Caring for Vintage Jewelry

You consider yourself very lucky if you have some heirloom, vintage jewelry handed down over the generations. Even one piece is precious. But any vintage jewelry must be cared for.

If a piece has amassed soil or dirt on it, try the following. Soiled items you can use a mixture of baking soda and water, gently scrubbing with a toothbrush, but never use dish soap or abrasive scrubbing pads as they can damage jewelry. Paste stones and plated items can especially be damaged by chemicals and aggressive scrubbing. Rinse with cool water and buff dry with a clean cloth.

If the piece needs polishing to shine, A flannel or microfiber polishing cloth should remove tarnish easily from most pieces. Use a toothpick or your fingernail to push the cloth into tiny cervices and details in the metal work. Soak your pure silver bracelets, rings, and other jewelry in a mixture of 1/2 cup white vinegar and 2 tablespoons baking soda for two to three hours. Rinse them under cold water and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth. For antique pieces of sterling silver jewelry a tiny bit of tarnish in the crevices brings the detail forward and keeps some of the patina of time on the piece. Never soaking pieces in harsh chemicals which can remove this valuable element.

Keep with silver or metal polishing cream to make sterling silver jewelry sparkle, carefully avoiding stones. You could use toothpaste or other compounds, but silver polish is best for most pieces. Make sure plating is in place before you begin polishing your pieces. You should also make sure that all lacquer or adhesives are in place before you start, testing stones with finger pressure.

If there are loose stones, proceed with caution or take your piece to a professional jeweler as cleaning can cause them to fall out completely. If a stone is lost, it can be a hassle to replace a 100-year-old stone since the cuts and colors today are often so different.

Not sure if the rhinestones are vintage, older rhinestones are made of glass or crystal, not plastic. If you gently tap it on a hard surface and it doesn’t clink, it’s not that old. The setting just looks vintage.

Never try to bring Bakelite jewelry to its original color by abrasion as some pieces can release asbestos or other chemicals.

Check over your family jewelry heirlooms.

Photo: A family heirloom necklace ca 1880s

Related Blogs:

Heirloom Jewelry Boxes

Mourning Jewelry

Family Lockets

< Return To Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.