Do you have silver rings that are turning black or gemstones that just don’t shine like they used to? Even precious metals and stones can show signs of wear over time, but proper care and storage can make all the difference. The good news is even tarnished, dull, or scratched jewelry may be able to be restored with the right cleaning process or polishing. Here’s how to care for your jewelry to keep it looking its best.
1. Keep Silver From Tarnishing
Silver is a beautiful and budget-friendly alternative to platinum and white gold, but it comes with a downside: it can tarnish quickly. Even sterling silver will tarnish under the right conditions. Tarnish is simply a chemical reaction on the surface in response to sulfur or oxygen that makes silver look discolored or dirty. By understanding what causes this reaction, you can prevent most tarnish on your silver.
- Silver will corrode when exposed to salt, including salt on the skin. Take off silver rings before handling anything salty, swimming in the ocean, or cooking.
- Metallic abrasion. Some chemicals, including many found in cosmetics, cause tarnish when they are exposed to silver. This can discolor your jewelry and leave black marks on your skin. Two common ingredients to watch for are calamine and zinc oxide. After applying cosmetics, perfume, hair spray, or lotion, wash your hands and put on your jewelry last.
- Humidity. High humidity, even in your home, can accelerate tarnishing of silver.
Unfortunately, even air can tarnish jewelry, although it will tarnish slower than by exposure to salt or high humidity. This is where proper storage comes in.
Jewelry that’s thrown into a drawer can suffer damage. Gold, silver, pearls, opals, and pieces with gem settings all require special care to avoid scratches, deterioration, and corrosion in storage. The following guidelines can ensure your jewelry looks as beautiful as new when you’re ready to wear it.
- Don’t let pieces touch each other. Soft stones and metals can become damaged if they rub against another piece of jewelry. Every piece of jewelry should have its own location or compartment. Necklaces can be stored on neck forms or horizontal compartments while rings can fit into individual slots. Avoid lumping items together in the same bag or section.
- Take care with silver. Silver can tarnish with exposure to oxygen. Consider storing silver in special silver cloth or bags that have anti-tarnish properties to absorb the tarnish-producing gases before they reach the jewelry.
- Avoid high or low humidity. Some types of jewelry are susceptible to damage from humidity extremes, particularly opals and pearls which are damaged by excessive dryness. A jewelry safe can keep your jewelry at the right temperature and humidity, or you can just watch the humidity level in your home and wear these pieces more often.
- Avoid heat and light. Some gemstones like topaz and amethyst can become damaged and fade with excessive exposure to heat or light. Other gems will darken when they are exposed to light. With these gems, store in a cool, dark place.
3. Clean Jewelry Occasionally
Most jewelry doesn’t need to be cleaned often, but a routine cleaning can remove an accumulation of oils and debris that can dull your jewelry. The right cleaning approach is important and depends on the type of jewelry.
Gold can be soaked for about 10 minutes in a solution of club soda with a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid. Use a soft toothbrush to scrub the surfaces of the jewelry and dry with a clean cloth.
Because silver is soft, take care to avoid scratches. There are several ways to clean silver and remove tarnish. One popular method is lining a baking pan with aluminum foil. Place silver items on the foil and sprinkle with baking soda. Pour hot water in the pan to cover the jewelry and buff any tarnish that remains after a few minutes. You can also safely clean silver jewelry with ketchup to remove tarnish.
For diamond jewelry, soak for about 30 minutes in a solution of 1 part ammonia and 4 parts water. Scrub with a soft toothbrush and clean with a soft cloth.
Pearls are the most delicate item to clean because soaking them will remove their beautiful luster. Each pearl should be cleaned carefully with a lint-free cloth that’s been dipped in a mixture of warm water and a bit of mild dishwashing liquid. After cleaning, wipe with a damp cloth and dap dry.
4. Polish Jewelry as Needed
When your jewelry shows signs of wear, you may consider taking it to a jeweler for polishing. Professional polishing can remove scratches and other signs of wear on rings, lockets, and watches, but it shouldn’t be used often. This is because polishing works by actually removing a microscopic layer of the surface to even out the appearance of the metal. One polish won’t hurt your jewelry, but multiple polishings can eventually weaken the integrity of the metal.