Conservation Corner: How to Care for Your Jewellery

on Friday, 18 October 2019.

Jewellery has been a part of life since prehistoric times. Examples can be found from archaeological digs as grave goods adorning the deceased to signify their status or position in society. Although jewellery may have started as practical objects such as brooches or fibulae, the ancient equivalent of a safety pin, over time increased skills in metal work allowed more ornate items to be created. Combined with precious stones, these more elaborate designs were used to ornament every part of the body, protecting the wearer against life’s dangers or marking their status.

On the whole, jewellery today is seen as the finishing touch to an outfit, or reserved for special occasions. However, they still hold the same significance in modern day life, whether gifted from a loved one holding personal importance or a large expensive engagement ring showing off the social status of your betrothed. As with anything precious, we all want to know how best to take care of it.

At the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre we are holding a talk on how to do exactly that. Kayleigh Spring from the Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (part of Wiltshire Council) will talk you through the basics in jewellery care. Focusing predominately on silver, Kayleigh will discuss why that tarnish layer might be protecting your jewellery, what materials to avoid when cleaning and packing your jewellery in storage, and demonstrate how to effectively clean and polish without eroding details. But here are some quick tips to keep your jewellery dazzling:

1. Put Polishing on Probation
Although it’s sometimes necessary to give jewellery a polish to maintain its lustre, polishivng too often can erode the surface of the metal potentially removing important patterns and details.
2. Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
If you have an item of jewellery you only wear on special occasions try to ensure it is clean before packing it back into your jewellery box. Build-up of dirt can increase the chance of corrosion and tarnish.
3. Keep Your Mitts Off
Acids and oils on our fingers tips can eat into the surface of the metal leaving finger print marks. Try to ensure your hands are recently cleaned and dried before handling your jewellery.

To find out more, why not join Kayleigh in the conservation lab on 20th November between 2 to 3pm. Booking required in advance at £4 per ticket by contacting the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre helpdesk on 01249 705500.

The Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (CMAS) aims to promote excellence in the care and use of collections by providing conservation advice and practical treatments to heritage organisations and the public. It also supports museums in Wiltshire to meet professional standards and become sustainable.

If you would like conservation advice about your own documents or objects, we hold a free ‘Conservation Surgery’ on the 2nd Thursday of every month (please book in advance through the WSHC helpdesk – 01249 705500)

Kayleigh Spring, Conservator (Objects)

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