by Kathryn Drury Wagner – Exclusively for CJCI
Don’t just cram your treasures into a drawer and forget about them. Costume jewelry is art, so create your own personal exhibition.
That tangle of necklaces, the jumble of rings, a shoebox stuffed with bangles, and let’s not get started about that pile on the dresser—you may have a fantastic costume jewelry collection, but you’re not doing it justice if it’s not displayed in a way that makes it possible to use and enjoy it. Jewelry can be damaged when it gets tangled or knocked around, and there’s another risk, too: As someone told me at the recent Costume Jewelry Collectors Int’l convention, “If you can’t see it, you won’t wear it.”
Rather than wasting time untangling necklaces, or sequestering your sparkles into the depths of an armoire, treat your collection as art and show it off with a flourish. I’ve hunted for some creative ways to display jewelry, and hopefully by the time you’re done reading this, you’ll be inspired to uncover your own collection.
Raid the Kitchen!
• For a cool earring display, paint an old cheese grater a jaunty color—lime green? tangerine?—and hang the earrings from the little holes.
• Glass candy jars can sweetly and neatly keep colorful bracelets dust free.
• Add little hooks inside a silverware organizer for a drawer and mount it on the wall, creating a divided shadowbox-style display.
• Think ceramics. I love to use vintage serving dishes, such as chip-and-dip bowls, to store my clunkier pieces, like large brooches or oversize beads. I keep one on top of my dresser for planning the week’s jewelry wardrobe. You can also use pretty, vintage saucers for rings. The multiple tiers of a tea cake stand can show off jewelry—and has a handle on top, to boot, so you can easily move it. A glass cake stand with dome would also make a charming display case for special jewelry.
• Plastic ice cube trays, and silicone muffin or mini-muffin pans can all be used to store jewelry inside a drawer. The separate compartments will keep items from being scratched.
Ceramic Hand Jewelry Display – Photo by Brett Wagner
Jewelry trees are a great option for keeping necklaces untangled and in plain view, but how about literal trees? Small branches can be stuck into a vase, creating your own custom display. Driftwood, and antlers (real or faux) can be used for similar purposes. I have a palmistry hand sculpture that works great for dangling necklaces. It looks mysterious and antique, but it’s mass market; I’ve seen similar ones at flea markets for $20 to $40.
A sturdy, wood hanger can stow a row of less-oft-worn necklaces inside your closet, but if you want the jewelry closer to your vanity or a mirror, you can install a towel rod on the wall. Place a set of nice curtain hooks across it, and you’ll have sliding hooks for your necklaces. A lot of home designers are using vintage knobs and door pulls for jewelry displays as well, screwing them either directly into the wall to create a large hook, or using a series of them in a piece of repurposed, rustic wood and then mounting that whole thing on the wall.
Of course, over-the-door hanging organizers are also an affordable, simple option, available from retailers such as Bed, Bath & Beyond, HSN, and Overstock.com.
Find a Specialty Supplier
For professional style displays that you can use at home, look for a company that caters to jewelry designers or store owners. Try The Novel Box Co. This wholesaler specializes in displays and has thousands of options for drawer inserts, shadow boxes, bangle trays and rotating acrylic cases. If you’re into organizing, and can buy wholesale, you’re going to love this website.
Bangle Caddies in two styles – Photo courtesy of Judy Miller
Judy Miller, who sells and collects vintage jewelry, created Bangle Caddies, which are acrylic tubes for bangles, bracelets, or even bagels. I’ll keep the bagels in the freezer, thanks, but the clear, protective storage seems perfect for serious jewelry collectors.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a walk-in closet, consider adding a customized jewelry area to a closet design. Companies like California Closets can design a special section of drawers, with tarnish proof inserts, and an array of hooks and mirrors. A complete jewelry system starts around $2,000. For envy-inspiring photos, check out these dreamy examples of custom work.
If you enjoy DIY projects, you can easily make your own displays. Use an old wooden frame, filled not with a picture but instead, with pegboard, a mesh screen, lace or crocheted fabric so that jewelry can be hung inside. Here’s a nice how-to for a DIY antiqued frame (as illustrated above). You can also cover a corkboard with pretty fabric and use pushpins.
Speaking of pins, an old fabric dress form is a great way to display a large collection of brooches.
Safeguarding Your Display
So you’ve created your charming, clever display. Now it’s time to figure out where to put it. Daylight is fine, but avoid leaving jewelry in direct sunlight, or near a heating or cooling source. It’s also best to keep jewelry in a cool, dry place, rather than somewhere warm and humid, like your bathroom. See more on protecting your collection in our previous story.
I don’t know about you, but now I’m fired up and in the mood to sort and redo my jewelry displays. I’d love to hear some of your best ideas for displaying a collection—and see photos if you’re willing to share, so post in our comments section below.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She blogs about vintage styles at The Girl, The Gold Watch & Everything.