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Jewelry-Box Surprise: Wearing Old Pieces in New WaysCarol Brodie has been collecting jewelry since age seven, when she persuaded her father to buy her a gold-plated set that she spotted on the back of a cereal box. Decades later, Ms. Brodie, who designs a line of jewelry sold on the Home Shopping Network, owns more than 500 pieces.
To manage her collection effectively, Ms. Brodie makes sure to organize her jewelry box once a month, and she recommends that most women do it at least once a season.
"Each season calls for a different look" in jewelry, she says, and women can take the occasion to remind themselves of what they've collected over the years. Also, "jewelry needs to breathe," she says. "If you store jewelry in a place with no air for an extended period of time, the metals can change color."
When Ms. Brodie goes over her jewelry collection, she decides which pieces to keep out and which to store away for the moment. When fall arrived, for example, she put away pieces made of coral and wood, as well as ones in bright colors, replacing them with more ornate pieces featuring stones of richer hues such as deep purple and red.
She makes sure to give her pieces a quick cleaning by soaking them for 30 minutes in a bowl of warm water mixed with a capful of Johnson's Baby Shampoo and a bit of ammonia. She then wipes them off with an old cotton T-shirt—using this method for all jewelry except pearls, which she just cleans gently with a damp soft cloth.
Ms. Brodie believes there's no reason to ever toss away jewelry—even single earrings. "Each piece of jewelry has a moment, meaning or memory," she says, noting that orphan earrings "make great pendants or charms for bracelets."
Sometimes, cleaning out her jewelry box will remind her of a ring she no longer wears that would "look great hanging from a charm necklace or bracelet." She sometimes repurposes old brooches by hanging them on a wide satin ribbon to be worn as a choker or attaching them to a plain satin evening purse.
The look of layered necklaces is currently in vogue, and Ms. Brodie enjoys mixing old and new pieces. She likes pairing shiny new pieces with antique jewels or ones that look "a little oxidized, blackened," explaining that "it instantly updates something that could look fussy or old."
For instance, sometimes she'll pair a 36-inch gold chain that she loops twice around her neck with a necklace bearing an antique locket from her grandmother. "I like every piece of jewelry that I wear to tell a different story," she says.
She is careful to store her fine jewelry in a home safe. Before doing that, Ms. Brodie wraps each piece individually in a pouch made of a soft material like satin, suede or velvet. (Storing them in the original boxes would be "too cumbersome," she says.)
"The biggest mistake that women make is: They throw their jewelry all together in a jewelry box," she says. "They'll all scratch each other." Even hard stones like diamonds, she notes, can get nicked by other similarly hard gems. She winds necklaces several times around a folded business card so the chain doesn't get tangled up in storage.
She puts some of the items she wears more frequently into large jewelry boxes with multiple drawers, so that each ring and set of earrings can have its own space. But Ms. Brodie also hangs frequently worn necklaces and bracelets in standing acrylic holders she purchases from the Container Store. "I want to see my jewelry," she says. "It's wearable decor."
—Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan