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Vintage Jewelry

Cleaning Antique & Vintage Jewelry

Vintage Costume Jewelry

Cleaning Antique and Vintage Jewelry


by Veronica McCullough
Great Vintage Jewelry
Antique, Art Deco & Designer Vintage Jewelry


Most people who wear and collect jewelry have a good working knowledge of how to clean care for antique and vintage jewelry. Here are a few more tips that you may not know.

This first thing I want to tell you about cleaning jewelry is that you must handle the jewelry like your are taking care of an old person. If you grab your grandma by the arm, you are going to bruise her. Dont put your jewelry on your kitchen counter top - put it on a towel !

Vintage Costume jewelry should never be immersed or rinsed in water. This includes jewelry with rhinestones and all other glued in stones or cabs. Old glue is very water soluble and while you might see one or two stones fall out after rinsing with water, the rest of the stones or glued cabs will follow. It is then time to remove all stones or cabs, remove all the old glue, and reglue with a strong glue that is not water soluble. If you don't, stones will fall out while wearing the piece and be lost for good. This type of restoration, removing old glue and applying new glue, can be very difficult to achieve perfectly and should be left to a professional. If you do attempt to reglue stones, apply the glue with a toothpick !

To clean costume jewelry : Never put it in a ultrasonic jewelry cleaner !

The most acclaimed cleaner for costume jewelry is called Jewelry Joose www.jewerlyjoose.com. Personally, you can also use mild jewelry cleaners found in the jewelry section at stores like Walmart, Kmart, etc. Jewelry Joose is much more expensive and I have not seen results any different than regular jewelry cleaner. The most important aspect about cleaning jewelry is not to immerse it in the cleaner. Use a spray bottle with a fine mist setting or dab the cleaner on a clean cotton cloth and dab the jewelry! For rhodium finishes and other metal finishes, it is okay to rub gently - but on the stones, gently dab them !

The big key here is DRY ! Dab with a clean cotton cloth, get in the crannies with Q tips, and then use your hair dryer on a cool setting briefly. MOISTURE IS EVIL !

On some occasions, you may get a piece of jewelry that had an old sticker on it, or has some type of sticky substance. Using Goo be Gone or Goof Off very sparingly will work well. Then, dab the area with mild jewelry cleaner to remove residual residue with a moist clean cloth. Dabbing on white vinegar is the key to getting rid of serious grime or greening. You can also experiment with denture cleaning tablets on glass jewelry. It does wonders for green grime but soaking will dissolve glue and stones. It is something I use only on parts of jewelry items, or chained glass necklaces.

Cleaning Copper,Sterling,Gold,Rhodium and Brass should be determined by the amount of cleaning needed. Cleaning on these metals should be done modestly and a good portion of the orignal old patina should still be left in tact.

What you NEVER want to do is to take a piece of old metal jewelry that is completely tarnished to the point where is is dark brown or black and clean it. Once a piece of copper or sterling has reached this stage in the patina, it cannot be cleaned without ruining the piece completely. If you try, you will remove so many layers of metal the piece will NOT look like new - but like an old piece that someone polished past the point of no return. In the recessed areas, the old patina will still remain - resulting in a pitiful job !

Never clean copper, sterling or gold with Tarn-X of other abrasive chemicals that instantly remove layers and layers. Most all metal polishers for silver, copper and brass are not polishers at all - BUT STRIPERS. These will not only remove the natural patina completely but will do serious damage the metal itself, resulting in a dull finish that cannot be restored.

If you have metals that only needs a light cleaning, I highly recommend using a jewelers polishing cloth, available at Walmart in the jewelry section. But - be cautious and do not get overzealous! Just clean the highlights very lightly, just for a few seconds!

If you have sterling,gold,copper or brass that is very dirty, the best polishing agent is MAAS (also at Walmart in the household cleaning isle). This is smooth professional cream that is a true polisher and a little dab goes a long way with a soft cotton cloth. Rub until your cloth is black- then move to a clean spot on the cloth and work around the whole piece of jewelry this way. DO NOT OVER RUB !

Sometimes on old earrings and pins, you might have to do the nitty gritty parts under a magnifying glass and use a Q -Tip, or gently use a toothbrush or toothpick in the crannies.
During and after cleaning, I always inspect my work under a lighted table top magnifier. It is by far the most important tool when it comes to cleaning and inspecting.Online, they can cost up to $ 200.

When your jewelry is clean and dry, it must be kept in the most moisture free environment you can provide. Earrings and pins should go in little ziploc baggies (found in the craft section at Walmart) and larger jewelry should be stored in cotton lined boxes. Light is also your enemy. Keep all jewelry out of strong light.

Now that I have finished, I realize this sounds like a promotional hype for Walmart and Im sorry for that - but I get everything I need in one trip there. I spend way too much time cleaning jewelry and I dont need to waste time shopping !


Vintage Costume Jewelry