The Jewelry Box Blog

How to Clean Antique Jewelry

How to clean antique jewelry

Elizabeth Taylor once said, “Having jewelry is a temporary gift. In truth, we ‘owners’ are just the caretakers. Nobody ever owns anything this beautiful. We are only the guardians.” If you are the current caretaker of an antique or vintage gem, follow the steps below to ensure your precious heirloom continues to sparkle for its next lucky guardian.

How to Clean Antique Jewelry

1. Do Repairs First

It’s not uncommon for antique jewelry to have acquired a few bumps and bruises on its long journey to your possession. Before any cleaning takes place, make sure prongs are secure, stones are intact, and metal is without cracks.

If you notice damage to your jewelry, get to your jeweler as soon as you can. The sooner you catch a problem, the easier, and cheaper, it will likely be to fix.

2. Be Precious with Pearls

Pearls and porous stones such as opals, coral and onyx require a light touch. These pieces should never be submerged in water. To care for them, simply use a lint-free gem cloth to gently clean off any grime or residue.

3. Assess Your Piece

Water should also be avoided for hollow pieces and jewelry with closed back settings (metal that covers the entire back of a stone). If water is trapped, it can cause damage to the metal and the look and integrity of the gemstone.

4. Vanquish Tarnish

Tarnish on silver can be removed with special polishing pads, though you shouldn’t use them on gold-plated or gold-filled items because they may remove the plating and damage the piece.

Antique ring

5. Scrub Your Diamonds (Gently)

While diamonds and other hard gemstones set in gold or platinum can withstand stronger solvents and a swim in the ultrasonic machine (a cleaning device that jewelers use), for care at home we find a gentler approach can yield equally effective results: Start by soaking the piece in a solution of dish detergent and warm water for 10 minutes.

If you’re cleaning a larger piece, you can gently scrub with a small toothbrush. But if you’re dealing with more delicate items, or one with intricate details, use an interdental toothbrush, which is extremely effective at reaching even the tiniest spaces between stones and under prongs.

6. Dry Everything

Once the piece is cleaned, get rid of any remaining moisture with the swipe of a gem cloth and a quick blast from a compressed duster—the kind you use on your computer keyboard!

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