First things first—if you’ve misplaced half of a pair of earrings, it’s not bad practice to hang on to the half you do have while your search for the other (or wait—for a reasonable amount of time—for it to turn up in some unexpected place). But as the years wear on, we all wind up with a tiny graveyard of orphaned earrings, the mates of whom are hopelessly lost. If your half-pairs are fine (i.e. made of real gold or silver) you can trade them in to a jeweler for the market price of the materials. If they’re costume, embrace the mismatched-earring trend or bequeath them to a cool friend or relative who has multiple piercings. Or you can simply toss them. But if you’re not going to wear a single earring or a mismatched set, there’s no sense in letting them take up precious space in your jewelry box.
We’re not talking about the real stuff here. Unworn or uncleaned silver and gold is very easy to rehab. We’re talking about those under $15 “steals” from trendy places like Forever 21 or Claire’s. To be clear, they’re not bad buys. They look stunning on, and it’s so fun to say “It’s from Zara! I know, can you believe it was only $8?” But once these pieces start to come undone—unglued rhinestones, flaking gold-plate, etc—they’re not really worth repairing. Or keeping.
That knot of knickknacks that stares back at you every time you open the lid is just taking up space. If it’s a tangle of chains that all happen to be real gold, a jeweler might accept them in return for the going market rate (they’re just going to melt them down, anyway). If there’s a sentimental or otherwise-important piece in there, set aside about half an hour to work it out—fingertips are often too clumsy, but using a pin will give you finer motor control, especially if you’re working with chains. (Jewelers with more precise tools can help, too.) Otherwise, make your peace with tossing that perplexity.
Jewelry doesn’t often come up as part of the conversation where fit is concerned, but anything that sits on your wrist has to be the right size. There’s probably a stray bracelet or watch (or a few) in there that you never wear because they just don’t sit right where you want them to—or they’re just too big. Link bracelets and watches can be readjusted to fit, but when it comes to structured items like bangles or inflexible cuffs, you’re better off donating them.
Like many other items we hold on to, jewelry is often evocative of pleasant memories—of people, places, and moments in our lives. Take a good long look at your collection, and separate the pieces you wear on a daily basis from the pieces you don’t. Set aside anything you consider a family heirloom, then take stock of what you’re not wearing, and ask yourself why. Are they out of date? Has your own style evolved? Did you just forget you owned them because they were buried at the bottom of a messy jewelry box? You can pass the items you know you’ll never wear again along to friends who will appreciate them, consign them, or donate them to charity.