Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Caring for Your Handmade Jewelry

When you want an individualized look, you wear handmade jewelry, but wearing these unique pieces of jewelry means you'll need to clean them as they are exposed to chemicals, the elements and the little messes of everyday life. Because handmade jewelry is so delicate, caring for it requires special measures. Keep your handcrafted jewelry clean and beautiful for years to come by following these simple steps for cleaning and storing unique jewelry. 
Clean regularly: The first step to maintaining the look and luster of your handcrafted jewelry is to clean it properly. The more often you wear something, the more often it will need to be cleaned, since wearing handmade bracelets or rings will introduce them to the oils from your skin and the chemicals of things you touch. Always use a cleaner that matches the main material of your jewelry; for example, cleaners for gold will not work on handmade silver jewelry because they are designed to clean and preserve a different metal. Also be careful of how you clean your jewelry. Handmade beaded jewelry and gemstone jewelry will need to be cleaned differently because of the presence of the beads and gems; generally, a jewelry cleaner should not touch the gems, as it can wear off the shiny polish or be absorbed by a porous stone. You can purchase these metal cleaners in liquid or paste form or you can use a jewelry cleaning machine to care for your unique jewelry. You can also use mildly sudsy warm water and pat your jewelry dry. More detailed cleaning info can be found below. 

Prevent damage: Your handmade necklaces and other jewelry will be easier to clean if they're not very dirty or scratched in the first place. It is a good idea to put jewelry on last when dressing and preparing for the day. This makes it less likely you will put your jewelry in contact with products such as lotions, hair spray and other cosmetics that may be damaging to the finishes.  Additionally, never wear your jewelry while swimming, sunbathing or cleaning; extensive exposure to saltwater, sunlight or harsh chemicals can permanently damage your handmade jewelry. There are damage-prevention tips for specific metals, too; for example, silver is a soft metal, so always remove your handmade silver jewelry before lifting heavy items or doing strenuous work that could potentially damage it. You may also wish to remove handmade beaded jewelry or gemstone jewelry in these situations to avoid having the beads or gems accidentally break off. Keep in mind that handmade jewelry is fragile and not usually meant to endure the beating that it sometimes receives. Taking special steps to prevent damage to your handcrafted jewelry pieces will ensure that you always look great wearing your favorite handmade earrings, bracelets, rings and necklaces. 

Store properly: When you're not wearing or cleaning your handmade jewelry, keep it safe from loss as well as tarnish and age in your jewelry box. Never store your silver handmade earrings or other silver jewelry pieces in the open air, as this will make them tarnish faster. Silver jewelry should always be stored separately from other jewelry in airtight plastic bags to prevent scratching from other jewelry and tarnishing from the moisture in the air. Silver handmade earrings often come with special plastic bags in the right size to protect them. Handmade necklaces and handmade bracelets made of silver can differ a lot, so be careful how you store them; pieces with lots of ornamentation shouldn't be stored with sleek and simple jewelry. Necklaces made of other metals that don't tarnish like silver should be hung to keep them from tangling. Bracelets and rings can be set in drawers, while earrings should have special posts or holders for the pins and clasps.

Additional Information: 

Do Not Place in Chemical Cleaners
This is only a partial list so if in doubt, don't:  Amber, Aquamarine, Coral, Emerald, Jade, Lapis Lazuli, Malachite, Opal, Pearls, Shell, Turquoise

Some Stones That Can Change In Sunlight
Amethyst - becomes paler
Ametrine - may become lighter or change colors
Aquamarine - becomes paler
Aventurine - some lighter varieties become paler
Beryl - brown/orange varieties may fade to pale pink
Celestite - becomes paler
Chrysoprase - becomes paler
Citrine - becomes paler/changes color
Hiddenite - becomes paler
Kunzite - becomes paler
Rose Quartz - becomes paler
Smoky Quartz - becomes paler


