I’m no expert on display, so take what I say with a grain of salt.
What I have found in my research on the subject though, is that
ideally you want the jewelry to be the center of attention, not the
display. The outsides of our display cases are faux painted to match
our interior walls, which are two different shades of the same medium
green with black accents and stenciling. The interiors of the cases
are lined with a light ivory colored textured fabric, which matches
some of our furniture. This kind of makes the cases disappear into
the background. The display props we use are white with dark red
colored wood accents (from Stuller, which we are slowly phasing out),
and a light ivory with light green accents from a couple of different
display manufacturers. These colors are easy to maintain, except for
the white which gets kind of dingy rather quickly, especially when
handled without wearing gloves.
Stay away from black (or other really dark color) as it is a major
pain to keep looking good. Every little piece of dust and fluff
shows. Even fingerprints and scratches on the glass show up with a
lot more clarity over a black background. For jewelry that looks it’s
best on black, like opals, use small black display props or velvet
covered pads sized for individual pieces. In any case, according to
the experts, avoid using bright or contrasting colors except as
accents or accessories as they can draw the eye away from the
jewelry. They also recommend using different levels in displays.
You can use almost anything to make props. We (my wife actually) use
drift wood (from Thompson Lake in Maine) a lot, and even add
hand-tied flies to some displays. We also use antique perfume
bottles, compacts, silk flowers, ribbons and jewelry boxes as
accessories in the cases. These get changed out at least seasonally.
We have one case that gets a lot of attention in which we have some
old tools along with bits of scrap, unfinished pieces, test pieces,
beautiful hand-made wooden jewelry boxes, loose stones, crystals and
a couple of dops with half finished stones. It shows who we are and
what we do. It is also a great conversation starter, people love to
ask about how stones and metal were weighed using the old carat
balance, or how old that torch is. It adds to our credibility when I
tell them that beat up, heat scarred old torch is the one I learned
with, back when it was state-of-the-art equipment.
Like I said, I’m no expert, we don’t sell a lot out of our cases. We
are a custom shop, and the jewelry in the cases serves more as a
spring board to custom work than anything else. But people do comment
on the cases, usually positively, so maybe all that reading paid off
at least a little bit. It could also be the creativity and
tastefulness of my better half, which is far more likely.
Hope this helps,