If you are aware of the history of certain items in your jewelry collection, it would be well worth the effort to document this for future generations. It’s always a wonderful thing to know the story behind a piece of family jewelry, and the best way to be assured that the history is remembered is to write it down. There is a great difference between what you know to be an old ruby ring that’s been in the family for a long time, and one that your grandfather gave to your grandmother when your mother was born, the July after he returned home from the army. (Ruby is the July birthstone.) Mini-histories like this become treasured legends in families, and the only good way to preserve them is to document them, one way or another.
Any recorded history of family jewelry should be protected, or it will wind up in some obscure file that may never be seen again. Even if you feel that certain information may not be of interest to the next generation, document it anyway. Let your heirs decide whether they want to make use of the record or not, because once the chain of information is broken, there is generally no viable way to reconstruct that history, and what you wind up with is pure conjecture.
In most families, heirloom jewelry (or jewelry with heirloom potential) already exists, and the longer that time goes by without any attempt to document the history, the better the chance becomes that the origins of an item will be lost forever. Even something that you consider to be common knowledge should be documented, since your grandchildren will not be privy to your memories. Don’t bet your bottom dollar that your children will remember where a certain piece came from, either.
Of course, this sort of information is invaluable to your heirs, but you should be aware that (in certain instances) the monetary value of an item may also be increased when there is documented provenance of a particular item. This would have bearing not only as far as if and when you should decide to sell a piece of family jewelry, but could have implications for insurance value as well. Now, before you run off and try to construct a history on every single piece of jewelry you own, I should be clear that more often than not, the increase in “value” as the result of documentation is an intrinsic one, and will never amount to an actual monetary gain of any sort.
I’m not saying that each and every particular detail needs to be preserved, but occasions, dates, people and places that could be of interest should all be considered. The charm that such things will carry many years from now is immeasurable, and the detailed provenance of a piece of family jewelry is something that you’ll never regret doing. There is simply no downside to maintaining a written record. In times past, family history and events were reliably passed verbally from one generation to the next, but those times are long gone. If you want to be as sure as possible that the information is preserved for the future, write it down.
Joe Brandt is a local resident, and President of J.L. Brandt Company, offering diversified fine jewelry advisory services to the general public since 1928. Readers are invited to submit questions or comments to [email protected] Names or contact information will not be used for publication, and all inquiries will be answered promptly.