Vintage Jewelry Care & Maintenance
Before listing our pre-loved vintage items for sale, all of our jewelry go through several steps of deep cleaning, ensuring they are all set for another lifetime with their new owners. I’m going to breakdown proper jewelry care and maintenance. The most important thing to note when cleaning your jewelry is to check that all prongs and stones are secure in their settings! Even the lightest cleaning can cause damage to a weak prong or stone.
One of the best parts of the job is cleaning new inventory. In a matter of seconds you can take a patina covered 100-year-old piece and bring it back to life. The transformation gets me every time. Sometimes our pieces arrive black with tarnish and seeing the end result is amazing.
Here’s what we do at MJV: first thing first, we always put our jewelry on right before we head out the door. Everyday products like hairspray, makeup, lotion, and general household cleaners can cause damage to jewelry. While you can wear a solid gold or solid sterling silver piece in the water it is just good practice to remove all jewelry before showering or swimming. Wearing anything gold filled, gold plated or a base metal in the shower is a big no-no.
Secondly, we remove all jewelry before we go to the gym. Gyms are gross as is, and you don’t want someone else’s sweat building up in your ring shank along with your own. Leave it at home.
When cleaning we always take off our rings and bracelets and throw on a pair of gloves for good measure. Rings often can rip through gloves making the gemstones vulnerable to damage.
We suggest considering your lifestyle, location and occupation when shopping for your next piece or simply wearing a piece day-to-day. There are simple everyday things we do that can hurt our jewelry. Have you ever gotten a necklace stuck in your winter scarf? Something to consider! Ever worry you’ll lose your earrings on a roller coaster? Something to consider! Have fun, look cute, but be cautious.
My engagement ring (a MJV ring, of course) ripped through my gloves while
cleaning new inventory. Now I take it off before cleaning.
First thing we do when getting a new piece in is to use a mild dish soap and very soft toothbrush to remove what we can before moving on to silver cleaner.
Silver cleaner can be bought from the grocery store or pharmacy. Dip and swish for just several seconds, then rinse with water and pat dry. We then use a treated jewelry cleaning cloth to polish off any remaining stains and tarnishing. With a little elbow grease your piece will be sparkling in less than 5 minutes.
Organic stones include stones such as amber, coral and pearls (and more). Any piece with organic stones will absolutely need to be hand polished. You’ll notice that any cleaner used (dish soap or silver polish) can dry out organic matter like coral, shell or pearls. Revive them by rehydrating them with a small dab of coconut oil.
You wouldn’t want to dip a pearl strand necklace in the cleaner. For that we suggest using a mild dish soap and a soft toothbrush. Be sure to lay the necklace flat and allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before wearing. The string of the strand may stretch if it is wet.
If you have jewelry that features any kind of wood do not submerge your piece into water. We recommend using a beeswax to revive your piece.
Always keep harsh cleaners, makeup, hairspray, lotions, etc. away from these stones. The stones are porous (see MoHS chart below) and may get discolored with too much exposure to the aforementioned household/beauty products.
A good rule of thumb to go by is to consider anything under a 5 on the MoHS scale as a “soft stone.” These stones should never, ever be put in an ultrasonic. Here are a few stones we consider to be soft and treat with care while wearing and cleaning:
Coral Turquoise Pearls Amber Shell
Emeralds Malachite Opal Turquoise
Image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/64317100905406943/
GOLD & GEMSTONES
Soap, water and a treated polishing cloth will generally do the trick for solid gold pieces with gemstones. Sometimes we get a new piece in that needs a little more than just elbow grease, so we will put the piece in an ultrasonic machine. Ultrasonics can be used on some more durable gemstones.
Wikipedia breaks Ultrasonics down really well (my professors would kill me for citing Wikipedia). “Ultrasonic cleaning uses cavitation bubbles induced by high frequency pressure (sound) waves to agitate a liquid. The agitation produces high forces on contaminants adhering to substrates like metals, plastics, glass, rubber, and ceramics….”
At MJV we use a mild dish soap and hot water in our sonic to shine up our inventory. After we “sonic” our pieces we will then steam pieces to ensure sparkle and shine as well as remove any filmy layers that may be on the back of faceted stones (often caused by lotion). Steaming is pretty straightforward: we have a machine with a hose that sprays a fine but high pressured mist of steam. We place the piece in the steam for a couple seconds while rotating the piece to ensure all crevices are blasted.
Image source: https://www.jewelrycarats.com
In order to be considered antique by most sources, an item would have to be at least 100 years old. We take incredible care cleaning and storing our historical pieces. We highly suggest you take your antique pieces to a jeweler who specializes in antique and vintage jewels. Over cleaning could damage the piece and also reduce the pieces value.
STORAGE, MAINTENANCE & RING INSURANCE
If you are hesitant about cleaning your piece we always suggest going to a trusted local jeweler. It is important to get pieces like rings checked every six months, gemstone prongs are especially susceptible to breakage. Why not use this visit to the jeweler to get your piece cleaned?
Image source: http://www.jtv.com/gemstore/jewelry_care.html
Now you understand the ins and outs of cleaning your piece, but are you storing it correctly? There are tons of safe storage options available for all price points. We recommend keeping your pieces stored in a soft-lined box, where your jewelry can be secured, protected, and separated from other pieces in your collection. If you are in a pinch and need something on the fly we suggest keeping your piece in a secure bag -- we use small resealable bags from Amazon for storage.
Lastly, we love the idea of getting insurance on your most cherished pieces. We hate to think of bad things happening in our lives, but they do. Protect your investments. To learn more about ring insurance, check out Estate Diamond Jewelry’s guide to ring insurance.
PRODUCTS WE USE
Silver Cleaner available from Amazon
Polishing cloths that we use, available on Amazon
An Ultrasonic that is similar to ours available from Jet
A steam cleaner that is similar to ours available from Jet
I hope this post was informative and gives your a better understanding of how to maintain your special pieces. As always, if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to us!