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The Care & Keeping of Heirloom Jewelry: A Guide

Collage of antiques, collectibles, and heirloom jewelry with sepia photographs of a soldier and his wife

Passing down heirloom jewelry is one of our most time-honored traditions. Jewelry was one of the first ways our oldest ancestors expressed themselves, showed gratitude for one another, and forged everlasting bonds. This makes vintage and heirloom jewelry a form of communication, even communion, with those we love—and the unique heritage that forms each one of us.

Understandably, then, receiving or inheriting a family heirloom can be a momentous occasion, full of emotion and even perhaps worry about what to do with it. At Bromberg’s, we’ve been Birmingham’s jewelers for almost 200 years, and we’ve helped countless people make the most of inherited necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, and more. So, here’s our guide to what to do with these special items.

Have the Jewelry Appraised

The first step to take when handling inherited jewelry is to have it evaluated by a certified appraiser. Even if you aren’t considering selling the piece, jewelry appraisal can give you a lot of valuable information:

– Insurance replacement value: If anything should happen to your ring (it gets lost, stolen, or damaged), a certified appraisal can help you get the replacement value from your insurance company.

Estate value: In the event this piece came to you through a loss in the family, that likely means they had an estate appraisal. You can do the same to ensure the tradition continues to be passed down according to your wishes!

– Gemstone identification or authentication: Not sure whether the ring your grandmother swore was a diamond truly was? Or if the earrings she wore every day might actually be real pearls? Our appraisers can help verify.

An appraisal can also help you understand the piece’s condition, including whether it needs any repairs.

If You Love the Heirloom Jewelry’s Style…

Have the Jewelry Cleaned & Repaired

An expert jeweler can help you examine the jewelry for any necessary repairs, including small ones that may be hard to spot. At Bromberg’s, we can also help you clean the jewelry to restore its luster and protect its precious materials. We use only the safest methods to clean delicate, antique jewelry.

Wear It! And Take Care of It

Whether you wear it yourself or save it for your own children, there are a couple of ground rules for taking care of vintage jewelry. Keep these in mind, and you can enjoy this piece for many years to come:

Don’t clean it with salt water or ultrasonic cleaners (ultrasonics can be great for modern jewelry but are too harsh for antiques)

Don’t wear it while exercising, cleaning, or swimming

Store your jewelry in a safe place, away from direct sunlight or high humidity (all the more reason to invest in a special jewelry box if you don’t have one already!)

If The Style Isn’t to Your Taste…

Weigh the Pros and Cons of Selling Inherited Jewelry

Deciding whether or not to sell inherited jewelry is an intensely personal decision. Many people feel guilty even thinking about it. But for some families, enjoying the inheritance means doing with it whatever makes sense to you—even if that means using the financial value of the piece for something else that would bring you joy.

Just be sure that you consider the decision carefully, involving any other family members who may have a stake in the decision. Also, keep in mind that you have a lot of options for selling the jewelry, some of which may be more above-board than others. Wholesalers often won’t give you the value you deserve, and selling online can come with a host of liability issues. We recommend only selling to authorized, established jewelers with a proven track record.

Repurpose & Modernize the Heirloom Stones

Before you decide to sell the piece, consider repurposing its elements in a style you do love. With custom jewelry services from Bromberg’s, we can use heirloom materials to create something unique that still honors your history.

Whether you have gorgeous pearls on an unsalvageable string or a stunning center stone in a setting that isn’t to your taste, you have endless options for modernizing and repurposing these beautiful elements.

Our Master Jeweler Philip Flenniken has been hand-crafting gorgeous, high-quality necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings from his shop in our Mountain Brook location since 1974. His incredible craftsmanship can breathe new life into a piece, ensuring that it will be well-loved and admired for generations to come.

Trust Your Inherited Jewelry to the Jewelers with History

No matter whether you ultimately decide to keep, sell, or customize a new design for your inherited jewelry, Bromberg’s is here to help. Getting an appraisal is the first step toward making the most of your heirloom’s beauty and rich significance. So, when you’re ready, come and see your local jewelers. We’re always here to handle your precious treasures with the same care and attention we would if they were our own.

Bromberg’s: Vintage, Inherited, and Heirloom Jewelry Appraisal in Birmingham, Alabama

Bromberg & Company has made excellence an art form for Birmingham families for more than 180 years. With that much history on our side, we have a special understanding of what it takes to care for, restore, and reimagine your most treasured items. Come by either of our locations in Mountain Brook and The Summit, or call ahead at (205) 341-0730 to make an appointment with our Master Jeweler.

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