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How to Care for Vintage Jewelry

Aug 9, 2008
Vintage jewelry looks great, but many pieces need particular care taken of them so that you don't damage the piece as you clean it. The wrong cleaner can leave a film on your vintage jewelry or even damage it.

Good old soap and water, for example, really don't do that well on jewelry of any sort. Soap leaves a film that can become apparent after several washings with it. Even if you don't notice it the first time, it's there. If soap and water is all you have, use a very, very small amount of soap, and dry the piece thoroughly. Many vintage pieces are subject to rust if left damp. Some stones may also be damaged by moisture remaining on them.

A polishing cloth, gently used, can be a much better choice. You can combine this with a soft, clean brush such as an unused makeup brush, to get into the crevices of the jewelry. It can be amazing how much dirt these simple tools can remove.

If your vintage jewelry piece is not silver or gold, or is plated, use these with caution. A polishing cloth can be a bit abrasive for some materials. On the plus side, even when they look filthy they keep on cleaning.

If the polishing cloth and brush aren't enough, a bit of Windex on a very soft brush can work wonders. This is a trick I learned working in a jewelry store, and it works well on old and new pieces. If any of the stones are glued in, or if the piece has enamel, you do need to be particularly careful about how you do this. The moisture can loosen glued down stones.

Before trying any of these tips, however, you need to be sure that it will stand up to that kind of cleaning. Wonderful as Windex can be for some pieces, it can be damaging to others. Pearls, opals and rhinestones, for example, can be very sensitive.

The nice thing about vintage jewelry is that a certain amount of dirt becomes the patina, and improves the overall vintage look of the piece. Don't overdo your cleaning efforts if you want your jewelry to have that vintage look. Even gentle cleaning can damage a vintage piece.

And perhaps as important as cleaning your vintage jewelry well is storing it carefully. Keep it neatly in your jewelry box, and not rubbing against other pieces of jewelry. Scratches are far harder to get rid of than dirt and can ruin a piece of vintage jewelry.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster runs http://www.findvintagejewelry.com/ for people interested in buying vintage jewelry. Find Victorian and Edwardian vintage jewelry on her site.
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