Because proper care for jewelry depends on the materials used to create it, who better to ask for tips on cleaning and care than jewelry artists? This month, seven artists share their best advice.
(Because artist-made jewelry is often composed of unique material(s), follow the specific care instructions supplied by the artist who created your piece to avoid inadvertently damaging your jewelry. If in doubt about how to care for your treasured pieces, it is best to consult with a professional or have them professionally cleaned. Please feel free to contact our Customer Care team for specific questions regarding your jewelry pieces purchased from The Artful Home.)
There are many commercial cleaning products for jewelry made exclusively of silver, but what if a piece is made of bimetal (two different types of metal that have been fused and rolled together into a double-sided sheet)?
"Because I use a dark patina on my bimetal pieces, I make sure to tell customers NOT to use silver polish products, because they will remove the patina," says Deborrah Daher. "The best way to clean a bimetal piece is in room temperature water with a very mild clean-rinsing liquid soap (if needed), and an old, soft toothbrush, followed with a soft cloth to dry the piece. If you put your jewelry on after you apply makeup and hair products, it’s likely you never will need to use more than a soft cloth."
Christine MacKellar recommends a similar method for preventive care of bimetal, silver, and gold jewelry, but suggests cleaning in sudsy ammonia before rinsing the pieces thoroughly with warm water and drying with a soft cloth. "Ammonia is a degreaser and will remove the build up of oils and acids from human hands that can accelerate the tarnishing process," she reports.
For silver jewelry with a lot of intricate details that are hard to reach with a soft toothbrush, Carla Dillman, Director of Sourcing for The Artful Home and a former jewelry artist, recommends the following. "Line a glass baking dish with a layer of aluminum foil, then coat the bottom with a layer of sea salt, and fill the dish with hot water. This creates a sea salt bath in which you can submerge your silver pieces to remove tarnish. Rinse thoroughly with fresh warm water, and dry with a soft cloth." She uses this method to clean her Samantha Freeman "Pangolin Bracelet," as well as her silverware!
"If your silver piece has a pearl, you can use a commercial silver dip, but you have to apply the dip to the piece with a Q-Tip to keep it away from the pearl, and rinse it really thoroughly before drying," Christine MacKellar advises. "Make sure no cleaner remains on the jewelry because there is an ingredient in silver dips that actually acts as an oxidizer as well as a cleaner."
To help prevent silver jewelry from getting tarnished in the first place, she recommends storing it in a closed container such as a jewelry box, a plastic bag, or an anti-tarnish pouch to minimize exposure to air when it’s not being worn.
With most commercial jewelry cleaners designed to remove oxidation, oxidized metal (metal that has been deliberately darkened or colored through contact with oxygen) presents a cleaning dilemma. Fortunately, however, the solution is easy.
"You can just rinse the pieces off with soap and water," Lisa Ceccorulli says. "If you wear a piece of oxidized jewelry like a bracelet or a cuff all the time, and it gets bumped, it will start to burnish. You can have the piece re-oxidized in those cases, but basically the care of oxidized pieces is easy." Just be sure to rinse the piece thoroughly with fresh water and dry it with a soft cloth to prevent water spots from forming.
A matte finish is often applied to a piece when the jewelry artist wants subtle textures or fine details to be more visible. Highly reflective surfaces, such as those seen in high-polished jewelry, can obscure such details.
Over time, if a matte-finish ring is worn often, a soft sheen starts to develop simply from friction against the fingers or physical contact with things being held or gripped. Susan Barth says there’s a simple technique to bring back a matte finish if that occurs. "A small piece of the green coarse kitchen sponge, ScotchBrite, held between the thumb and forefinger and rubbed over the surface of the metal will soften the sheen and bring back a matte finish. It might have a slightly different appearance then when the piece was first bought, but overall, the look will be very similar." (Please note: ScotchBrite can be damaging to softer stones, so it is advisable to protect the stones by covering them with cellophane tape prior to buffing.)
For intricate pieces of jewelry, Jamie Cassavoy recommends this cleaning method: "Put some dry baking soda in the palm of your hand and rub the piece gently to remove tarnish." She has found this method to work well on every type of jewelry she has tried so far, even a piece with pearls. "You just have to make sure to get all the baking soda off when you’re done cleaning," she adds. To do so, she generally rinses the piece under warm water and dries it with a soft cloth.