PRESERVING THE LIFE OF YOUR JEWELRY
Your first piece of jewelry is always the most precious and dearest piece since it was most likely given to you by a very special person—it is your own personal treasure. As the years pass, you acquire more pieces, whether they are gifts, inheritance, or you purchase them for yourself. Some jewelry pieces you will like more than others and there will be those that are your signature pieces—the ones that you wear everyday or quite frequently. Regardless how many pieces of jewelry you own, your jewelry should be well maintained and cared for. Your jewelry will be in pristine condition with a little TLC.
Let's begin with daily wear. Are you aware that soaps, shampoos, powders and lotions can build up a lot of residue and leave a filmy build-up under and around a setting? This would reduce the brilliance of a diamond or the brightness or intensity of a colored gemstone. This can also give gold a dull appearance.
Most people enjoy outdoor activities—whether its sports or chores. However, these can also cause havoc for your jewelry. As an example, if you are an avid gardener, and like most people, you want to feel the soil and avoid wearing gardening gloves, you risk losing your rings as they could slip off your fingers. Also, dirt could be embedded within the setting and the stones could possibly get chipped. A bracelet or chain could get caught in something and could get damaged or lost.
If you go to the gym, spa or even have the facilities at home—do not hot tub, sauna
or swim in chlorinated pools as these elements can damage gems by wearing away at the polished finish creating a very dull surface. They can also discolor a gemstone.
Jewelry that has stones that are set with claws and/or prongs, should be regularly checked as they can wear down with time and get broken which would result with a stone breaking or falling out of the mount. A jeweler can re-tip the prongs. Sometimes in our daily routines and activities whether at work or home, a ring can be knocked or hit against something which can damage the claw—most of the time we are not even aware. I can tell you first hand, it happened to me—two of the claws in my engagement ring were bent sideways, when my hand accidentally hit a wall. I could hear a distinct rattling sound because the diamond was loose in the setting. Link chains and bracelets, especially larger links can wear thin over the years, especially if worn everyday. The interconnecting links rub against each other from movement thereby thinning them out.
The earrings that you just purchased or received as a gift should have the closure cleaned with an alcohol swab—this will kill any bacteria. You do not know who tried on those earrings before you.
When putting on earrings, especially studs, most people press their index finger against the stone while pushing in the butterfly. It is wise to put a tissue over the surface of the stone as you apply the closure since your finger leaves an impression on the stone's
surface and takes away from the brilliance, sparkle and shine of the stone.
If you have post and butterfly earrings, the butterfly should not glide on too easily, but rather should be pushed on the post. If it glides too easily, it can also slip off easily and you would lose your earrings.
Rings should have the bottom of the shanks checked, especially if they are worn everyday. Shanks can thin out and snap off your finger.
When removing your chains, try to place the chain flatly on a surface to avoid knots or kinks. Beaded necklaces should also be flatly stored since the silk strand can stretch over time. If too stretched, they could come apart.
Cameos, which truly are miniature works of art because of their incredible master craftsmanship, are also very fragile. They are prone to cracking and discoloration from age, dryness or elements; they must be carefully cared for and stored. You should dust your cameos every few months with a soft cloth or soft brush. If dust is accumulated over time, it can cause your cameo to get scratched. When dusting your cameo, pay close attention to the deep ridges where dust can accumulate. After dusting it, you can rinse it with warm water and dry with a soft cloth. Once a year, apply a little mineral oil lightly with a cotton swab to the front and back of your SHELL cameo and leave it on for several hours before wiping if off. The mineral oil helps prevent discoloration, change of color and prevents it from becoming dry or
Diamonds measure 10 on the Moh's Scale of Hardness, but still require proper care and cleaning. A diamond's sparkle can diminish from hygienic and grooming products, household chemicals and powders. Also, the skin's natural oils and sweat can diminish the brilliance. Using a gentle dish washing soap with a soft brush and warm water, you can clean the surface and around the settings and then rinse. Or if you wish, you can also use commercial jewelry cleaner. Ladies, when applying certain sprays, i.e. perfume, hairspray, deodorants—wait for a few minutes before putting on your jewelry. As an example, if you applied perfume and then put your pearl necklace on and the perfume was not completely dry, the iridescence, luster and color of the pearl could be altered and would become dull and lifeless overtime. It is highly advised to have your pearl strand restrung every 1-2 years and to have knots between your pearls. If your stand breaks, your pearls will not be scattered all over and by having a knot in between each pearl bead, they avoid scratching against each other. It's best to keep them clean by placing them in mild soapy water and then letting them dry on a towel. If you wear your pearls frequently, wipe them with a soft damp cloth to avoid any kind of chemical build-up.
It is advisable not to wear opal jewelry in extreme heat. Do not have it exposed to direct sun, or extremely cold weather as the opals may crack when subjected to these conditions.
Opals contain water within them and if you live in a dry climate, it is best to store your opal jewelry in a plastic bag with a damp piece of fabric or cotton ball—this will prevent it from dehydrating since opals crack easily when dry. Do not clean opals with chemical jewelry cleaners since they are porous and can absorb the liquids. It's best to use a gentle dish washing liquid, mild water and a soft toothbrush.
Corals are very porous gems and should not come in contact with any chemicals. It is also a very soft gem and should be carefully stored so it doesn't get scratched or chipped. Coral jewelry should be cleaned with a moist soft cloth.
Turquoise is also another very porous and fragile stone which should be kept away from heat and chemicals. Since they scratch easily, store them separately in a jewelry pouch and clean with lukewarm water and soft brush.
