Jewelry Care

Sterling Silver and Garnet Flowers Stud Earrings

Sterling Silver and Garnet Flowers Stud Earrings

Argentium sterling silver and fine silver (pure silver) tarnish more slowly than traditional sterling, but all forms of silver eventually show tarnish. You can slow the appearance of tarnish on silver jewelry pieces by wrapping them in plastic wrap and/or bagging them in plastic bags. You can also add anti-tarnish strips to the bags.

Silver is quite soft – be gentle in your cleaning to avoid bending the metal or scratching the jewelry. Wash pieces carefully by hand in soapy water, rinse and dry with a cotton cloth. Do not soak – soaking can damage soft and porous stones. Use only nonabrasive jewelry cleaners. Don’t use toothpaste – it is too abrasive and will leave scratches. If you use a jeweler’s polishing cloth, use a fresh area of the cloth or fresh cloth to avoid scratching your jewelry while cleaning.

Some stones require special care. Do not use an ultrasonic cleaner on opals, turquoise, amber, or pearls for example. Jewelry pieces containing opals, pearls, and soft stones such as turquoise, amber, opals, malachite, or lapis should be wrapped in tissue and stored where they won’t be scratched by other jewelry.

 

Consider these ideas, too:

Don’t expose your jewelry to perspiration and dirt:   remove jewelry before working in the garden or engaging in other physical labor, exercising, swimming, bathing, etc.  Avoid exposure to household cleaners and other chemicals that can damage your jewelry – remove jewelry before dealing with any chemicals. It seems logical that pearls and other porous stones can be damaged by chemicals, but even karat gold could be discolored by chemical exposure (to chlorine, for example).

Apply cosmetics, make-up, hair spray, and perfume before putting on jewelry. Remove bracelets and rings before applying hand lotions and creams. Remove earrings when you have your hair done, especially if you are having it colored.

Jade, turquoise, malachite, and lapis are among porous soft stones that should not be cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner or soaked in jewelry cleaner solutions. Softer, more porous stones such as these require extra careful treatment. Avoid using hot water on these stones.   Remember that pearls are precious gems, too. No ultrasonic or soaking in jewelry cleaners – just wipe off with damp soft cloth. If more cleaning is required try soapy water (shavings of Ivory) on a soft cloth and dry thoroughly.

Pyritized ammonite in silver with citrine

Pyritized ammonite in silver with citrine

The tarnish that forms on silver pieces is silver sulfide, which is black. A thin coating of silver sulfide on silver will darken the silver surface. Cleaning the silver using most cleaning methods removes the silver sulfide coating, but polishing and most jewelry cleaners also remove some silver during the cleaning process.  Here’s an approach to cleaning that does not remove any silver, but converts the tarnish back to silver. This approach works well to clean woven silver jewelry or silver metal jewelry.

A chemical reaction between the silver sulfide and the aluminum occurs when the two are in contact while in a baking soda solution, so the silver has to touch the aluminum foil. The silver sulfide is converted back to silver and the sulfur is deposited on the aluminum either as yellow flecks of sulfur or as aluminum sulfide.  Warming the water speeds up the reaction and the solution carries the sulfur from the silver to the aluminum. Tarnish will begin to disappear within a few minutes. You may need to repeat the process for badly tarnished pieces, reheating the baking soda and water mixture.

You need a container lined with aluminum foil.  The container should be large enough to totally immerse the silver you want to clean.   Heat the water and mix in the baking soda at the rate of a cup of baking soda to a gallon of water (adjust the amount of water to the size of your container and silver piece, then add the correct amount of baking soda for the amount of water used).  Place the jewelry directly on top of the aluminum foil and add the water and baking soda solution.   Some bubbling may occur during this reaction, so you might want to place your container in a larger pan or somewhere where some overflow won’t matter.   As always, caution is needed when cleaning jewelry set with stones.  Some stones are porous and should not be immersed in water or any cleaner.  Examples are opals, turquoise, malachite, lapis, or pearls.

Store your jewelry in a clean dark dry place. Don’t just toss your jewelry into a jewelry box or drawer loose. Your pieces will scratch each other.  Jewelry often comes in a protective bag or box – use it or something equivalent.   You can also store your jewelry flat in a plastic bag to retard tarnishing.  A fabric lined jewelry box is ideal and individual bags and jewelry boxes are excellent, too. Store your silver jewelry in a tarnish resistant bag.   Store pearls in soft bags away from other jewelry which might scratch the pearl’s surface. Never put your jewelry away wet – wipe it off with a damp cloth and air dry.

