What will happen to your stuff when you're gone?

Hi all. A recent post got me to thinking about this- again. When I
(you) die, what will happen to my (your) tools and jewelry? Many of
us Orchidians are of an age when mortality is more in our
consciousness, but how many of us have made any real provisions for
the inevitable?

I started imagining what my wife would be confronted with looking at
my cluttered, disorganized and inexplicable studio with all its
mysterious tools, both purchased and handmade. Then she would have
those cases filled with my jewelry. I sell mostly through shows and
Etsy, so that amounts to a good amount of inventory.

What should she do? Call Goodwill and have them take the whole lot?
That type of solution would be easiiest, I suppose, but it would do
nothing to maximise both the potential return to her and the
potential utility of the tools were they to reach the right hands.
She could sell the jewelry for scrap, but that would sting- even in
the grave.

She could gradually put it all on Ebay or Craig’s List, but that
would be a ton of work and emotional effort that I don’t know she’d
be up for. Perhaps the metalsmithing club I belong to or maybe a
local college could absorb the tools. In my own case I would be
especially concerned about the distribution of the 500+ steel stamps
I have made, representing countless hours I would hate to see go to
scrap. But if I’m dead, should I really care?

As much as we might want to avoid contemplating the reality of our
own mortality, I think perhaps we owe the loved ones left behind a
few guideposts as to what they should do with our life’s work.
Orchid has become just such a guidepost in so many ways, and I
wonder if there might be a role for it during such difficult

Those of you who have seriously wrestled with this, have you come to
any conclusions that might be helpful to the rest of us?

Allan- who is not planning on needing this advice anytime soon.


This issue has been on my mind for the past year. It’s not just my
age (76) but the fact that my son who appreciates the beauty of my
work has no interest in jewelry. What’s involved is not just my work
but a lifetime of exploring different media and the wonderful tools
that I’ve accumulated. I have been a professional calligrapher,
watercolorist, enamelist, goldsmith, air brush artist, serigrapher,
silk painter and on and on.

Obviously, when I am ashes, I won’t give a hoot. But the thought of
my precious tools being discarded is almost immoral. I am not a hotel
heiress and every single thing that I have was acquired through
patience and living on lentils for months at a time (Smart & Final,
twenty pounds of lentils @ 23 cents a pound).

I lack the merchant gene so eBay is not a possibility. Dealing
directly with the public would lead to a murder conviction.

In addition to tools and gemstones and gold sheet and sterling and
fine silver, I have a world-class costume jewelry collection.

Perhaps it would be in my best interest to live forever.


I lack the merchant gene so eBay is not a possibility. Dealing
directly with the public would lead to a murder conviction. 

Marly - why dont you have someone E-Bay sell it for you. there are
alot of people who would be happy to do this they take a % just be
sure to get the documentation of the selling price, then you could
have the money to do somthing you need to or just have some fun with.
a local tool dealer might take what doesn’t sell on-line - goo

Our local tool and findings supplier John Vessowaite at West Coast
Findings in Portland Oregon often sells “estate” tools in his shop.
They are treated with respect and sold to other jewelers who often
knew the previous owner.

Jo Haemer

Allan -

It’s interesting you mention this topic. I was taking a class with
Marilynn Nicholson (Taos School of Metalsmithing and Lapidary
Design) in April and we talked about the same subject. Especially
with all of her stuff, since she is an instructor. I don’t know
what the solutions is. I’ve thought about it and do believe it is
something very important that we should have planned out. My
husband and I had our wills done finally in 2003 and that was a huge



I wish you a long and happy life using the tools you love and
enjoyed making.

However, could you please give your wife a brief note. In the event
of your demise, I would be happy to purchase unusual steel stamps
from your wife at a price you name at this time. She can find me on
Orchid and at the address above.

Again, best wishes for health and happiness.

Mary A

Most colleges and universities have programs where you commit to
include them in your will. I have done this with the college where I
got my bachelor’s degree, and they will get my large printmaking
press and all my darkroom equipment. As my daughter does jewelry
also, she will get all of those tools and supplies when I die.

Check with schools you have a personal connection with, or those
whose teaching you respect, and see if they have a donor program. If
your family will not be interested, this is a great way to ensure the
tools and materials go to a “good” home, where they will provide
years of teaching for others.

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio


Dear Ones -

That’s those of you who are going to vanish soon, but don’t know it
yet (in other words, all of us)

In my lapidary club, we are occasionally offered the bounty - by the
wife or husband of the deceased - (a lapidary or silversmith or
goldsmith or artist or something similar), of someone who has amassed
a fortune of minerals/gems/goods/tools/art objects. The members
enthusiastically engage in a bid for the items. The purchase price is
usually well below retail, but the Joy and Lapidary Happiness of the
acquiring member is PRICELESS.

