How to Store Valuables Like Art and Jewelry
Written by: StorageUnits.com Editorial Team - Updated: May 24, 2022
Art and jewelry are meant to be displayed and worn, but sometimes life circumstances make long-term storage a necessity. Unfortunately, these valuable items are prone to getting scratched, tarnished or otherwise damaged while packed away. Creating a safe environment for your cherished art and jewelry collection takes a bit of work, but it ensures your belongings make it through without damage.
Key Point Module
- 1 Wrap canvases and fine jewelry in soft, protective materials to help avoid scratches and prevent dust and moisture buildup.
- 2 Store items separately when possible instead of stacked or piled together. For jewelry, separate items based on the materials used to create them.
- 3 Store fine art and jewelry in a cool, dry location away from direct sunlight.
- 4 Take an inventory prior to storing your valuable items, and get them properly insured.
Preparing Your Collection for Storage
Before you start packing your art and fine jewelry, it’s a good idea to sort and clean your collection. For large artwork, such as paintings or sculptures, this may simply require you to carefully dust them. However, jewelry requires a little more work.
Begin by sorting your jewelry into piles based on the materials each piece contains. Gold, silver and copper jewelry should all be stored separately because mixing metals together can increase tarnishing and cause scratches. Pay attention to the stones, too. Diamonds and other hard stones should always be stored away from softer materials, such as opals. Storing each piece in an individual compartment or container is ideal.
Make sure each piece is clean and free from tarnish before storing it. Most jewelry can be cleaned using a solution made of a few drops of mild dish soap mixed into water or with a wipe down from a jewelry cleaning cloth.
As you inventory your collection, be sure to take a photo of each piece for future reference. This can help with insurance claims if your collection is lost or damaged during storage.
Pack It Up
Choosing the right packing materials is a key consideration when it comes to keeping art and fine jewelry safe. As a general rule, never use plastic or other non-breathable materials to store valuable items. Wrapping things in plastic tends to lead to moisture buildup, which can encourage mold growth and corrosion.
For valuable artwork, experts generally recommend using crescent board, a type of acid-free board used by professional archivists. However, if your collection doesn’t require that kind of specialty material, simply using a thick cotton cloth or blanket can also work. Wrap it loosely around the canvas to allow plenty of air flow. Add a layer of foam padding to help absorb shocks and prevent direct contact with other stored items, and then slip that into a cardboard box for added protection.
Most jewelry does best when stored in soft, fully enclosed containers. Felt-lined drawers or boxes are an excellent choice, but you can also achieve the same effect by wrapping each piece in a piece of felt. Silver also does well when wrapped in a silver cleaning cloth. These can then be stored together in a larger cardboard, wood or plastic container.
Choosing a Storage Space
Valuable artwork and fine jewelry tend to be highly susceptible to environmental damage, so carefully selecting a storage space is essential. Never store your valuables in an attic, a garage or an unfinished basement, as those locations are prone to temperature fluctuations and high moisture levels.
Instead, select a climate-controlled space that can be kept cool and at moderate humidity levels. Avoid places that are too dry, as they can cause canvases and even delicate stones like opals to dry out and crack. Ideal humidity levels are generally around 40 to 50%, although some variation from that is still generally fine. Room temperature storage is also best for most fine art and jewelry, so look for spaces that are maintained at about 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
If possible, finding a room without an exterior wall is ideal. This helps reduce moisture buildup during damp weather. It also prevents exposure to direct sunlight, which can fade and damage art and delicate jewelry. A fully enclosed space with exterior walls but no windows is the second-best option.
Art and jewelry collections tend to be valuable, so choosing a secure storage space is essential. Jewelry is particularly prone to theft due to its small size and relatively high resale value. If you’re storing your items in your home, your standard home alarm systems and other security measures are probably enough.
However, if you’re renting a storage space, be sure to choose a highly secure facility. Individual door alarms can help alert you to a breach more quickly, which increases the chances of recovering your collections. Resident managers help deter thieves, as does a conspicuous video surveillance system. Units with interior access doors are more secure than ones with drive-up access, and as a bonus, they tend to have less risk of flooding.
Arranging Your Storage Space
Although most people are inclined to lean their paintings and artwork against the wall, this isn’t an ideal solution for long-term storage. If you have the space, hanging your artwork in your storage unit is recommended by most experts. It was designed to be displayed that way so that helps prevent unforeseen stresses that can lead to warping or tearing.
If you don’t have room to hang your art, it’s best to lay it flat. Never place artwork directly on the floor, particularly if the floor is made from concrete, which tends to hold moisture. Instead, a shelving unit large enough to support your pieces is the best choice. Place one painting on each shelf, and avoid stacking paintings directly on top of each other. For really small storage spaces, you can store your paintings vertically and lined up together like books in a bookshelf.
Jewelry is generally easier to store. You should still avoid placing the boxes directly on the ground, but any shelf or table will typically be fine for properly packed pieces.
Protecting Your Collection During Long-Term Storage
Always check in on your valuable art or jewelry collection at least every few months to keep an eye out for conditions like dampness or pests that may damage your items. In addition, jewelry generally needs to be cleaned at least once or twice a year.
Make sure your collection is fully insured, too. Check with your insurance company to make sure your items are covered, as some policies require special riders to cover these kinds of valuables.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you keep jewelry from tarnishing?
There is no way to fully prevent tarnishing, so plan to clean your silver jewelry periodically. Wrapping pieces in a silver cleaning cloth and keeping them in a climate-controlled space slows down the process.
Is it safe to store jewelry in plastic?
Although some costume jewelry and durable fine jewelry can be stored in plastic wrap, it isn’t a good choice because it can damage more delicate pieces. Plastic boxes are generally safe as long as the jewelry is wrapped in felt before being placed inside them.
What is the best way to store earrings?
For long-term storage, the best option is to place each pair in its own small, felt-lined box. If you store multiple pairs together, don’t store diamonds with softer stones.