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When Should You Give Away Your Jewelry? (VIDEO)

My mother had a fabulous collection of what is now called “fashion” jewelry, much of it acquired through her sister’s costume jewelry company. One of the greatest thrills of my childhood was walking through the aisles of stacked wooden drawers at my aunt’s office warehouse.

Each drawer held a sample of the pieces inside: colorful dangling cluster beaded earrings, chain necklaces with keepsake pendants, button clip-on “pearl” earrings surrounded with tiny rhinestones. And, oh the rhinestones! The glittering, cascading rhinestone earrings and tennis bracelets!

So when my mother died, we went through her jewelry collection, figuring there might be some wonderful items there that the younger generations in the family would enjoy. Sadly, as is the case with a lot of costume pieces, it all looked very tired and worn.

That’s the thing about jewelry. The better stuff lasts forever, or at least looks new for a very long time. And even if it isn’t new, it usually has lasting value as a classic period piece with sentimental value and personal history. So it’s kind of hard to let it go.

The Sentimental Value of Jewelry

Although most of the things my aunt sold were costume, my mother acquired for me a small cultured pearl necklace from the very few higher end items in the inventory. I wear it to this day.

Jewelry carries our memories. It marks the big milestones in life: weddings, births, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations. It can be a gift to acknowledge and celebrate a dear friendship, or received from someone who appreciated something we had done for them.

And it’s sometimes the very thing that we reward ourselves with for making it through a challenging time, like surviving a scary diagnosis and treatment, or an achievement like completing a degree for ourselves later in life, or even a divorce.

Interestingly, the jewelry business was one sector that actually did very well during the Covid pandemic; it actually even grew. People bought talismans to protect themselves from the evil eye. Some bought jewelry etched with uplifting sayings.

Some bought signature or initial necklaces as a kind of statement: “I’m still here, I’m alive.” Others just simply craved something of beauty to get them through the dark times. And since pretty much everybody was living in sweats, jewelry became the one thing that made them still feel feminine.

When and What to Give Away… and to Whom

All that said, the very concept of giving away these pieces can certainly tug at the heart. But, as we age, we tend to look around at all our stuff, especially if we are planning to downsize, and think, “Who is going to want this?”

In our heightened awareness about global waste, there is a tendency, especially among the younger generations, to turn away from brand new acquisitions. They also tend to want experiences and not things.

Then there’s their concern about not flaunting possessions in the faces of those who have much less. But the flip side of that is their growing embrace of the re-use culture: recycling clothing, furniture, household items. And something inherited from an ancestor might carry more cache and less stigma than a newly bought piece of jewelry.

Depending on your heirs and their lifestyle, there are some things that they might love, even some of them among the jaded younger generations. An expensive watch, men’s or women’s, is now kind of “cool,” specifically for its retro vibe. This would make a fabulous graduation gift this month.

Simple pieces, like gold chains, fine or chunky links, are eternally fashionable, and as some of the newer gold plate versions look real, only your recipient will know it’s the real deal. They will feel glorious wearing it. As for rings, my husband wore his Dad’s family signet pinky ring for decades.

But as these items are not of equal monetary value, one estate planner strongly advises her clients to sell all their jewelry before they die, specifically to avoid being blamed for engaging in favoritism. This is not a bad idea if there is some history of familial in-fighting among the heirs.

And of course, giving monetary gifts from the sale of those items for special occasions – graduations, weddings, birthdays, etc. – while you are still alive assures that they aren’t counting the days until you kick the bucket.

My Own Jewelry and Thoughts on the Subject

After the death of her aunt, my sister-in-law and I were looking through some of the estate items she left behind. She had already bequeathed to me her very extensive silver flatware collection, which was a tremendous gift. I use it often, not saving it just for special occasions, and always say a “thank you” to her in heaven when I do.

But when we went through her aunt’s jewelry collection, much of which was made for her by her husband (who as a hobby made gorgeous gold jewelry), my sister-in-law said, “What do you think about giving these away to each of the girls (her nieces) for their birthdays?”

I know she phrased it that way because she is an attorney. She states the answer in the question. I imagine she thought I was eyeing some of those items. I replied, “I think that’s a great idea!”

