Like all slow-fashion pieces, beautiful, unique, and ethical jewelry can be an investment. How do I take care of my jewelry? is a question that I get asked a lot. So I asked several of the artisans in my community for their best advice, did some of my own research, and thought back to all the techniques I’ve used over the years and put together a list of recommendations and tips for keeping your jewelry collection in tip-top-shape. Because when you’re purchasing from an artisan, their hope would be that you’ll make their work last for a long time, as I’m sure that would be your hope as well. So, here are some tips.
I’ve included hyperlinks throughout this post for some of the sources of this advice, and also some good resources (some specifically aimed at local Vancouverites) you may enjoy.
Here we go…
As I mentioned, this pro tip comes from ApartmentTherapy.com. Read their full blog post with all the additional information they provide (plus the exact recipe) by going here: How to Clean Silver with Aluminum Foil and Baking Soda.
It’s recommended that you don’t wear your jewelry in the shower, while washing your hands, or while doing the dishes, and there’s a reason for that: oxidation! What’s oxidation? Well, it’s a fairly complicated process involving electrons. I’ll let Study.com explain it:
“At its most basic level, oxidation is the loss of electrons. It happens when an atom or compound loses one or more electrons. Some elements lose electrons more easily than others. These elements are said to be easily oxidized. Generally speaking, metals including sodium, magnesium, and iron are easily oxidized.”
In other words, oxidation is a process where “one or more substances are changed into others” (source) and over time it will cause the items in your collection to become discolored and lose their initial beauty.
You know when you purchase some clothing or pretty much all new purses or bags, there’s a silica packet in the pocket or pouch? Usually it says ‘do not eat’ on the front in caps and bold lettering. Instead of throwing it away, keep it! You can pop one of those silica pouches into your jewelry box to help remove moisture. Just remember to replace it every year.
A lot of drug stores and box stores recommend jewelry dips and cleaners to clean your jewelry. Myself and all my artisan friends recommend that you ignore this advice. These cleaners will actually make your gold and silver jewelry tarnish even faster, and will remove the gold and silver layer right off your plated pieces. So avoid, avoid, avoid. And check out tips #1 and #7 as part of this list.
If you’re wearing gemstone jewelry with diamonds or semi-precious stones, I recommend that you make sure to check the settings frequently to make sure they’re nice and tight and your gemstones and diamonds are nice and secure. Like anything, the settings on your jewelry can suffer from everyday wear and tear, loosening over time. Take your most treasured pieces to a trusted jeweller bi-annually or annually for a tune-up.
Part of jewelry maintenance also includes making sure your clasps and other attachment pieces are not getting worn down.
If you have a pearl necklace, they’re often strung with silk. It’s recommended that you get pearl necklaces restrung frequently to ensure their strength and longevity. You definitely don’t want to be in a situation where you unwittingly lose your jewelry after a night on the town. Come home to find that your favourite piece is gone and you have no idea when or where it happened. It can be a nightmare of a situation for some, so avoid it by giving your jewelry frequent check-ups.
I recommend Minichiello Jewellers in Vancouver. They are Vancouver’s trusted experts in fine craftsmanship and quality service, and their father, Fred Minichiello, was Vancouver’s pioneer Italian-Canadian jeweller.
I got my engagement ring from them, and have been a big fan of their work for a while. I take my own rings to them for regular check-ups, making sure the stones haven’t come loose from their settings so that I can have piece of mind. If they can’t help you with your exact question or request, they will undoubtedly point you in the right direction.
Avoid using soap, hair spray, or perfume after putting on your jewelry. Put on these products first and then take your jewelry out of their velvet bags and boxes to put on. The chemical compounds in these products can react with plated or silver jewelry. You won’t necessarily know what sort of reaction that will be, so it’s best to play it safe.
You’ll want to be especially careful with jewelry with stones. The space around the stone can easily build up with these products. The tight space will be especially difficult to clean it out, even with the technique we’re going to share with you next.
Oh, but before we get to that next point, you’ll also want to avoid wearing your jewelry in chlorinated hot tubs or pools, or putting them in contact with harsh household cleaning products. Practice awareness when wearing your pieces and treat them with care.
If your pieces do come in contact with lotions or hairspray, a simple jewellers trick to clean your jewelry iis to use a soft bristle toothbrush and ivory soap. Gently brush your pieces and rinse with hot water. Your stone jewelry especially will shine brightly after this extremely effective and inexpensive cleaning ritual. Brides.com provides an excellent summary of everything you need to know. Here’s an excerpt from that post:
“If your ring has been dirtied by common cosmetics—for example, hairspray, lotion, makeup, or perfume—a simple at-home cleaning will bring back its sparkle! "The best way to clean diamond rings is to make a solution with warm water (almost hot) and dishwashing soap. Soak your ring for about 20 to 40 minutes, gently brush the stone with a very soft toothbrush, and then rinse under warm running water. If needed, repeat.
In addition to dish soap, you can also use shampoo or body wash. But, whatever you choose as your ring cleaner, just avoid anything that is moisturizing. Products that moisturize tend to leave a film on the ring, which is exactly what you're trying to avoid. As for drying off your ring, avoid paper towels; they can actually scratch the metal. Instead, use a soft cloth made of cotton or let it air dry.” (source)
They recommend that you clean your jewelry using this technique at least once a week, but to take it to a jeweler once a year for a proper and thorough clean – making sure your jewelry always feels like new. Even though you’re using a toothbrush DO NOT use toothpaste on your jewelry. Products like toothpaste, baking soda or other chemicals “can easily scratch metals, particularly gold.” (source)
Check out the Bride.com post on How to Clean Your Engagement Ring for more information.
For my very first backpacking trip, I connected with a good friend (and seasoned traveller) to explore Colombia. I was in University at the time, getting my degree in Biology. I hadn’t even started to consider a career as a jewelry designer, although looking back… I think this experience may have ignited a flame.