As with any antique or vintage object, condition is paramount when it comes to achieving the maximum price. Damaged finishes, bent pin backs, missing earclips, loose earclips, and non-functioning catches can all affect value and wearability. In the case of costume jewelry, special care is required to ensure that pieces last. It should last as long as any precious jewelry, but this is not usually the case as it was mostly cheaper to buy when new and so was generally seen as almost disposable. This can work in our favour sometimes: pieces were thrown away and carelessly handled, so far fewer remain than were originally made. This ensures value through rarity, which only increases over the years as more pieces are collected, destroyed, or lost (see the Pumpkin Man on p.13).
Never use strong cleaners on any jewelry, including metal polishes, abrasives, and ammonia. These tend to strip off any protective lacquers, scratch the underlying gold plate, and frequently totally remove gold plating and even enamelling. If you must clean it, use a very soft brush and water mixed with a very small amount of washing-up liquid. Give the piece a couple of strokes with the moistened brush, rinse, and then pat dry with tissue paper. Do not leave the piece damp as water will rot the foil backing behind the stones. Never use a sonic cleaner as this will pop out almost every non-claw-set stone.
Equally, never spray wet perfume on any jewelry especially pearls. Let perfume dry first, then put on your pearl jewelry. If you do not, natural pearls will become pitted and lose their lustre and costume pearls will be stripped of their nacreous coating.
With care, strands of costume pearls, especially by the better-quality makers such as Haskell and Hagler, should not need restringing for at least 50 years, if not more. But if the strands are loose and thread has come away they should be restrung by an experienced re-threader.
Often the only way to deal with damaged enamel is to remove it all and repaint the layers. This totally devalues the piece and is not recommended at all, as modern paints cannot reproduce the look of the old, and the skills of the original painters are very hard to match.
Gilding or gold plating can wear thin, and even disappear altogether, severely detracting from the appeal of the piece. Replilting is difficult, even impossible, it being particularly hard to re-create the original colour.
As a general rule, do not replace a rhinestone if it has gone black, discoloured, or even chipped and cracked, as any replacement will be inferior to its present condition unless you can match it exactly. Stones can be bought in many shapes, sizes, and colours, but do check what is available before you remove anything. Manufacturers of rhinestones have greatly decreased their ranges in recent years, and many collectors and dealers now stockpile the more unusual stones for the future. If you cannot buy a stone you need, it is well worth waiting to find a piece of jewelry beyond repair and use stones from that.
Avoid the temptation to use any old glue and especially do not use super glue! This dries to an opaque powdery finish and can obliterate the colour of the stone.
Use special rhinestone setting cement available from most hobby stores and lapidary shops. The tubes usually have very fine applicators that allow you to be precise and not apply too much (avoiding a messy finish).Take care prising open and closing the prongs of claw-set stones, using a steady hand, or stones may pop out all over the place. If any stones look loose, add a drop of the cement to the upper surface of the stone so that it flows to the metalwork either side to help hold it in.
When buying be aware that broken metalwork can rarely be resoldered as soft base metals cannot be reheated. Silver can easily be resoldered, but also be aware that this involves heating up a local area around the break, which may burn enamels, tarnish gold plate, and crack and blacken stones and pearls. Some watch mechanisms are also non-repairable and can only be replaced.
Writer- STEVEN MINERS