Keeping a Jeweled History

I mainly talk about jewelry.  Or jewelry designers.  Or antique jewelry.  Or the sentimentality of jewelry.  Sometimes I even talk about caring for and/or storing your jewelry.  But I haven't ever talked about the importance of a jewelry inventory and family history.

Well guess what?  Today's the day.  First off, I think of a jewelry inventory in terms of not only the provenance of the pieces or value but also in terms of family history and sentimentality.  Basically, I think of it as a 'jeweled history' of my family's life and legacy.

Designer biographies are always great to include in your inventory.

Since I have recently embarked on exactly that, I wanted share a few thoughts with you all on the:

  1. Importance 
  2. Reasoning / Why
  3. Options
  4. What to Include

Importance - The practical reason I say a jewelry inventory is important is obviously for insurance purposes.  According to a discussion thread on PriceScope, the debate suggests that the value of an average woman's jewelry collection is approximately $10,000.  An article by Pieces of Time suggests that a woman's jewelry collection grows by approximately $2,498 / £2,000 annually.  And, in the United States, according to a 2019 survey by The Knot, the average engagement ring cost is approximately $5,900.  However, most homeowners or renters' insurance policies have a payout cap on jewelry of between $2,000-$2,500 unless the homeowner / renter has added a Jewelry Schedule (sometimes called a "rider") to their policy.  If you want to learn more about personal insurance and jewelry riders, you can read a previous blog I wrote on the topic here.

How you organize your personal inventory is completely up to you so long as you include critical information such as value & description for insurance purposes.

I know, that's a lot of numbers and discussion points in one paragraph.  If you're looking for a single, key takeaway then it would be this:  Chances are you probably have more than $2,500 on your finger(s) total right now.  So get yourself some insurance with a Jewelry Schedule regardless of whether you rent or own.

Acknowledging that some pieces are sentimental or one-of-a-kind and could never be truly replaced if lost or stolen; trust me when I speak from personal experience here, you'll feel a little less angry (but no less sad) with the full replacement value in your pocket as you search for a competent jeweler to try and recreate the piece.

Reasoning / Why - So we've talked about the importance of a jewelry inventory for insurance purposes.  Now I want to talk about the reasoning or the "why" you need a jeweled history as part of a basic inventory - irregardless of whether you have only a single piece or a high-value collection.

Now when I say a "jeweled history," I'm talking about the literal history and provenance of each piece.  The provenance is the place of origin or earliest known history of that piece.  For antique, collector item pieces, this can help increase the value.  For a family history, it means something entirely different.

And, although your insurance agent isn't going to care about these stories, your family will.  They will want to know that the one simple looking ring in your jewelry box is the most sentimental piece you own because your Grandpa proposed to your Grandma with it on their family farm in Southern Missouri when he got back from World War II.  Or that the sterling silver micro mosaic cross was the only jewelry keepsake you bought yourself on a trip to Assisi, Italy just a few blocks up the hill from the monastery of St. Francis.  Or that the old cut diamond solitaire which may not sparkle in the same way as the other round brilliants in your collection was actually a 10th Anniversary gift from your husband.  Or that the gold-plated Sputnik ring you've held onto for years was actually a gift from that one jewelry-obsessed Aunt of yours.  But....I will promise you this, they will adore reading the stories of each and every piece in your collection and it's those stories that will make each piece irreplaceable in their hearts.

It's me.  I'm the jewelry-obsessed Aunt.

Options - Now there a lot of options for how to create your own Jeweled History from basic to full-on, book-style inventories or even purely digital options.  You'll have to decide for yourself what type you prefer or best suits your needs.  Whatever route you decide to take, I would still recommend keeping at least one printed hard copy somewhere like a personal safe or safe deposit box or with your estate paperwork (such as with your trust or will).  Technology is always changing and evolving and you don't want the tech to outgrow your inventory (think of floppy do you get the information off one of those now; let alone in another 20+ years?!).

One option is the basic word document or spreadsheet with photos.  This can be easily updated and re-printed as needed.  You can print it and keep copies of any appraisal information, receipts, etc. with the corresponding item page.

Including photos, along with other descriptors & purchase information will be helpful to anyone involved in any of your of Estate Planning.  Plus, as your collection grows, it will help you remember key information or sentiments surrounding each piece.

Another option is of course the all digital version.  If you choose to go this route, I still highly recommend printing at one copy and keeping it in a secure location.  I've seen digital versions of a Jeweled History done as a private social media page filled with storyteller-like videos as well as a single, long documentary-style video where the individual shows each piece and then discusses its corresponding history.

A third option is the printed and bound hard copy version.  I've seen this done using Blurb books (or a similar publishing type website) where each item is photographed, a story written about it, scans of appraisal information are uploaded with a blank "note" page included as well where the owner writes-in any changes to the disposition of the piece (sold, stolen, re-sized, given away as a gift, etc.).  This could be updated with a new hard bound book created annually with any new pieces that have been added to the collection in the previous 12 months.

What to Include - Here are some things to consider for inclusion when creating your own Jeweled History Inventory, regardless of the chosen format:

  • The story behind any family heirlooms that will be passed down to future generations. 
  • Detailed photos of each piece.
  • Additional photos (if you have them) of previous generations wearing them or their previous owners / caretakers.
  • Copies of receipts and/or appraisals.
  • Any documentation with regards to provenance such as emails from the designer discussing its creation for custom pieces or letters, cards, etc. from whomever may have given to you as a gift.
  • Any updates or changes you had made to the piece. 
  • Write down any oral history you can remember about the piece - especially if you don't have any original documentation.

An example of some of the provenance information that I included in my own Jeweled History Inventory - The bottom photo is of the finished product, a custom-made emerald snake necklace by Stacey Lorinczi, Lorinczi Jewelry.  Stacey hand sketches several design options & was sweet enough to send me her sketches with the final product.  Although the original sketch is framed & hangs in my home, a color copy is included with my inventory & a note saying where the original is displayed.

Have fun with the process!  Enjoy the walk down Memory Lane while you're creating it.  (And, remember to update it as your collection grows!)

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