portland, OR-based boutique I saw someone feature on IG not long ago: https://betsyandiya.com/collections/jewelry Most of their stuff is non-precious metals and therefore very affordably priced, but they do do some higher end pieces with precious stones.
Anne At Large said…
I’ve had the same qualms about a pearl strand from my grandmother, a graduation gift now going on 14 years unworn. I think about getting it restrung in the style of the Tiffany “sprinkle” necklaces but I wonder if the quality of the pearls would justify any investment. Is that something I could just walk in and ask a reputable jeweler about? I don’t want to waste someone’s time if they are faux or poor quality.
Duchesse said…
Anne At Large: I had answered your inquiry but somehow it did not get published, sorry! Yes, take the pearls to a jeweller with an image of the Tiffany design, which is easy to replicate. Go to Tiffany site and search "Pearls by the Yard Sprinkle Necklace".

Your decision will be whether to make it with with silver or gold chain. Gold will look more elegant, but you might like the more casual vibe of silver (as in the Tiffany photo) or the edgier blackened silver, which which you don't have to keep polishing it—and it will really make white pearls pop.

Jewellers use rolls of chain and cut it to size. You will pay for the chain and the labour. BTW the Tiffany Peretti piece is steeply priced for what it is, silver chain and maybe 14-15 small to medium freshwater pearls. Talk about a brand tax!

What you want is an experienced jeweller with a good eye for design, not a place that just sells branded, manufactured jewellery and call themselves "jewellers". It is a good idea to find one or two whose work you like and build a relationship, which does not mean dropping big bucks or buying regularly.

Don't let this sentimental gift languish, either restyle or give it to a young woman (perhaps someone else in the family?) who wears that demure style. The classic strand can look terrific on the right person.
Denise said…
I've been wanting to tell you how inspiring your jewelry makeover posts have been for me. I've dug through my jewelry case to look at what I'm not wearing. I've stopped wearing study earrings and have quite a few. So far I'm planning on remaking a pair of trillion citron studs into drop earrings. Taking several pairs of tiny semi precious studs and combining them into a ring. I also found a pearl ring I bought for myself when I was 18 and am considering having it attached to an hinged enhancer - maybe with a smaller pearl.

I've asked members of my book club if they could recommend a jeweler that would update/remodel jewelry and received many recommendations. I will send photos as my remodeling process is completed.
Duchesse said…
Denise: Yes, please! We would love to see these. Please take a photo of the originals (grouped is fine) so we can see the transformation. I'm begging- because I'm excited!! I am so grateful to readers who have shared their projects.

Glad to be of help and it's wonderful that you have recommendations for the work.
Liz Rice-Sosne said…
Duchesse - (oh dear, I feel as though I am being very rude calling you by name) I too am a great pearl lover and have been collecting pearls for a long time. I LOVE these! I especially love the photo upon the bottom right of the page as I look at it. I am having trouble downloading it. Is it possible for you to send it to me? I wish to have it made. I would be collecting one pearl at a time.
Thank you, Liz
Duchesse said…
Liz Rice-Sosne: Are you sure your request pertains to this post? I see no photo of anything with pearls, with the exception of the akoya strand at the top.

BTW you can easily take a screen shot yourself. Here are the instructions for a Mac: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201361
For a PC do a search on "how to take a screenshot". This will allow you to take photos of any image you see on your computer. (Just be sure to credit the original if you put it on your blog.)
Liz Rice-Sosne said…
You are right, it is not this post. It is the following or earlier post: THE PASSAGE REOPENS WITH A WILD-DYED DRAW. I think.

Thank you for the instructions - they are very helpful. If used I will credit you. My current desire is to have the photo and perhaps purchase it pearl by pearl and have the necklace duplicated. Many thanks, Liz
Anne At Large said…
Thsnk you very much for the response! Fingers crossed my local jeweler is as helpful as you are.
I've been addressing this exact issue. I'm 65, retired and planning on spending at least a part of the year in our glamped up 5th wheel trailer - traveling the US and Canada. I decided I needed to go through my jewelry and get wear it, donate it or sell it. I have a lot, and I mean a LOT, of Native American jewelry. My parents and siblings lived in NM for many years and so along with many gifts I have some I purchased myself. All are really good quality and fortunately most are silver without stones: a huge silver cuff I gifted myself when I turned 40 and can no longer wear due to arthritis, a silver necklace and earring set that is called "coin silver", silver embossed beads and a string of green cast turquoise and literally dozens of earrings. For the most part the pieces are timeless - no squash blossoms or dated turquoise and some is old pawn. So I decided to keep that which is both good quality, are more of art pieces and which I really like. Most of the earrings and the bracelet I will sell. There are a few pieces that I'll donate as they weren't truly of great quality. The one piece I will absolutely keep is my mother's Taxco silver bracelet that she bought in Mexico in 1958. It has the obsidian face carvings and is so striking.

And there are lot of pieces that partners have gifted me over the years that I just truly can't see wearing including small gem stone earrings and some small diamond earrings - good quality but just not me. I am thinking of having the stones taken out and used for something made by a jeweler. I am fortunate in that I still live in an area that has a lot of great art jewelers. I have no children and my niece has no interest in any of it. I have a pearls as well - for some reason they still look great with a simple black top or even with a white shirt and jeans (the smaller string - the longer ones just look too Dallas or Dynasty). Thanks for the prompt to take action on this task! Mary
Duchesse said…
Mary: You are in a good spot attitude-wise, ready to divest or remodel what does not work- though you do not say how you are selling your horde of Mexican pieces. Maybe we are in opposite places re pearl size; I find man mature women wear too small pearls that look girlish, though the smaller 5-7mm strands can always be layered. (What mm are those bigger ones?)

Anyway, the time to sell is before someone else has to do it for you. Enjoy your journeys, sounds like a delightful way to travel.
Duchesse said…
Mary: Sorry, that is "many mature women". Is that a Freudian slip?
I'll have to determine the size of the pearls. I have a set of what I call "debutante pearls" and a set of long of long natural pearls. The natural pearls and the black pearls are knotted and beautifully strung. I laughed about the Freudian slip. I have a couple of resources to sell the Native American jewelry in Taos, SF and Denver. I am keeping the signed pieces.
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