Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco or Modernist silver jewelry, whatever your passion, do you prefer your brooch, bracelet or necklace looking shiny and show room fresh or do you prefer a more and age appropriate look?
In modern contemporary culture it seems that the “cleaner”, the “fresher” and the “newer” represents the preferred standard. Buy something today and if it displays even the slightest imperfection it’s immediately returned to the store or the online merchant. More recently this attitude has drifted into the realm of antique and vintage items as well. Items that are 100, 50 or even 25 years old are now held to these new criteria. I discuss this only to set the background for my current topic about polishing jewelry. I’ll probably discuss the concept of acceptable damage in a future post.
I’ll state right out that I prefer older items to have a warm and well aged look. One of the reasons I collect vintage pieces is to enjoy the fact that they have survived the arduous trip through time. I love reflecting on the history of the piece and speculating about the historical uniqueness of the design, the character of the designer or maker and the type of people who have handled this piece in the past.
Patina is a great concept.
To quote the eminent antiques dealer Israel Sacks:
Apart from the aesthetic appearance and practical protection of patination, antique experts confirm that an object’s value increases when its patination is intact because it is an important effect of the aging process and this evidential history is reflected in the value of the piece.
He also says:
Patina is everything that happens to an object over the course of time. The nick in the leg of a table, a scratch on a table top, the loss of moisture in the paint, the crackling of a finish or a glaze in ceramics, the gentle wear patterns on the edge of a plate. All these things add up to create a softer look, subtle color changes, a character. Patina is built from all the effects, natural and man-made, that create a true antique.
Of course, with jewelry, there are some limits to the amount of patination you might want. A totally black or destroyed surface does nothing to enhance the beauty of the item. A subtle polishing, possibly with a gentle rouge cloth, can give the piece a nice warm glow and bring even the darkest silver back to life.
Polished or not polished, the choice is yours, but in my book… let something old look old. That’s the joy of it.