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Caring For Antique Jewelry And Metals

Jun 25, 2008
Jewelry and other metals are an important part of most antique collections. Many pieces of jewelry have been handed down from generation to generation as family heirlooms, while others may have drawn attention at an auction or store window. Since a great deal of antiques contain some type of metal, it is important to learn proper care techniques.

Gold is one of the most common type of metal found in antique jewelry. A karat rating is used to determine the true gold count in a piece, which also affects its softness or hardness. Although softer gold tarnishes the easiest, both types are prone to scratches. Abrasive cleaners should never be used to polish gold, especially if it contains gems or stones of any kind. For at-home cleaning, using a baby toothbrush dipped in warm, soapy water is ideal.

Silver should be kept in a cool, dark location and wrapped in acid-free paper for long-term storage. Jewelry that is silver-plated is less durable and great care should be taken not to remove the finish when cleaning. Silver should only be polished with a soft cloth, which should remove tarnish and add shine. It should never be soaked in water. For stubborn marks, professional jewelry cleaning is always an option for any type of jewelry.

Throughout the years, many design techniques have been used on silver antiques. Embossing creates raised details, such as flowers or patterns, by pushing the shape out from the inside. Piercing, a method of producing parallel lines, originated in the 18th Century, while engraving requires the removal of silver pieces to create a detailed effect.

If the jewelry contains precious stones, the casings should be treated with extra care. In antique pieces, the casings sometimes weaken over time and the slightest movement can release a stone and significantly diminish the value of a piece.

Many antiques are made of pewter, which is composed mostly of tin. In earlier times, only the rich owned pewter pieces, although lead was usually added as a component. While pewter provides a unique, silver-type finish, it is susceptible to stains from certain foods and cannot be used at high temperatures.

Pewter requires little cleaning, since it doesn't tarnish. Depending on the finish of a particular piece, various polishing techniques are used. The shiny finish of polished pewter only needs to be cleaned once or twice per year, using a soft-cloth and commercial polish. Satin pewter contains a duller finish and can be cleaned with soap and warm water, as can the dark finish of oxidized pewter.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for pottery, antiques, and figurines. When shopping for pottery, antiques and figurines, we recommend these online stores for pottery, antique jewelry, and figurines.
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