Learn about caring for handmade and other jewelry. Find out about stones that can fade in sunlight or in chemical cleaners. Take care of your jewelry to enjoy it for many years.
Caring for your handmade jewelry is as easy as caring for any other fine jewelry. I recommend when practical either using mildly sudsy water for cleaning jewelry with stones and other materials that can tolerate water, then light polishing with a jewelry polishing cloth, such as a, Goddard's Long Shine Cloth, sunshine cloth or selvyt cloth, or having your jewelry cleaned by a professional. There are, however, many other methods for cleaning jewelry. Please do be sure that your gemstones and pearls in the jewelry can withstand whichever method you choose as it is not practical to expect them to hold up in that case. All fine jewelry should not be subjected to strenuous activities of any kind. Caring for your jewelry properly will help it last for a lifetime of wear.
The shortish version: Normal wear and care in brief is as follows. Keep jewelry away from scratching, banging, chemicals of all kinds, swimming pools, hot tubs, extreme temps, and intense sunlight. Do not roll bracelets onto your hand while clasped. Remove jewelry before doing gardening, cleaning, household repairs or any strenuous activities. Remove jewelry before swimming, bathing, or hot tubbing. Wipe your jewelry off with a soft cloth after wear. Clean jewelry regularly with mildly sudsy water, rinse well, and pat dry with a soft cloth. Let it air dry if any moisture remains. Do not put altered art, paper, or glass domed jewelry in liquids. Polish metals gently with a jewelry polishing cloth. Store jewelry flat in a reclosable bag or cloth with anti-tarnish paper. More details below.
More About Jewelry Care and Cleaning
General Jewelry Care
- Protect all jewelry from scratches, sharp blows, chemicals, extreme temperatures, and sunlight.
- Do not roll or push bracelets onto your hand while clasped. This puts stress on the stringing material and may break it over time.
- After each wearing, gently wipe each piece of jewelry clean of make up and skin oils with a 100% cotton cloth.
- Clean all jewelry except glass dome or paper jewelry regularly with mildly sudsy water (if the stone is appropriate for water cleaning), rinse well, and pat dry with a soft cloth. Let it air dry if any moisture remains. Polish metals gently with a jewelry polishing cloth. Use chemical cleaners and polishes very sparingly and be sure that the type is safe for your jewelry, particularly the stones.
- Do not use liquid cleaners or any kind of liquid on glass dome, paper, or altered art jewelry.
- Remove jewelry when doing household or handyman tasks such a gardening, cleaning and household repairs or any strenuous activities.
- Apply makeup and hairspray before putting on your jewelry. Makeup and hairspray contain chemicals that may affect your jewelry.
- Remove jewelry before getting in a swimming pool or hot tub or bathing. The chlorine or other chemicals in the water can damage various gemstones and metals including gold. See the article on how chlorine and bromine in swimming pools and hot tubs can affect even karat gold at Hoover and Strong precious metal refinery.
- Do not store jewelry in high heat, including next to heating vent, window sill, or in the car.
- Store jewelry away from sunlight. The sun may fade some gemstones or over heat the jewelry.
- Store jewelry flat to avoid stretching or twisting. Always store bead necklaces flat because stringing materials may stretch over time.
- Store jewelry separately so it doesn't scratch other jewelry.
- Store jewelry in resealable or special jewelry bags or pouches with anti-tarnish paper to retard tarnish. Jewelry with pearls or opals, as well as some other stones, must be stored in fabric instead of plastic as they need to "breathe."
- Argentium® Sterling Silver jewelry should be polished with a polishing cloth reserved strictly for Argentium® to avoid contamination by minute bits of other metals (including traditional sterling) and lower the tarnish resistant qualities of the Argentium®
Do Not Place in Chemical Cleaners
This is a partial list and there may be other stones that do not do well and perhaps even disintegrate in chemical cleaners If in doubt, don't put it in any chemicals! Amber, Aquamarine, Coral, Emerald , Jade , Lapis Lazuli, Malachite, Opal, Pearls, Shell, Turquoise
- Halite aka Himalayan Salt or Salt
- Lapis Lazuli
- Shell, including Mother of Pearl
Some Stones That Can Change In Sunlight
There may be other stones that can change in sunlight, sometimes turning almost white. If in doubt, do not leave stones exposed to sunlight.
