How To Look After Your Jewellery

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As some of you may be aware, jewellery-making is one of my hobbies. I’ve been doing it on-and-off since 2014 and am a bit obsessed. At the end of last year, I started my own shop on Etsy – Ellen&Violet – to sell my creations.

In learning to make jewellery I’ve learned a lot about the nature of the materials used and, as a consequence, how to take care of your pieces. Because I suspect that most of us don’t know how to maintain our accessories properly, I decided to put together a little guide on my E&V blog with a few tips on looking after your jewellery. The original post is here, but I’ve copied it below so anyone who follows this blog can see it too 🙂 hope it’s helpful!

Background

Most metals tarnish with time. This is caused by exposure to air, household chemicals, moisture, heat, and daily wear. I used to think that only bad quality jewellery would tarnish but this is not the case – it simply depends on the type of metal used.

Metals commonly used in jewellery that tarnish most include copper, brass and sterling silver.

Metals that tarnish the least include high-carat gold, platinum and fine silver, although these are vastly more expensive.

Stainless steel is also fairly tarnish-resistant and it’s hypoallergenic, meaning it is an increasingly popular choice in jewellery making. I’m increasingly moving towards this instead of silver-plated base metals as an affordable and sensitive-friendly option.

For those metals that are susceptible to tarnishing, there’s nothing you can do to completely stop it. You can, however, slow down the process and prevent it for as long as possible.

Prevention

Because prevention is better than cure, and all that.

  • My brass, copper, sterling silver, and silver-filled pieces are coated with a metal lacquer to keep them shiny and tarnish-free for as long as possible. Ultimately this will wear off, but it will keep your pieces looking new for much longer than they otherwise would. If you’re not buying from me and you’re conscious about the longevity of your metal jewellery, it’s worth asking the jewellery-maker if they use any lacquer to slow down tarnishing. If not, you could always apply some yourself.
  • Avoid wearing your jewellery when showering, bathing, swimming, vigorously exercising or in very humid environments.Moisture and heat are two of the main components that lead to the tarnishing of metals so if you can avoid these two elements where possible, your pieces are more likely to last well.
  • Put your jewellery on last! Many of us use hairspray, make-up fixatives, perfumes etc when getting ready. This can again cause tarnishing of the jewellery. So make sure that your jewellery is the last step in getting ready 🙂
  • Store your jewellery carefully. Re-sealable plastic bags such as these are recommended, but I’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t really look appealing storing your jewellery like that! Essentially, you want to bear in mind all of the above points when you’re figuring out how best to store your jewellery. If you must have it on display, try and keep it out of the way of moisture and beauty products – i.e. keep it clean and dry.
  • Polish your jewellery regularly with a clean, soft, dry cloth (ideally microfibre). This will buff off any light film of tarnish which has accumulated. This is the quickest and easiest way to stop tarnish building up on your piece.

Treatment

Is it too late? Has your piece already tarnished? Don’t panic! It’s salvageable 🙂

  • Before you try anything else, try polishing it a bit more with a clean, soft dry cloth (ideally microfibre) as mentioned above. This may be enough to get the tarnish off if there’s only a little bit.
  • If it’s copper, brass, or stainless steel give it a polish with Brasso or similar.
  • I have heard of other methods of cleaning such as toothpaste (!), soap and water, lemon juice, and a baking soda and water solution. However, I have not used all of these myself so cannot guarantee their efficacy. It’s also important to do your research to make sure that none of these chemicals will react with the particular metal in question, and to avoid using these around areas of your piece where there are stones or similar glued into place as the moisture could loosen them.
  • The rest is up to you – you’re more than welcome to try other things such as sandpaper or steel wool if the piece is really dirty, but bear in mind that this may scratch the metal and/ or texture your piece so you will need to be super careful and I generally wouldn’t recommend using anything abrasive when cleaning your jewellery.

Summary

  • Some metals are more susceptible to tarnishing than others. The most tarnish-resistant ones, however, also tend to be the most expensive. Boooo.
  • It’s always best to try and slow down the tarnishing process first and foremost, through wearing, storing and maintaining your jewellery carefully.
  • Be gentle when cleaning and avoid using abrasive solutions/ materials on your jewellery if you can help it
  • Just because your jewellery has tarnished doesn’t mean it’s low quality. I mean, it may be low quality, but the presence of tarnishing alone isn’t enough to indicate this! Keeping tarnishing at bay is, for the most part, down to you.

Any questions or comments? Let me know!

Useful resources for more information

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarnish

http://www.lushaejewelry.com/Jewelry-Metals

https://www.ganoksin.com/article/gold-jewellery-tarnishing/

The Author

Bristol-based artsy liberal feminist. Mama to three ferrets.

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