Not only does this serve the membership well, but it preserves the
memory of the deceased as a bright, happy emotion. So the club, and
the members, prosper.

If you need the money, sell on Ebay. If you value the spiritual
presence of the deceased among the living, then cultivate your
membership in a lapidary or craft-culture club.

Imagine your tools and goods being available to enthusiastic people
who can’t afford much. Imagine your tools and goods going into the
landfill. Which would you rather have?

Kelley Dragon
former landfill/wastewater management engineer

proud owner of the castoffs items of Dr. Max Klinghoffer’s
collection, which inspired me to become what I am:

Owner, DragonWerx Jewelry, http://www.dragonwerx.com CMGS VP,

OK, so I’m biased…

Oh My Allan,

Have you ever struck a nerve. I will have a birthday June 8th, and
cannot believe the years, they can’t be for real.

I just watched a PBS Pledge Drive which focused on the Big Bands,
those very folks I watched live, in New York City at the Capitol,
and Paramount, among others. I danced to live at Roseland. Yikes.

My son has often looked at what I have here in the house, and asked
me to please not leave the disposal up to him. Magazines and Books
will soon, I hope begin to appear on Ebay, although I do tend to

I am fearful of advertising personal jewelry for sale, simply do not
feel safe. I am seriously considering gathering all the gold and
sending it on to Dan Ballard for melt. Were I to try auctions and/or
consignment, the commission would probably reduce the recovery

My tools, stones, silver, beads, are another matter, as well as the
jewelry I have fabricated. I have one son, two grandsons, there are
no females around me, so no one to leave it to. Yes it is a dilemma.
I look forward to seeing what others will do.

Yes, writing a Trust and Will is urgent, and I have put that off as

I am wondering how Orchid may benefit. Would sort of be monumental
to handle.

Sadly shaking my head.

Hi Gang,

Another good place to direct your tools etc after you’re gone if the
family isn’t interested is to local lapidary clubs & community
colleges, Many of these teach metalsmithing classes & can use the
tools in their shops. If they don’t need all the tools, they may have
an annual auction or sale where things of this natural are sold to

Some of these organizations have a 501C3 classification with the IRS
& any donation to them is automatically good for a tax write off with
no questions asked.

In many cases the item(s) are described on the form given to you by
the organization, but the value is left for you to fill in.

Even if you don’t designate a recipient for the items it’d be a good
idea to make a list of the items with the date purchased, where
purchased & the purchase price. It can be difficult for someone not
familiar with what they’re looking at to have a clue about it’s cost
& what it is.


G’day; I answered the problem of jewellery tools, etc, goods disposal
when nearly a year ago I was faced with the problem of my wife,
having been diagnosed as an Alzheimer sufferer, became more and more
difficult for me to manage on my own, sons and family living too far
to visit us very often. Finally things reached a crisis point, and
after advise I decided to move with her to a Retirement Home where I
could get staff back-up at the press of a wall button. Unfortunately
matters were taken out of my hands when the nursing staff were
finally called in once too often and they sent for an ambulance. It
was then that I realised I’d never have her at home again, for she
was medically and psyiatrically assessed and finally admitted to a
nearby retirement home where they had full facilities for Alzheimer’s
and Temporal Ischiamic patients, where she is now, wonderfully looked
after and wanting for nothing; especially kindness and safety. She is
most certainly happy, and I can visit her any time I want to. (No
special visiting hours). I visit her at least weekly, taking small
items and she happily recognizes me, but with cognition fading after
about an hour. Most of the others there don’t have many visitors as
they don’t even recognise husbands, children or anyone else. Terribly

So I gave my good quality microscope and analytical balance to a
school, together with chemicals and equipment. The majority of my
jewellery tools, equipment, and materials went to struggling young
jewellers together with some books, and you may be certain that it
will all be very much appreciated over the years.

A simple answer, as I told my boys they might take their pick of
whatever tools and machinery or anything else I had amassed. In turn
they did absolute wonders to get me settled here at the Summerset
Retirement Home about 40 miles from Wellington, which is a
delightfully happy place surrounded with roses and other flowers, all
kept in excellent condition.

I really do sadly miss my dear old Jean, who was my wife friend and
partner for 63 years and I cherish these visits; but I am able to
make the best of things

We have to pay as ours is a joint account where we saved for the
proverbially rainy day - and here it is!

