March 08 2016 Tuesday at 06:00 PM
Keepin' It Clean: Save & Revive Your Jewelry
Nothing’s worse than investing in a beautiful new piece of jewelry, only to have it tarnish beyond recognition. It’s natural to want your favorite pieces to last forever in all their shiny glory, but unfortunately, tarnish is only natural with almost every metal used by jewelers. Luckily for you, it’s also easy to prevent and to treat, as long as you’re willing to spend a little time to preserve your pieces.
Tarnish forms over time on silver, brass, copper, aluminum, and similar metals, due to a chemical reaction in the outermost layers of the metal. This layer of corrosion can cause discoloration, usually grey or black, which is why most jewelry owners want to avoid it. Because the process is completely natural, it’s not necessarily a reflection of the quality of your jewelry, as even the finest sterling silver will eventually tarnish if not properly cared for. Exposure to oxygen, sulfur, and moisture can all cause tarnish.
As natural as the process may be, there are still some simple steps you can take to prevent tarnish from forming on your fine jewelry. Avoid sleeping in your jewelry, and avoid wearing them in the shower, swimming pool, or other places where they’re likely to get wet. Lotions and perfumes can also cause damage, so make sure you allow all lotions to properly absorb before you put on your jewelry, and avoid spraying any perfume directly on your jewelry.
Proper storage can also help prevent tarnish from forming on your jewelry when you aren’t wearing it. The key is to keep it in a cool, dry place where no pesky moisture can cause damage. Storing your pieces in boxes or small ziplock bags keeps items safe, clean, and dry. You can also add silica gel packs to a jewelry box to eliminate any trace moisture, which is especially helpful if you live in a humid climate. Anti-tarnish strips can also be purchased and kept inside the bag or box. These are a great help during a move or if you intend to put your jewelry into storage.
If you do get tarnish on your jewelry, you can still remove it, although it’s important to be careful when choosing which method to use. You don’t want to cause even more damage than the tarnish did! A jewelry polishing cloth is a fantastic investment, since it’s gentle enough to use on any metal, and it’s easy to keep on hand. Because silver is a relatively soft metal, it can be easily scratched, so be sure that any cleaning cloth you use is intended for jewelry use. If you own a good deal of sterling silver, an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner may also be a worthwhile investment, to do annual cleanings of your full collection, but be aware: this method isn’t idea for pieces possessing gemstones. If you want to keep it simple, a jewelry cleaning solution and a cleaning cloth should get the job done for most pieces, but always double-check that the solution is compatible with whichever metal you’re cleaning.
In the end, a bit of prevention goes a long way, but if your pieces do begin to tarnish, know that hope is not lost! Using these simple tips should keep all your favorite pieces sparkling clean for years to come.