The thing is, and at the risk of sounding un-sentimental and a little weird, I personally don’t accept jewelry handed down by my own ancestors, let alone anyone else’s. Maybe that’s because superstitious people, who purport to see or sense “energies,” suggest that jewelry not only carries our memories, but also the long-term energetic imprint of the wearer.

So, the only pricey jewelry in my collection consists of two gemstone rings that were specifically prescribed for me based on my astrological chart. I wear them daily. They are said to increase my good vibes and ward off any bad “juju” I may have earned in this or a previous lifetime. I pity the soul who will inherit them… maybe I should just burn them when I die.

The rest of my jewelry collection consists of a lot of costume jewelry. Frankly, it suits my style and I love playful things. It’s not often you will find expensive fine jewelry that could be labeled as particularly playful. They tend to be more “serious” and showy kinds of things. Besides, I’d rather spend my money on clothes… or to just give it away now.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you collected some high quality jewelry over the years? Do you wear these regularly? Or are they just sitting in a vault somewhere? How do you feel about letting these items go? And to whom would you give them, and when? Or are you just planning to sell them at some point?

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Sandra Lee

I have a lot of jewelry. From diamonds to costume. I don’t intend to give it away, while I am still alive, but won’t say I am absolute about my decision. I have enjoyed making my own beaded necklaces, and earrings as a hobby. My mother died at age 57, and left me some nice jewelry, however a lot of it was stolen from my home. Now, sadly everything of value is in a huge safe.Because it is difficult to get to, most often, I do not wear the good stuff. I am not superstitious, and also, do not feel that because other’s are less fortunate, I should deprive myself of such enjoyments. When, I take the time to put it on, I always love wearing it, no matter who gave it to me. I cannot imagine my two daughter’s fighting over any of my goods. They will each get enough. My girl’s get along. I cannot only remember them having one argument years ago, and it was not over material things. Everything is written down with pictures, so there will not be any problems.

Last edited 8 months ago by Sandra Lee

My mother didn’t have much in the way of jewellery as we were never well off. What she had of any value I said my sister should have as she is the eldest daughter. She also has a necklace of glass beads. My 3 elder siblings bought it for my mother when they saw it in a window on holiday whilst out walking with my dad. I wasn’t born until a few years later.

I have a lot of lovely gold and silver jewellery gifted by my husband over the years which I really treasure. I also have big pieces of costume jewellery from the 80s and hang on to it as it was a fun decade for me.

Anything I no longer want whether it be good quality clothing, shoes or costume jewellery I no longer wear is donated to the Red Cross. They give free clothing bundles to people who are very needy and run courses in First Aid and other things for people caring with relatives affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia. There is also a thrift shop in town.

This is a worthy cause for me as my late dad had vascular dementia.

Deb S

I have collected costume jewelry for over 50 years. You would be surprised at the price better pieces bring! Before getting rid of it, consider selling lots on Ebay or approaching jewelry dealers to sell. Don’t expect free appraisals, but do have an idea of how much would make you happy if you sold the lot (be reasonable, dealers buy at a quarter to a third of what retail prices are listed).

Andrea Pflaumer

Yes! Costume jewelry that is in good shape can bring you a pretty penny on the resale market. A lot of younger women love these pieces too. Thanks for writing. Andrea

Stephanie Bryant

I have too many pieces of gold/gem jewelry that my husband gave me, but we are now separated. My daughter has mental illness and substance abuse, so I could not give her these items in faith.
When you try to sell them, you get nothing for them really to be honest compared to what you pay for it. So what else is there I can do with it? Do charities accept jewelry?


I know many of the charities in Britain sell items of higher value via eBay and other platforms so you may want to look into this.

Andrea Pflaumer

Hello Stephanie and thanks for writing.
I’m so sorry to hear of your challenges and losses. (You certainly aren’t alone.) many charities gladly accept donations of jewelry. If you’re in the US you can get a tax write-off for them. Thank you for commenting. Andrea

The Author

Andrea Pflaumer is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, Shopping for the Real You, and an e-book, She’s Got Good Jeans. She has been a regular contributor to Sixty and Me for more than five years and blogs from her home in the San Francisco Bay area. Her most popular online course is Discovering Your Inner Style: an Adventure in Dressing Authentically.

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