I’m excited to have a guest contributor today. Thanks to Emma for the informative article!
Jewelry – we use it to express our individuality, to spice up an ensemble, to demonstrate our love to others and perhaps even to honor our lineage with heirlooms. With how much we love it, it’s surprising how so many of us fail to take proper care of the pieces we hold dear. Regular maintenance is certainly not difficult or time consuming, and it truly is an investment to make sure that the treasures lasts for years to come. Below are some tips to get you started!
The composition of your jewelry is the most important thing to consider when cleaning and storing it. It dictates how often your pieces should be cleaned, and with what. As a general rule, silver and gold can withstand much more abrasive cleaning than gemstones, which require extra special care. All-gold and all-silver pieces can be submerged in water without risk of damage. In contrast, jewelry with gemstones, glued bonds or loosely set stones should never be submerged in cleaning solutions, as they may discolor the material or even cause glue bonds to break. It’s better to be safe than sorry when dealing with family antiques!
First we’ll talk about all-metal pieces made of gold and silver. To clean these materials, there are several equally effective options to choose from–all depending on your personal preference and the type of jewelry you’re cleaning. The first option is jewelry cleaning cloths. These are widely available–they can be purchased online or in jewelry stores for only a few dollars–and do a good job of removing brightening and shining tarnished silver. They are not as useful for cleaning gold, which doesn’t tarnish. Simply use the cloth to buff the piece until it is looking shiny and new. You can use these cloths whenever your silver beings to look a little dingy.
For pieces with harder to reach nooks and crannies, a jewelry dipping solution may be a better bet. For example, Connoisseurs is a well-known commercial jewelry cleaning solution offering several different kinds of products and is widely available online.
If you prefer a more natural method, silver and gold can also be cleaned in a mixture of hot water and baking soda. You can either make an abrasive paste and scrub the jewelry (for tough stains) or soak the piece overnight to see best results. Some people also elect to use toothpaste to clean, as its granules do a great job of removing tarnish. Warning: these methods are not recommended for silver pieces with matte finishes. Matte finishes should only be cleaned with commercial dip–even soft polishing clothes can be too abrasive. It is, however, great for cleaning gold, which reacts well to toothpaste cleaning. Simply apply and scrub with a soft-bristle toothbrush.
No matter your cleaning method, each piece should be thoroughly dried with a soft, clean cloth after washing.
When it comes to cleaning jewelry with gemstones, special considerations must be accounted for. While metals like gold, platinum and stainless steel are mostly immune to daily soap and water exposure (they can usually be worn in the shower), many gemstones–like pearl and amber–should never come into contact with hot water, soaps or chemicals. For these sensitive gems, even perfume and natural body oils can damage the natural luster of the gem. A good rule of thumb for soft gems like pearl and amber is to wipe them down after each use with a soft, clean cloth. Don’t let them get wet. In fact, getting a string of pearls wet can stretch the silk string out! It may sound like a lot of work, but it will pay dividends in preventing your grandmother’s necklace from yellowing over time. For harder gems like diamonds and sapphires, it’s usually safe to clean them with a dipping solution. When in doubt, you can always ask a jeweler; he or she will be able to give you specific advice for the piece you need to care for. Jewelers can also steam clean jewelry (great for diamond rings) for a nominal cost.
Now onto jewelry storage. Ask yourself: does the metal tarnish when exposed to air? Can the gem be scratched if it comes into contact with another? Again, the kind of jewelry dictates how the piece can be stored safely. Silver pieces, which do tarnish when exposed to air, should be kept in plastic bags or airtight spaces to minimize oxidation. And while silver can usually be stored with other silver, it’s a good idea to keep it away from any gemstones so as not to scratch them.
Gold can also be kept with other gold as it is less sensitive than gemstones. Keep gold in soft, fabric-lined container for extra protection. Most boxes are perfectly suitable to storing gold pieces, though it’s helpful to look for ones with bountiful compartments to stop pieces from becoming tangled, like the jewelry organizers found here.
Gemstones, on the other hand, should be individually separated. This means that even individual pairs of earring should ideally be kept away from one another–if they are made of particularly sensitive gems. Generally speaking, it should be fine to keep each piece in its own cloth bag or fabric-lined box. For pearls, silk pouches are ideal, as they are very soft and allow plenty of ventilation.
A final note on storing your jewelry: If your gems are strung on silk (as is usually the case with pearls), it is very important that they not be hung. Hanging a string of pearls can stretch the silk and warp the sizing, causing you to have to have the pearls restrung prematurely. While those cute jewelry racks may be a great way to display your favorite pieces, they are really more suitable for costume jewelry, which isn’t as sensitive to these factors.
And it should go without saying that all jewelry should be stored in dry climates, without constantly fluctuating temperatures. Frequent changes from hot to cold can weaken glue bonds and cause breakage!
There you have it. A guide to caring for and storing your jewelry so that it is preserved for years to come. A little care in this lifetime can make all the difference when it comes time to pass jewelry on to future generations. And remember: when in doubt, see a jeweler!
Extra tips: Don’t experiment with cleaners that “seem” like they will do a good job. Bleach may sound like a great option, but it can permanently discolor your jewelry. And while some jewelry can be boiled in hot water for extra cleaning power, you should never submerge any jewelry with glued bonds into water or cleaning solutions–especially if the water is hot. Instead, apply the solution as needed with a Q-tip, and wipe dry with a soft, clean cloth. One more tip: if you have costume jewelry that leaves a weird stain on your skin (that green hue caused by certain metals), there’s an easy solution. Apply a few thin coats of clear nail polish to the inner side of the jewelry. No more unsightly stains!