My kindest regards to all my old friends in Orchid - I still read
the daily heap of letters - and give sincere thanks to Hanuman… I am
sorry this has been lengthy, but due to my long association with
Orchid I decided I couldn’t leave with a word of explanation.

Cheers for now,
JohnB of NZ


I have encountered this very issue with many people in my consultancy
business and from a legal counsel point -of-view. Most often jewelers
and metalsmiths don’t keep an inventory of - everything. That is the
starting point in disposing of the items after one’s passing. Your
jewelry making equipment tools and consumables are worth a fortune-
no matter what condition they are in.

Tool junkies collections often tally into the hundred thousand range
even when they have a small shop. A gemstone inventory is often in
the hundreds of thousands range given fair market value and a
penchant for collecting diamonds and other lapidary
materials you may have purchased over many years- I myself was
astounded recently when I found some trays of covellite that I
thought were lost to hurricane Katrina, but had become lodged under a
fallen through floor in my house - the thirteen trays of cabochons
alone total over $15, 000. 00 in value based solely on the inserts in
each gem jar (printed inserts are available for gem jars so that one
may quickly and easily inventory their collections. I also use a
device that generates a bar code and a cataloguing image to make
mobile phone/device sales and ordering possible for my wholesale

It is easily accomplished, if when beginning a business or even from
an hobbyists perspective or rather, pursuit, one’s purchase orders,
invoices and receipts are easily consolidated and recorded into a
single ledger giving paper copy as well as other methods of
accountability including at least one copy on removable storage
media - like a dedicated thumb drive to be kept in a safe deposit box
that is frequently, if not annually updated (this also helps at tax
time). Inventories make it easy to not only determine value,
appreciation and in some cases depreciation. Although most jewelry
equipment appreciates if well maintained, and becomes vintage if
possibly replaced by a mechanized tool or some machinery to
accomplish the same task: old chain making equipment for instance
that does not need electricity to perate is more valuable now than at
the time of manufacture and purchase in the 1930’s.

I have some antique wire drawing equipment that cost the original
owner 4130. 00 on credit in 1924, today a similar set-up was sold at
auction for over $17, 000. 00 in far worse condition than the drums
on mine are (the one that came up for auction had thouroughly rusted
drums and an inoperable torque wheel. (As a matter of fact on June
18, 2009 a very nice auction of jewelry making equipment, rollng
mills, drawing equipment, chain fabrication machinery and tooling
and more is to take place in Rhode Island, beginning at I believe
10:30 am EST, and can be accessed online as well as in person. IF
anyone needs info on that feel free to contact me off list).

I highly recommend this to - everyone- To those I counsel, from
business start-ups to individuals to families dealing with the
estates of relatives, I urge them from the beginning to the end to
record not only all the major equipment but the hand tools, business
equipment, consumables and back stocked items fitting that category
(i. e-. the 6 gallon jugs of Cupronil in one’s inflammable cabinet
to the 100 imprinted polishing cloths, and rolls of anti-tarnish
tissue in the display and packaging tabouret and closet), gemstones
and lapidary stock, metals separated into precious metals, base
metals, then further sorted into mill products, raw materials and
scrap, paper systems and printed materials ( non-customised items
that are resealable- just as customised items are deductible from the
value of the estate where taxes are collected on any estate
valuation) furnishings and everything else.

Donating them to organizations is good for a write off and also
subject to deduction from any estate taxes, or luxury taxes that may
be applied to a relative’s inheritance of the inventory, however,
most often schools just shelve the items unless there are enough to
set up at each workstation or the equipment is substantial- in other
words, the hand tools that you may have collected and cared for over
your career in jewelry making may not be as valued to a school-
particularly a state run institution. Schools that specialize in
arts and crafts education, like the John C. Campbell Folkschool.
William Holland, Wildacres etc. are the exception and any 501 © 3
should be considered over a local college as the recipients will not
only know what they are intended for, but as a donated collection may
serve the altruistic goals of such an organization… who knows your
studio may get it’s own immortal room in perpetuity in such a school.

For profit venues however, if you don’t specifically state so in your
will, can and probably will liquidate any donated collections and
materials. It is always advised to specify in clear words what you
intend for the donated materials: how you intend the donation to be
used and what limitations, if any you wish to specify on future
disposition or sale of the goods: for instance if you wish that the
tools and equipment be used by the student body solely and do not
wish that the owner of the school, president of the club, etc. take
possession of them in the event of the school or club’s disassembly,
or dissolution, you should then state that you wish the machinery,
tools or equipment to be liquidated and the value to be reinvested
with another named party or institution. Most recipients dealing with
a large estate of valuable tools, equipment, etc.

will generally agree to your terms, and an ombudsman can be named to
execute your wishes for a period of time you set in your initial
will, or in the initial donation of X, otherwise the items may wind
up at an indivdual’s home, or on an on-line auction site benefiting
the person that accepted the boxes of your things when they were
delivered to whichever place you name as the benefactor of your
collection, etc. Gemstones should , in particular, be carefully
considered, as should precious metals- they are considered items of
transportable wealth and can be heavily taxed if discovered by a
thorough assessor or appraiser, so you should perhaps treat those two
categories differently from tools and equipment. Metals value is a
traded commodity and currently quite valuable.