- Amethyst - becomes paler
- Ametrine - may become lighter or change colors
- Aquamarine - becomes paler
- Aventurine - some lighter varieties become paler
- Beryl - brown/orange varieties may fade to pale pink
- Celestite - becomes paler
- Chrysoprase - becomes paler
- Citrine - becomes paler and/or changes color
- Hiddenite (Green Spodumene, sometimes called Green Kunzite) - becomes paler
- Kunzite (Pink Spodumene) - becomes paler
- Rose Quartz - becomes paler
- Smoky Quartz - becomes paler
- And other stones
For metaphysical tips about energetically clearing your stones that are in jewelry, I have an article on clearing crystals and stones with example photos of good and not so good methods.
I also have an article on cleaning and caring for costume jewelry in particular, though it may not apply to my handmade jewelry, some tips are essentially universal.
Argentium® Sterling Silver
Argentium® Sterling Silver is highly tarnish-resistant, nickel-free, .925 Sterling Silver which needs far less polishing than traditional sterling silver. You should be able to clean up your Argentium® Sterling Silver jewelry with a mild soap and lukewarm water, and restore its high shine with a polishing cloth reserved for only Argentium® jewelry. Goddard's Long Shine Polishing Cloth is highly recommended by leaders in the silversmithing industry at the best for Argentium®, as it seems to enhance Argentium®'s tarnish-resistant properties.
Traditional Sterling Silver, Fine Silver, and Gold
Traditional Sterling Silver, Fine Silver, and Gold can be cared for in pretty much the same way. You can use these methods to clean and polish traditional .925 sterling silver, .999 Fine Silver, Silver Filled, and 14 Karat Gold Filled, as well as karat gold:
Commercial silver/gold cleaners. Be sure that any stones in the jewelry can withstand the chemicals in the cleaner. Read the label, and if in doubt, contact the manufacturer for information or do not use a chemical cleaner. Some gemstones that cannot be placed in most commercial jewelry cleaners are: pearls, lapis lazuli, malachite, opals, coral, turquoise, and others.
Ammonia and water. Use a light solution of ammonia and water on a toothbrush or soft cloth, then rinse thoroughly with water. Ammonia should not be used on the same types of gemstones that should not be used with commercial cleaners
Jewelry polishing cloth. Use lightly to restore luster. Note: Do not press hard when polishing 14 karat golf filled, so that you do not damage the gold surface. Silver filled, gold filled, and plated jewelry should be polished very lightly.
Additionally, tarnish can be retarded by storing your jewelry in the resealable plastic bag included with each piece, or in a commercial jewelry bag with anti-tarnish papers. Pearls and opals, however, should not be stored in plastic because they need to "breathe."
Copper and Brass
Surprisingly enough, copper and brass are also very simple to care for. While they do tarnish more quickly than sterling silver, they can be restored to their original shine easily. Methods for cleaning and shining copper and brass jewelry are:
Commercial copper/brass cleaner. Again, be sure that any stones in the jewelry can withstand the chemicals in the cleaner or do not use it.
Worcestershire sauce. As unlikely as it sounds, the acid in the tomato in worcestershire sauce does a great job of cleaning copper and brass jewelry See the Copper Jewelry Cleaning page for a demo with before and after photos. This method should not be used with gemstones or pearls that cannot be cleaned with chemical cleaners, as the acid in the tomato of the worcestershire may affect more delicate stones.
Ketchup. Again, the acid in the tomato of the ketchup shines up copper and brass quite nicely. This method is somewhat messier than the Worcestershire sauce, though. Apply it with a toothbrush or soft cloth, then rinse thoroughly. Avoid getting ketchup on the same types of stones as should not be used with chemical cleaners. I'm not sure about it, but I expect the acid in the tomato might affect more delicate stones.
Another kitchen cleaner method for copper and brass is a combination of water, lemon or lime juice and salt. Add a few drops of lemon or lime juice to a container of water, then add a teaspoon of salt and stir gently. Place the jewelry in the solution for a few minutes, then remove and rinse thoroughly. If needed, the dip in the solution can be repeated. Again, this method should not be used with gemstones or pearls that cannot be cleaned with chemical cleaners.
As with sterling silver, copper and brass jewelry will tarnish slower if stored in a recloseable plastic bag or jewelry case with anti-tarnish paper.
All of these methods of caring for jewelry are part of the normal wear and care in my Handmade Jewelry Guarantee.