This is one of those things that most people don’t think about when buying jewelry. When you buy something handmade you are investing in quality that should last a lifetime! That means that eventually you might need to clean your jewelry. It also means you should care for your jewelry to keep it looking brilliant!
Here are my tips!
Top All-Around Tips:
*Always remove jewelry with a stone - ESPECIALLY Turquoise - when washing hands, showering, or applying lotion. The chemicals in the soaps and lotions we use can actually change the color of stones over time. Because turquoise is especially porous it is very susceptible to these chemicals and over time can change color.
*Always store jewelry in a clean, dry place. A jewelry box is an obvious and great choice, but any kind of box or even cloth or ziploc bag will do.
*Never wear jewelry in a pool as chlorine can damage metals.
*Remove jewelry before showering. Any soap residue can dull the finish of metal - especially gold.
*Use a little common sense. Trust me, this is NOT my forte, but it’s true. When exercising, doing strenuous activities, moving furniture, etc. take off your jewelry. Gemstones, and even diamonds, are hard as...um...a rock, but some have small inclusions in the stone and could conceivably crack if hit just right. It’s not likely, but why take the chance?
*Examine fine jewelry before cleaning it. It you see any cracks in stones, loose prongs or settings, etc. don’t clean the jewelry. Cleaning can further damage the piece. Take these to a jeweler.
While I don’t always practice what I preach, cleaning jewelry every once in a while can really keep everything looking great. It also avoids a mad panic when you want to wear those awesome sterling earrings you haven’t worn in a year. You pull them from your box and they look like they’ve been buried in the dirt for ages!
I tend to wear and create a lot of “antiqued” pieces that are already intentionally oxidized. For anything in this category, you don’t need to clean these. They shouldn’t really show age. They’re already made to look like a treasure found at an estate sale.
Brass and Copper
I always leave the cleaning of these metals up to personal preference. What the heck does that mean? Well, it means that I really love the way copper patinas to the darker orange and brass gets a little more, well, brassy. I feel like these natural patinas give pieces character. However, I know this look isn’t for everyone.
My favorite option for polishing basically any metal (gold, silver, brass, copper, bronze, etc.) are Sunshine Cloths. They work great and are so easy to keep right in your jewelry box.
Brass jewelry can also be cleaned with a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts water and a mild soap. Soak the jewelry in this mixture, then wipe clean with a soft cloth. However, I don’t recommend this mixture for brass jewelry that has stones. Again, the soap can discolor stones over time.
I also find the more I wear a piece the less likely it is to patina. This is really dependant on each person’s body chemistry, so this might not be the case for everyone.
Care for sterling items tends to be more well-known. Use a silver polishing cloth (I’ll again mention Sunshine Cloths!) and, like other metals, store in a dark, dry place as air can speed up the oxidation process. You can even store your sterling jewelry in a ziploc bag to keep it out of the air.
I DO NOT recommend commercial silver “dips.” These are the bottles where you dip your item into a solution to clean it. While your jewelry will appear clean, these can actually remove the anti-tarnish coating that polishing cloths leave on sterling to slow oxidation. Therefore, using a chemical dip will actually cause silver to tarnish more quickly.
If you have severely tarnished sterling jewelry that won’t clean with a cloth you actually have several options. Here are my favorite:
*Always try very mild soap and water to clean silver first.
*Mix .5 cup lemon juice and a tsp of olive oil in a bowl. Dip a soft cloth into the mixture, wring out the cloth, then use it to polish you piece. With this method you should still be careful to avoid gemstones.
*THE COOLEST METHOD - put a sheet of aluminum foil at the bottom of a glass pan (like a casserole dish) or even at the bottom of a plugged up sink. Put your silver jewelry on top of the aluminum foil. Pour in boiling water until all pieces are covered. Then add 2 tbs of baking soda and 2 tbs of salt. Stir the mixture, taking care not to let the granules scrape your jewelry. (This could scratch it.) Wait about 10 minutes and you’ll see the tarnish LIKE MAGIC is transferring from your jewelry to the aluminum foil. You will get a sulfur smell as this chemical reaction takes place, so be prepared! Use salad tongs to remove jewelry from mixture and dry with a soft cloth.
When in doubt, always have a professional clean your jewelry.
Any gold jewelry with gemstones, I recommend having cleaned by a professional. For engagement and wedding rings, a good reminder is to have them cleaned every year on your anniversary. Oh, what a treat.
First line of defense is definitely a Sunshine Cloth or silver polishing cloth.
If that doesn’t seem to quite do it, you can mix mild dish detergent in a bowl of warm water (no real measurement is needed, just use a few drops). Drop in your gold jewelry and let soak for about 15 minutes.
Take gold jewelry out of mixture and polish with a very soft cloth. DO NOT use a toothbrush or anything abrasive as gold scratches easily. The higher the karat, the easier to scratch.
After polishing with a cloth, put in a bowl of just warm water to rinse off soap. Be sure to really rinse well.
And there you have it! A few of my cleaning tips to keep those jewels looking extra fancy!