It is easy to keep records of one’s metals and gemstone’s value and
inventory above any other item in your studios from your purchase
orders and/or receipts or invoices. In the event of your death if
you do not specify your intended disposition of them the cash can be
seized or rather taken over by some states in the US, instead of
turned into monies that can then be used to pay off any bills
relative to your estate, like medical expenses, etc (though it is
little known that many, if not most debts can easily become
dissolved upon an individual’s death)- but it has to be spelled out
clearly. there is also the matter of userfrucht- wherein you may
specify that a friend or relative may have full use of any and all
materials equipment, etc but upon their death or non-use ( say the
person becomes disabled by paralysis, etc. )

you can specify that the collection is to be turned over to another
friend or relative or liquidated and assets then donated to an
individual, a crafts college or similar, placed in trust for an
heir. Th are many considerations to make when it comes to all the
parts of your business, or hobby particularly metals and gems that
can generate considerable wealth from an internationally valued
perspective and that hold presumably timeless potential for
appreciation ( or increased value). Consider the rarity of some
gemstones for instance-: tanzanite, tsavorite, sugilite, chrysoberyl
and alexandrite from Mt. Tsavo National Park’s eastern as well as
Northern ranges… who knows how long that area will not only be
mined, but preserved at all.

In time I expect the value to triple for the natural material coming
out of that area now. I have silver crystals that came from Ouray
Colorado from a mining area that has been paved over and will most
likely never be opened again that have already increased
disproportionately to what I paid for the material when I mined it,
or purchased it. All these bits of things one collects in a lifes
time are catalogueable and valuable beyond the sentimentality you may
place on certain items if not the whole as it is many of us- as
metalsmiths or jewelers- life’s passion- and each saw blade is in
essence sacred to some of us!( though in reality not of any lasting
value!). My point is to carefully asses what you have, where you
desire it to go after your demise, or dis-ability to use it, and how
you wish it to be divided or kept together, or otherwise disposed of
and then spell it out in detail clearly and concisely so that there
is no question or reproach possible from any executor that you should
appoint to oversee your studio’s disassembly. rer

Hi all:

Chiming in with a follow-up to Dave’s recommendation:

Even if you don't designate a recipient for the items it'd be a
good idea to make a list of the items with the date purchased,
where purchased & the purchase price. It can be difficult for
someone not familiar with what they're looking at to have a clue
about it's cost & what it is. 

My recent adventures with wildfires have caused me to investigate
home inventory software. Most of them now will allow you to include
pictures as part of the item record for each individual item. (along
with cost/purchase date/replacement & etc) That seems like a good way
to go for helping loved ones decipher the mess. Not only does it give
a rough sense of cost/worth, but it also contains pictures to help
identify the mysterious objects.



Interesting topic.

I’ve got a couple of specific items that are already tagged for
museums when I’m gone, and I’ve got a standing deal with a
blacksmith buddy of mine: if either one of us buys the farm
unexpectedly, the other gets to help the survivors sort out the mess.
We also have another deal: if either one of us buys it by way of
doing something dumb in the shop, the other will carve on the
tombstone “Died 'cause he was dumb!” That prospect has caused me to
reconsider several midnight brainstorms, and wait for the better
rested light of day, as I’m sure it has him. (We both know each
other’s gear, but we don’t work the same ways, so neither of us truly
covets the other’s gear. So it should work out OK.)

Aside from the museum pieces, (a pair of old lathes), part of me
thinks she should talk to SNAG or SAS, and give a worthy student the
deal I wish I’d gotten.

On the other hand, my recent escapades with wildfires have caused me
to re-evaluate the insurance value on all this stuff. Shocking how
much some of this is worth… Is it fair to my survivors to give it
away at pennies on the dollar? I haven’t answered that question yet.


Make an inventory of all your stuff and file a copy with your will
or make it very easy to find.

For the present an inventory is necessary for insurance and tax
purposes and when we’re gone the executer of the estate hopefully
will have a clear idea of the real values.

I have an inventory for all personal stuff and another for all
business stuff.

