Whether you have a large or small collection of vintage silver jewellery from the Arab world (and beyond), it is important to have some form of collection management in place in order to properly care for them. Here are 5 reasons why that matters.
1) You are passing through their lives
The thing with vintage jewellery items is that they are quite possibly older than you! Think about it for a minute. They have lived before they came to you: they were part of a dowry on a wedding day, they were amulets made when times were hard, they sat on a wrist for a lifetime, in another world, with another person. They are heritage, they contain history, they share stories. Taking care of them now falls to you, and you will hopefully pass them on to yet another lifetime. Collection management helps to preserve the identity of the objects in your collection for the future.
Knowing what your jewellery items are, where they came from and what life they have had will enable you to share their stories. When you wear them, you will have a true conversation piece, when you use them in for example tribal fusion dancing, you will be aware of the many worlds dancing with you. In a more practical way, it helps to have information about your pieces in the event you would like to sell them or pass them on to your children or grandchildren. Having a collection management system in place will help you to pass on their names, their origin and whatever else you have learned about them.
3) Physical care
A more practical reason to have some form of collection management system is to ensure your jewellery receives the practical care it needs. Silver may suffer damage from verdigris if it is not stored well, and softer components such as organic material (think cloves and scented paste, but also coral) may deteriorate over time. Especially when you use them actively, like wearing them on a daily basis or integrating them in a dance costume, they need to be looked after. In a collection plan, you identify your most vulnerable pieces and set up a regularly scheduled condition check.
4) Keeping track
Another practical reason to actively manage your collection is because as it grows, you will eventually lose track. Trust me on this one, there will come a time when you don't know all your items by heart! Keeping an up to date inventory will help you to maintain an overview of your collection, and will enable you to find information quickly should you want to sell or pass on a piece. It will also help you document references about similar pieces in books, in museums and online.
And finally, a cold-hearted but very necessary reason: a sound collection management system will be of use for insurance purposes. Keeping a record of your purchases, receipts, maintaining a photo-documentation of your jewellery with an adequate description will prove invaluable if anything were to happen to your jewellery. Full documentation, finally, will also be a great help in your will. I know it may seem odd to think of it this way, but whether you pass on your collection to your family, or leave it to a museum, having it documented properly will make things considerably easier for those carrying out your wishes.
In the Collection Management-series, I will share best practices, tips and guides on the many aspect of collection management. I have listed a few pointers for you to get started in my free workbook, which is available for download here.