As a jewellery researcher, I have found that jewellery pops up in the most unexpected places! It's why I carry a few items around in my handbag that have proven to come in very handy when there is jewellery to be looked at. They are lightweight, easy to bring along and indispensable for impromptu jewellery encounters.
1) Gloves. Handling silver, especially when it is not cleaned but still dirty and dusty, blackens your fingers. Apart from that, your fingers leave grease and stains on the silver in return. I always carry a pair of bamboo gloves: these are lightweight and breathing, and do not feel as uncomfortable as rubber gloves. I found these with a shop in medical supplies for burned skin.
2) Magnifier. To see just a little more detail, a magnifier is indispensable. Checking hallmarks, decoration details and damage becomes easier with only a little magnification of 5x. This is an antique magnifier that I found in a thriftstore: you could also use this example or this one.
3) Notebook. I always carry a small notebook to jot down everything: book titles, for example, but also details of jewellery I come across, information from museum labels in an exhibition, or notes to go with photos I take, to remind myself what the purpose of the picture was.
4) Photo scale and colour ruler. This lightweight ruler is perfect for photographing smaller pieces of jewellery, like the pendants of my PhD-research for example. The 45 degrees-angle makes straightening out photos on a laptop much easier and the colourscheme helps with calibrating the image.
5) Polishing cloth. This is available in every jewellery store and ideal for a quick first rub. When you rub away a layer of dirt and the material underneath becomes visible, it is easier to distinguish between base metal and silver: silver will show its characteristic glow when rubbed.
Finally, also practical are hand wipes, if you are somewhere where washing hands is not immediately possible. All of this takes up little or no space in your purse, but allows you to get an amazing amount of basic observation and registration work done with it!
In the Collection Management-series, I share best practices, tips and guides on the many aspects of collection management. I have listed a few pointers for you to get started in my free workbook, which is available for download here.