How to Maintain Your Antique, Vintage and Modern Jewelry
While not a comprehensive guide, we hope the following will help you care for and maintain your jewelry. We think we may be able to provide a tip or two that may make things easier or prevent you from making a damaging mistake. If you are ever in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact us or a trusted jeweler that is knowledgeable in the care of antique and modern jewelry.
It is best to clean pearls with a soft, untreated cloth. Do not use a cloth or other materials treated with chemicals, jewelry cleaning liquids, or polishes on pearls. Always put your pearl jewelry on last so that you avoid exposing them to hairspray, perfume, lotions or other chemicals that may damage or discolor them. Do not wear them in chlorinated water (e.g. a pool). It’s also a good idea to avoid getting strands of pearls wet, as the water can stretch out the silk cord. The silk (on which pearls are usually strung) will stretch over time. Pearls can always be re-strung by a competent jeweler. Also avoid leaving them in or exposing them to the extremes (for example, don’t leave them on your window sill exposed to direct sun and heat).
Pearls need humidity and air, so it is wise to store them in a place that has some air circulation. Avoid storing them in any airtight containers (plastic bags, small boxes, etc.). If you must store your pearls in a safe or safety deposit box, remember to take them out from time to time for an airing. It is also important to avoid items that may scratch the surface of your pearls. Storing them in a jewelry pouch made of suede, velvet, silk, or other soft natural material (that is not sealed closed) is a good way to protect them from other pieces of jewelry, while still allowing for air circulation. If properly cared for, pearls can remain lustrous and beautiful for generations.
There are several ways to clean silver. The end result (or the way you want the piece to look) can determine how you clean it. If you want to remove a little tarnish, but keep the piece looking much the way it currently does, then use a silver polishing cloth without any cleaner/treatment built in. If you want to remove more stubborn tarnish, you might consider using a treated cloth made for silver polishing to clean and buff away the tarnish. If you are unfamiliar with a product, try spot treating a small area prior to cleaning the entire piece. Be aware that if you want to keep the oxidation in the grooves of the piece (which typically gives the engraved portion visual depth) take special care in these areas. The goal is to clean the tarnish without leaving any cleaner behind, so avoid using paste or anything else that could get stuck in the crevices and become difficult to remove. Additionally, do not use a treated cloth near or around gems, paste gems, or organic materials of any kind. We advise against the use of silver dip for vintage and antique pieces.
Here is a useful tip for pieces that are 100% metal without any gems, especially those gems that need air circulation and moisture (such as pearls, opals coral, etc.). If you want to keep your silver piece in its current condition without having to polish it on a regular basis, pop it into a Ziploc bag when you’re not wearing it. Consider including an anti-tarnish strip in the bag for good measure. These extra steps are not necessary, just helpful. If you leave the piece out, it will take some time for the oxidation to occur. And in any case, tarnish can always be wiped off with some effort and a polishing cloth.
While gold will not develop as much tarnish as silver and certainly not as quickly, some oxidation can occur over time. Gold can be cleaned much the same way that silver can, with a soft polishing cloth. Read the instructions on any cloth you purchase and make sure that it is either untreated or safe for use on gold. We don’t recommend using a treated cloth on your gold pieces except perhaps to gently spot treat stubborn areas. Keep a treated cloth away from gems, paste gems or organic materials of any kind. Because tarnish typically does not develop as quickly on gold as it does on sliver, there is no need to put it in a sealed bag. It is best to keep your favorite pieces, separated from others that could rub against them and leave marks or scratches.
One of the reasons platinum is popular is that it doesn’t tarnish. If you have a diamond (which is not foil backed or actually paste) and platinum piece, you can clean it with a cleaning liquid made specifically for platinum and diamonds. This will remove the dirt and make your diamonds sparkle. You can do the same with diamonds and gold if you follow the same precautions. However, we advise against doing this with a delicate antique pieces even if the stones are diamonds. You also need to check and be sure that aren't any other stones that are part of the piece that should not be put in a cleaning liquid.
Treated or Oxidized Metals
Some oxidization happens the natural way, over time. Some pieces are treated using chemicals to give the metal a certain patina. These treated metals usually do not need cleaning. Alternatively, you may acquire an antique piece that is silver over gold. It may have a level of oxidation (dark or black patina) that you don’t wish to remove. Always ask about how to take care of this kind of piece. If you must remove some of the surface dirt, gently use a soft (UNTREATED) cloth. Do not rub or apply pressure. The best approach is just to leave it alone. If you use a chemicals or a chemically treated cloth, you may risk removing the oxidation/patina and alter the look of the piece.
Emeralds & Opals
Emeralds and Opals are softer than diamonds and more porous. You do not want to dip, or use any chemicals on either stone or you may risk damage. We recommend taking any piece that includes emeralds or opals to a trusted jeweler to have the piece cleaned, if a soft (UNTREATED) cloth does not removed the dirt. In addition to emeralds and opals, there is a longer a list of gemstones (tanzanite, tourmaline, pearls, coral, paste, diamonds that are foil-backed or have lots of inclusions, etc.) that should NOT be put into an ultrasonic cleaner. This type of cleaner can shatter or fracture the stone. They do a great job of cleaning diamonds and gold/platinum, but please check prior to letting anyone put your jewelry in one of these cleaners. Opals like pearls need humidity and air, so it is wise to store them in some place that has air circulation. Avoid storing them in any airtight containers (plastic bags, small boxes, etc.). If you must store them in a safe or a safety deposit box, remember to take them out from time to time for an airing.
Paste or Foil-Backed Stones
Cleaning paste or foil-backed stones can cause permanent damage. Avoid cleaning them with any kind of liquid (including water). Use a gentle (UNTREATED) cloth to wipe away any surface dirt.
Making Your Jewelry Last Another 100 Years
If you handle your treasured antique (and vintage) jewels with some care, they are infinitely wearable! Just keep in mind that some pieces that they are 100 years old or older and can be delicate. Common sense and a little knowledge will help ensure that you can continue to enjoy them, and help preserve them for the next generation. If you have questions on care, how a piece opens, closes, or functions, or want more information on the best way to store them, don't hesitate to contact us for assistance.