The tarnish that forms on silver pieces is silver sulfide, which is black. A thin coating of silver sulfide on silver will darken the silver surface. Cleaning the silver using most cleaning methods removes the silver sulfide coating, but polishing and most jewelry cleaners also remove some silver during the cleaning process.  Using a solution of baking soda and aluminum foil will clean silver in a way that does not remove any silver, but converts the tarnish back to silver. This approach works well to clean woven silver jewelry or silver metal jewelry.

A chemical reaction between the silver sulfide and the aluminum occurs when the two are in contact while in a baking soda solution, so the silver has to touch the aluminum foil. The silver sulfide is converted back to silver and the sulfur is deposited on the aluminum either as yellow flecks of sulfur or as aluminum sulfide.  Warming the water speeds up the reaction and the solution carries the sulfur from the silver to the aluminum. Tarnish will begin to disappear within a few minutes. You may need to repeat the process for badly tarnished pieces, reheating the baking soda and water mixture.

You need a container lined with aluminum foil.  The container should be large enough to totally immerse the silver you want to clean.   Heat the water and mix in the baking soda at the rate of a cup of baking soda to a gallon of water (adjust the amount of water to the size of your container and silver piece, then add the correct amount of baking soda for the amount of water used).  Place the jewelry directly on top of the aluminum foil and add the water and baking soda solution.   Some bubbling may occur during this reaction, so you might want to place your container in a larger pan or somewhere where some overflow won’t matter.

As always, caution is needed when cleaning jewelry set with stones.  Some stones are porous and should not be immersed in water or any cleaner.  Examples are opals, turquoise, malachite, lapis, or pearls.

 

 

There’s a lot of additional information available about specific gemstones, etc. on the web.   Just be sure to select reliable sources.   I’m including  some information from the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and also IGI (International Gemological Institute).   At the bottom of this page, there are links to both websites.

ammonite pendant

pyritized ammonite in a silver pendant

Jewelry pieces are intimate and cherished belongings. Make pieces have deep emotional meaning for us.   According to GIA (Gemological Institute of America), light and heat can also affect a colored gemstone’s durability and its color. High temperatures and sudden temperature changes can cause a gemstone to fracture. Heat can easily remove the natural moisture that opals and pearls need to keep their beauty. Pearls can dry out and discolor. Opals turn white or brown and may lose their play-of-color.   Over time, exposure to a lot of sunlight can fade and damage some gemstones. Amethyst, kunzite, topaz, and pink conch-shell cameos are examples of easily damaged gemstones and pearls and other delicate materials, like ivory, will bleach under extreme exposure to light. Some gemstones, amber in particular, will darken over time when exposed to too much light.

Chemicals found in everyday substances can permanently damage the nacre of your dazzling pearls, damage gemstones, and corrode the alloys in settings. Exposure to chemicals can damage and discolor precious metals – gold, silver, and platinum – and may harm some colored gems. Don’t wear you jewelry in the swimming pool. Many common household cleaners contain ammonia, and are only safe for diamonds and the more durable colored gems. Chlorine bleach can pit gold alloys.

GIA recommends cleaning most colored gems with warm water, mild soap (no detergents), and a soft brush. A pulsed-water dental cleaning appliance and a soft, lint-free cloth can also be used. Be sure to stop the sink’s drain or use a rubber mat in case any stones come loose from the setting. To keep your jewelry clean and ready to wear, gently wipe off excess make-up and skin oils after each wearing.   Sterling silver is a very soft metal and can easily be marred. Never use anything but 100% cotton as a polishing cloth. Other materials may create scratches in the metal, especially on sterling silver.   If you use jeweler’s cloths to keep your jewelry clean and shiny, be sure to use fresh cloths since the dirt and grit left on the cloth from a previous use will now leave scrapes and pits in the piece you are trying to clean and polish.

White pearl and crystal necklaceGIA has particular advice on pearls: soft gems, such as pearls, are easily be scratched. GIA suggests using an unused makeup brush instead, and warm, soapy water. Lay pearls on a towel to dry and don’t handle them until they are dry since wet string can stretch. If you wear your pearls every few days they should be restrung annually.

Do not use toothpaste or other abrasives to clean metal or stones.  The abrasives can damage the surface of the metal and require the skill of a professional to buff and refinish. Toothpaste abrasives will also mar the surface of soft stones.
Jewelry should never be tossed into a drawer or on top of a dresser—pieces will scratch each other. Keep jewelry pieces come in a box or pouch.
Some gemstones require special care. Don’t use ultrasonic or chemical cleaners on opals, pearls or soft stones such as lapis, malachite, turquoise, amber or opals.

For more tips check out this GIA link:
http://www.gia.edu/gia-news-research-Tips-Caring-JewelryTips on Caring for Jewelry

or this link from the International Gemological Institute, another reputable source:
http://www.igiworldwide.com/jewelry_care_tips.html