If your jewellery could talk, what stories would they tell?

Don’t forget-no on else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell.

-Charles de Lint
What stories would your jewellery tell? Collection of jewellery laid out on a table.  Photo Credit: @acgemlab
What treasures and untold stories are hiding in your jewellery box? Photo Credit: @acgemlab

Storytelling has played an integral role in understanding and preserving culture. Stories have been told in many different forms including pictures painted by hand inside cave walls, in poetry, and in great tales recited orally to the masses. The digital world has revolutionized the way stories are shared and has expanded the audience to include people all over the world.

Documenting the stories related to your jewellery is a vital way of preserving your family history for future generations. For many people the most worn piece of jewellery is their wedding set (engagement ring and wedding band). Many rarely take this symbol of eternal love off. Your jewellery has had a front row seat to all the important occasions in life from graduations and weddings, to birthdays, anniversaries, and even funerals. I wonder, if your jewellery could talk, what stories would they tell?

The technological revolution has left future generations with limited documentation and photos of their loved one’s jewellery and what their life was like. When I help clients sort through their jewellery collection, the client often remarks “I inherited this jewellery and I know nothing about it”. Isn’t that a shame? Many clients saw their loved one frequently wearing a piece but never thought to ask about the item’s history. Items may have been tucked away in a drawer, too precious to be worn daily that it was forgotten. By the time you realize the importance of asking questions, it can be too late. Although you cannot go back and re-take those missing photos, you can attempt to preserve the remaining stories by becoming the jewellery historian in your family.

Jewellery Tea Part
Invite your family to discover the treasures and untold stories hiding in your jewellery box. Photo Credit: @acgemlab

COVID-19 has kept us all a part. Why not use this as an opportunity to connect with your loved ones? When it is safe to do so, invite everyone over for an afternoon of fun, and make sure to include the youngest ones. Encourage everyone to touch and play. Provide children with an opportunity to try the jewellery on. Discovering all the “treasure” in your jewellery box will be a memory that remains with them for life. Not to mention that they will be great at resolving any technical difficulties.

The process of recording the details is very simple. Set up a mini photography studio with a simple neutral background (white copy paper) and natural lighting. Having clear photos of your jewellery stored somewhere safe should be a standard practice. These photos will be incredibly helpful for future identification should the item be lost or damaged. Make sure to number the items (and photos) so you can match the details to the correct item. A description of the item should also be included. Even if it is simple (ex. yellow tone ring with one round colourless stone and two round red stones) do your best to record as many details as possible.

Once all the physical details are recorded, it is time to record the emotional details. These details will hopefully come from the original owner who can reminisce upon times past. While investigating these details, you may uncover forgotten stories that will bring back fond memories. Once you start reminiscing, you never know what memories will come flooding back.

Details to Record:

  • Where was it purchased?
  • Who purchased it and when?
  • What was the occasion? (If it was for an engagement, what were the events leading up to the proposal and where did the proposal take place?)
  • How was it presented?
  • Was it custom designed or purchased ready to wear?
  • Who made it?
  • How much did it cost? (If you ave the original paperwork and box, that is even better. It is always interesting to see how much things used to cost.)
  • If there is an engraving, who or what does the engraving represent?
  • Did the item have any exciting adventures (ex. lost at a beach and returned years later)?

This is not an exhaustive list, but it provides some questions to start the conversation. Another place to look for details is in diaries and letters. Written documents may have survived though the years, likely because they were stored somewhere out of the way and forgotten.

Not only can these details be written or typed, audio recordings or videos can also be captured. Once you have recorded all the necessary details and stories, make sure to store them in a safe place.

Pair of cufflinks each engraved with "WSC".
Pair of cufflinks engraved with “WSC”. Do you know what the engraving on your jewellery represents? Photo Credit: @acgemlab

Documenting these stories for future generations is an important way of preserving your family history. You might think “my family doesn’t care about that”. This is not the case. Often, we don’t realize the questions that should have been asked until it is too late. Don’t you think your loved ones would be more inclined to treasure your jewellery if they knew how important it was to you during your lifetime? Don’t you think your loved ones would wear your jewellery with pride if they knew what the item represented?

If you want your memories to be preserved for future generations, make sure you take the time to share them with your loved ones. If you find a treasure that you need help identifying or if you require professional documentation for your jewellery, AC Appraisals is here to help. The Jewellery Box Clean Out service is a simple and stress-free way to learn more about the items in your jewellery box.

Storytelling has been an important method of passing knowledge and lore from one generation to the next. Can you imagine all the people and places your jewellery has seen? I ask this question again, if your jewellery could talk, what stories would they tell? You are the only one who can bring these hidden gems, or stories, to life.

Written By: Alanna Campbell, GIA GG, RMV, June 26, 2021

Opinions and experiences are my own.