The inventory must include the purchase price, present value, and
replacement cost. For things we make ourselves I list the cost of
materials…unfortunately time is irrelevant for tax purposes but
can be included under replacement cost if you have to buy a similar

My inventories are updated every four years or so. They are recorded
in a database file that I create for my purpose and print-outs and
back-ups are scattered around. Ready-made inventories are common to
most database applications and a Google search for ‘inventory’ will
reveal many other free applications that are very good.

If the inventory shows the value of each individual item along with
the sum total value in each category then the executer will be able
to sell off or appropriate individual items or the whole lot at a
realistic value.

It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate but at least it is a rough
guide. An inventory will make you see what you have more clearly,
and gives a written reference for legal challenges when we are long


My son has often looked at what I have here in the house, and asked
me to please not leave the disposal up to him. I am wondering how
Orchid may benefit. Would sort of be monumental to handle. 

Golly, your son is much more tactful than mine. Mine slides his eyes
around my workspace and says, “Clean this room before you die.” :slight_smile:

I too was wondering if Ganoksin would be interested in mediating a
facility where items could be logged and then bidded for, but I can’t
think of a way to do it that would work better than the current 4SALE
email mechanism without resulting in onerous work for Hanuman and

I can add that I’m eager to buy a used Genie for cabbing, and a used
faceting machine.



Remember the glowing letter of praise that I sent to you several
years ago? You commented that you appreciated my compliments but that
the woman opposite you at the breakfast table for six decades might
not be so delighted.

Living as I do in a senior complex (private apartments) I watch the
changing parade when friends and neighbors are no longer able to live
independently. Even the cessation of driving privileges is traumatic,
particularly in a community with dreadful public transportation.

I’m so relieved that your wife is in a secure home and that you had
the wisdom to plan ahead so that both of you can live in comfort and

I will miss you.

We were just talking about this at a party. There were several
metalsmiths-- all friend-- and the topic came up. I have given this
quite a bit of thought. I have a well equipped studio which is next
to my house but not attached in any way. Has power, heat, hot water,
etc. No bathroom, however.

I am a scrounge and many of my tools have been acquired at going out
of business sales, estate sales, obituary sales, etc. and the last
thing I want is to have my tools end up at a yard sale (although it
would complete a tidy and ironic cycle).

As a teacher I would really like to keep the studio intact and made
available to emerging and serious artists after I am gone. My idea
was to rent the fully equipped space to a deserving artist for a very
fair price, including utilities. The candidate would be selected from
applicants by 3 of my trusted colleagues and friends who would also
act as a “board”, checking on the studio, etc.

The rent would go to support my wife (assuming that she survives me)
and there would be someone (who was vetted by my colleagues) on the
property so that my wife would not be alone all the time. Of course
there would be rules, etc.

Great idea.

Well, when I ran it up the flag pole at the party, my wife didn’t
think so. I honestly thought that we had discussed this. Guess I was
mistaken. Turns out she really doesn’t want someone else around the
house, in the studio, etc. What I thought would be a comfort she
didn’t see as such.

Back to the drawing board.

We had a friend and colleague, wonderful goldsmith and a gifted
teacher. She was ill for some time and carefully assigned tools to
friends and students in her will. I know what a difference her
actions made in the lives of the students that received her tools and
equipment. Not just in the utility sense but emotionally as well.

There are certain hand tools that I have that came from the benches
of smiths who I didn’t know. I’m not sure about there gender, their
politics, their skill level or what their favorite food was. But I
think about them every time I pick up that tool and I feel like I do,
in fact, know them.

Take care, Andy

In my lapidary club, we are occasionally offered the bounty - by
the wife or husband of the deceased - (a lapidary or silversmith or
goldsmith or artist or something similar), of someone who has
amassed a fortune of minerals/gems/goods/tools/art objects. The
members enthusiastically engage in a bid for the items. The
purchase price is usually well below retail, but the Joy and
Lapidary Happiness of the acquiring member is PRICELESS. 

Like the local lapidary club, maybe there is a way to help support
Ganoksin here. Since lots of us have items others on the Orchid list
would love to have, would it be possible to create some sort of
on-line list of tools, etc. that members could purchase from? The
proceeds or some percentage of them could go to Ganoksin. This
community has been such a tremendous help to so many thousands of us
that it would be nice if we could give back. I know, there are many
kinks to untangle but maybe someone with some experience in this
sort of thing could advise on the details. We seem to have an expert
on any subject anyone can dream up.

Donating your tools and equipment to a “jewelry art school” would be
an option. I plan to leave all my equipment to the Washington Art
League in Alexandria, Virginia. Upon my departure of this world, I
will not be concerned with wealth.