A very, very soft gem is amber and it can get scratched very easily. Since it is a very porous stone, please apply your perfume or hairspray before putting on amber jewelry, this way it won't be coated with a dull film. Wipe your amber jewelry with a soft cotton or flannel cloth and also store separately.
Jet was very popular during the Victorian period. Since it is soft and scratches easily, store it separately in a small pouch. Take a soft cloth and dip it into olive oil and gently rub it over the jet and then polish it to restore its shine and remove any particles.
The beauty of marcasite stones, which were
very popular during the Victorian era, is their grey to almost black color as well as their sparkle and flash in light. Today, you often see marcasites in vintage-inspired jewelry as well as authentic antique/vintage pieces. Popular combinations for marcasite are hematite and mother mother-of-pearl set in silver or white gold because of their appealing combination. Since marcasite is commonly set with jeweler's glue or cement, they should not get wet in order to prevent the stone from getting loose. Remove all marcasite jewelry before engaging in any activity that involves water (shower, bath, washing your hands, swimming, etc.). As well, avoid cleaning marcasite jewelry with any chemical jewelry cleaners, ultrasonic cleaner and steam. Use a dry soft cloth to clean it. If it is necessary to use a damp cloth, then wipe it gently and dry with an absorbent cloth and leave the jewelry item out for a few hours to guarantee that it is thoroughly dry.
The sparkle and reflection in rhinestone jewelry is attributed to the foil backing on each stone. Moisture is the number one threat to rhinestones which can result in the stones becoming dull and losing their sparkle. Sources of moisture include water and sweat, which if trapped under the stone's backing, would deteriorate and loosen the foil backing. In order to retain its glorious sparkle, spray a little Windex on a soft tooth brush (never directly on the jewelry item) and then take a folded paper towel and rub the toothbrush
bristle across the surface of the paper towel. In a swirling motion clean the surface of the stone and around the setting with the paper towel. Take a hairdryer and set it on low and dry it. Even after it is dry, allow one hour before you put the jewelry item away in an airtight bag.
Bakelite and/or resin jewelry are referred to interchangeably, but are the same. Bakelite is the trade name for resin and is named after its inventor, Dr. Leo Hendrik Baekeland. Vintage resin jewelry can be quite valuable and special care is required in order to preserve its beauty and rarity. It can easily discolor and the finish often cannot be restored. Keep all resin jewelry away from any heat sources since this would cause the plastic to melt. Clean your pieces with mild soapy water. You can also buff it with a soft cloth. Wrap it in tissue paper or keep it in a soft pouch.
Gold jewelry should be removed when using any kind of household chemicals since they create abrasions on the metal which would minimize the gold's luster. Gold's biggest enemy is chlorine—stay out of chlorinated pools and hot tubs and avoid cleaning products that have chlorine in them since gold jewelry will weaken over time causing it to crack or break. Clean your jewelry with warm water and a gentle brush.
Silver jewelry is best cleaned with a soft cloth or a fine piece of felt. If silver is very dirty, try silver cleaner. Silver will discolor from chlorine. When you wear your silver jewelry it will tarnish
from exposure to light, air and from physical activity (sweat). Remove it at the end of the day and clean thoroughly. Since it is a soft metal, it will scratch easily and should be stored in a soft cloth bag.
Platinum is a very durable and strong metal and should be stored separately from your other jewelry to protect it from getting scratched. It can be cleaned with mild soapy water and a soft cloth. By cleaning it regularly, it will retain its luster and shine. Platinum will develop a natural patina overtime, thereby diminishing its high gloss. It is advisable to get your platinum jewelry polished by an experienced jeweler once a year to restore it to its original luster.
Enamel jewelry must be handled with care as enamel can chip as well as scratch easily. Wrap each individual piece of jewelry in tissue paper to protect the surface coating. Clean it with a soft cloth. Do not use any type of cleaning solution because it can remove the glassy smoothness.
There is so much intrigue and fascination with antique and vintage jewelry. Whether you own one or several pieces, wear them exclusively, combine them with your contemporary jewelry, or collect them from a certain era, you can preserve their beauty and value by maintaining them carefully. These pieces are delicately made; they are very fine and have to be handled carefully. Keep each piece in separate pouches or individual jewelry boxes.
Use a soft jewelry cloth to clean them or if you have to remove grime, I have known
people who have used baby wipes—gentleness is the key. Do not ever place these pieces in direct contact with running water. With a soft cloth dipped in mild soapy water, gently stroke the jewelry item with it. For hard to reach places, a Q-tip or cotton swab works very well. Let it air dry naturally by leaving it out for a few hours.
Moisture is jewelry's biggest enemy that can cause serious damage especially to antique jewelry. It can be the breeding ground for verdigris, which can result in areas of your jewelry turning dark green to blue green in color. As an example, if verdigris deposits attack the prongs, stones won't be held in place. As well, jewelry can also rust from moisture.
Try to keep your individual pieces of jewelry in small plastic bags—they look like mini Ziploc bags, they are available in craft shops. This will prevent your jewelry from scratching against each other.
At home care for your jewels requires minimal time and is so simple. Jewelry that you wear everyday should be cleaned on a weekly basis. Like a doctor, you have a trusting relationship with your jeweler and should have your jewelry checked and looked after annually.
Jewelry can retain its brand new appearance as along as its cared for. By adhering to basic care and cleaning tips, your jewelry will always retain their original beauty, brilliance, shine, value and will last a lifetime.