Traditional Sterling Silver, Fine Silver, and Gold

Traditional Sterling Silver, Fine Silver, and Gold can be cared for in pretty much the same way. You can use these methods to clean and polish traditional .925 sterling silver, .999 Fine Silver, Silver Filled, and 14 Karat Gold Filled, as well as karat gold:
  • Commercial silver/gold cleaners. Be sure that any stones in the jewelry can withstand the chemicals in the cleaner. Read the label, and if in doubt, do not use a chemical cleaner. Some gemstones that cannot be placed in most commercial jewelry cleaners are: pearls, lapis lazuli, malachite, opals, coral, turquoise, and others.  
  • Ammonia and water. Use a light solution of ammonia and water on a toothbrush or soft cloth, then rinse thoroughly with water. Ammonia should not be used on the same types of gemstones that should not be used with commercial cleaners 
  • Jewelry polishing cloth or sunshine cloth. Use lightly to restore luster. Note: Do not press hard when polishing 14 karat gold filled so that you do not damage the gold surface. 
  • Additionally, tarnish can be decreased by storing your jewelry in the resealable plastic bag included with each piece, or in a commercial jewelry bag with anti-tarnish papers. Pearls and opals, however, should not be stored in plastic because they need to "breathe."


Copper and Brass

Surprisingly enough, copper and brass are also very simple to care for. While they do tarnish more quickly than sterling silver, they can be restored to their original shine easily. Methods for cleaning and shining copper and brass jewelry are:
  • Commercial copper/brass cleaner. Again, be sure that any stones in the jewelry can withstand the chemicals in the cleaner or do not use it.
  • Worcestershire sauce. As unlikely as it sounds, the acid in the tomato in Worcestershire sauce does a great job of cleaning copper and brass jewelry. This method should not be used with gemstones or pearls that cannot be cleaned with chemical cleaners, as the acid in the tomato of the Worcestershire may affect more delicate stones.
  • Ketchup. The acid in the tomato of the ketchup shines up copper and brass quite nicely. This method is somewhat messier than the Worcestershire sauce, though. Apply it with a toothbrush or soft cloth, then rinse thoroughly. Avoid getting ketchup on the same types of stones as should not be used with chemical cleaners. I'm not sure about it, but I expect the acid in the tomato might affect more delicate stones.
  • Another kitchen cleaner method for copper and brass is a combination of water, lemon or lime juice and salt. Add a few drops of lemon or lime juice to a container of water, then add a teaspoon of salt and stir gently. Place the jewelry in the solution for a few minutes, then remove and rinse thoroughly. If needed, the dip in the solution can be repeated. Again, this method should not be used with gemstones or pearls that cannot be cleaned with chemical cleaners.
  • As with sterling silver, copper and brass jewelry will tarnish slower if stored in a re-closeable plastic bag or jewelry case with anti-tarnish paper.


Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls, whether they're natural or cultured, possess a soft surface which can easily be scratched or damaged. It's imperative that you keep your pearl jewelry separate from other jewelries. It's also better to place them inside a pouch rather than a jewelry box because the latter's surface can also cause nicks to appear in pearl jewelry.

The acidity level of a woman's skin may affect the wearing life of pearl jewelry. If a pearl necklace is constantly being worn by a woman with a particularly high level of acidity in her skin, the acidity will gradually seep into the pearl, affecting its luster and shape. To prevent this from happening too soon, you should always polish your pearls with a non-abrasive cloth after taking them off.

Be careful about exposing pearl jewelry to chemicals. Spraying perfume while you're wearing your pearl necklace can cause considerable damage to them over time. You must also avoid spilling any liquid on them, especially when it has rather strong properties such as lemon and vinegar.

Heat can also cause damage to pearl jewelry. If you persist in wearing your pearl jewelry in hot and humid weather, the climate can change the color of your pearls or worse, cause cracks to appear on the surface. Dry unmoving air is also bad for your pearls.

Make sure that you are using only jewelry cleaners specifically intended for pearl cleaning and nothing else. You can not steam-clean pearls either. If you wish to preserve the luster of your pearls, you can use a drop of olive oil on them.

Pearl jewelry is amazing to possess not only because of its natural beauty but also because of the amount of hard work put into them. Hard work by humans and nature combined.

Remember:  for specific info and suggested care about any of my pieces, you can always ask me :) DMDesigns

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