Be Kind to Those Down the Road
Over the past year, I managed a number of fine jewelry estates for individual executors, non-for-profit organizations and trustees. Because of Covid, my in-home, face-to-face client consultations had been halted, so it was the perfect opportunity to gain additional experience in this area of service.
As I worked through these projects, I found myself thinking, “If only she had done this . . ,” and “Why did she do that?” The same questions rose again and again. It would have been so helpful to the executor of the estate if some simple guidelines had been followed by the jewelry owner while she was enjoying her collection, thus saving the estate time, possible frustration, and money.
While none of us wants to ponder our own demise, we all know that life can change in an instant. So here are a few suggestions that everyone who owns jewelry can consider following now, on a day-to-day basis, to help those who will be entrusted with it in the hopefully distant future.
1. At the bare minimum, keep all original jewelry receipts and appraisals. They can be stored in an envelope or a box, but keep the paperwork, and keep it all in one place. For many reasons, paperwork is invaluable.
2. If you sell or give away a piece of your jewelry, either pass along the paperwork to the recipient at that time, or put it into a different file marked “No Longer Mine.” For an estate manager like myself to search for jewelry that is no longer part of the collection leads to questions and concerns that are often uncomfortable to family members.
3. If you don’t have any receipts, at the very least, make color photocopies of your jewelry. They don’t have to be perfect. Place your pieces carefully on the glass, as many as you can fit at one time, face down if possible. Handwrite a brief description on the sheets, and perhaps where/how the piece was obtained. If jewelry is to be gifted to a friend or relative after you are gone, the recipient’s name can be written on the photocopy as well for reference. Date the pages, staple them together, and put them in the same file as your receipts. If you’re really organized, put a second set in your safety deposit box.
4. Save the original boxes if you own pieces from high-end designer jewelry firms such as Tiffany, Van Cleef & Arpels, etc. They can add considerable value if the jewelry is ever sold on the estate market. I know that individual boxes are a hassle if you use a safe or have a storage system for your jewelry, but consider stowing them in a box in the basement as an option.
5. Separate your costume jewelry and your fine jewelry in a logical way that works for you.
6. Keep a stash of all the extra links you’ve had removed from watches or bracelets, or extra beads removed to shorten necklaces. If you store them all together in one clear plastic ziplock bag, they will be easier to locate. These bits and pieces can affect the wearability and value of your jewelry down the road.
7. Current, well-written appraisals that include a photograph of each piece are the ultimate benefit to an executor, but it is the rare woman who possesses them.
I must admit, I’m the cobbler whose children have no shoes in the paperwork and appraisal guidelines stated here. My files are incomplete, and I have no excuse. But it is a goal of mine to finish organizing my personal jewelry collection this year. If it is your goal as well, please contact me and I will have it crossed off your “To-Do” list in short order.
Vendorafa earrings above available at Elleard Heffern Fine Jewelers.