Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Caring for Your Handcrafted Jewellery

Written on My Heart
Fine Silver Pendant
With proper care, your individually handcrafted artisan jewellery should bring you years of pleasure. Care for precious materials means keeping your jewellery in good condition - free of dirt, cosmetics, hair spray, perfume, and perspiration - which is easier said than done

Unfortunately there is no single safe way to clean every type of gemstone or piece of jewellery. The best advice is to only buy the very best quality jewellery you can afford - some inexpensive pieces may sound like a bargain, but you must check that they are not poorly made, or made with inferior materials. Artisan pieces will often be supplied with specific care guidelines, but here are 20 general tips to ensure you get lasting pleasure from your handcrafted jewellery



1. First of all, look at the way your jewellery is made, and at what stones and materials the jewellery is made from. Gold, silver, and platinum are very soft metals, while quartz, the stone that makes up sand, is actually two or three times as hard - this means that the precious metal in your jewellery is softer than sand, and is therefore easily scratched. Softer gemstones are also easily damaged - including coral, lapis lazuli, opal, pearl, and turquoise. Delicate or ornate filigree patterns can catch on clothing and will need more careful wearing than simpler, rounded shapes

2. Silver plated and gold-plated metals will not last as long as solid gold and silver, so if you want to extend the life of your fashion jewellery pieces made with plated metals, save them for special occasions instead of wearing them every day

3. Never wear your jewellery while showering, bathing, swimming or in the spa. Chlorine in pool water can damage many gemstones and precious metals

Woodland Jade & Swarovski Crystal Necklace
4. Avoid wearing jewellery, especially rings, when doing physical work such as household chores, cleaning, gardening or performing sports activities. As I've already mentioned, silver and gold are soft metals that are easily scratched, while the silver and gold coating on plated metals can wear off. Detergent can cause a film to build up on the surface of rings, which can become difficult to clean, and some can actually damage your jewellery. Humidity and chemicals can oxidize the metal of your jewellery or ruin the finish of stones, abrasive materials can scratch and discolour metal, and gemstones can be damaged or knocked out. Perspiration tarnishes silver and  dulls the colour of coral, while strong smelling foods such as fish & onions can tarnish gold and silver

5. Always try to protect your jewellery from sharp blows, scratching, chemicals, sunlight and extremes of heat and cold

6. Never let your jewellery come into contact with nail polish removers, body lotion, sun tan lotion, perfume, hairspray, hair treatments, deodorant or cosmetics. Beauty products can affect jewellery, discolouring gold, making pearls turn yellow, and damaging amber and ivory and other porous stones. Always put your jewellery on after you have used your cosmetics and sprays

7. Wearing your jewellery regularly keeps solid gold and silver metals bright. But don't wear too many chains or bracelets at the same time as they may tangle and rub against each other causing scratches

Creamy Pearl Necklace
8. Be aware that many gemstones are treated with dye to enhance their natural colour or lustre, and this colour may leach out and stain your clothing if the jewellery gets wet. Porous stones such as pearls, jade, jet, lapis lazuli, emeralds, opals & turquoise should never be immersed in water or the stone might discolour or be completely ruined

9. Heat and hot water can loosen settings where an adhesive has been used. Pearl rings, earrings and pendants have this type of setting so be very careful with them. Emeralds, coral and jade are often oil treated and washing will strip the gemstone of these oils, which will also affect their colour

10. Many stones can be damaged by sunlight: amethyst, aquamarine, smoky quartz, rose quartz and kunzite are all prone to fading, while ametrine and citrine may change colour; brown or orange beryl may turn pale pink, and translucent aventurine may lose its colour completely

11. Remove your jewellery before going to bed!  Sleeping in your jewellery adds extra stress to chains and delicate items, and can shorten the life of your precious pieces

12. Clean your jewellery now and then. If you are an organised person, a quick wipe with a clean, soft cotton cloth before and after use will ensure that your jewellery is always clean and ready to wear. Warm soapy water and an old soft toothbrush is ideal for cleaning hard stones such as diamonds, garnets, sapphires, rubies and amethysts. If you're careful, amber can also be cleaned this way, provided you dry it straight away afterwards. Pearls, jet, lapis, emeralds, opals, turquoise, coral & jade should never be cleaned with water

Silver & Gold
Half Persian Chain Maille Bracelet
13. Use jewellery cleaning liquid with caution and read the instructions carefully before use. Soft gemstones, and any materials that cannot be cleaned with water, should never ever be put into any cleaning solution. I found this out to my cost when I tried to clean an old pair of lapiz lazuli silver earrings in some silver dip, and the stones disintegrated

14. Store your jewellery in a soft lined box or pouch when not in use, to reduce the chances of scratching the metal or cracking gemstones. Try to keep pieces apart, so that they don't tangle or rub against each other

15. Never store pearls in plastic bags, they should be stored in a silk pouch. Sterling silver jewellery can be stored in air-tight or zip-lock bags to keep it looking bright for longer. Store beaded necklaces flat, preferably in a silk pouch

16. Check strings of pearls for any sign of wear, and if you have any concerns or if your string of pearls breaks, take them to a professional jeweller to be restrung. When buying pearl necklaces and bracelets, always look for pieces that are knotted between each bead, so that if the string breaks you won't lose many beads

17. Remove your rings before washing your hands and using cream, and don't put your rings on the wash basin when you take them off. Put them in a pouch in your handbag or purse, so you don't accidentally drop them down the plug hole or lose them

18. Check gemstone jewellery regularly to ensure that mounted stones are not loose and do not rattle. If they do, take them to a professional jeweller as it's much cheaper to have the prongs repaired than to replace a gemstone. Don't forget that the prongs of a ring can and do wear down, and if they wear down too much or break, you might lose the stone. Jewellers can "retip" the prongs to keep the stone secure

Fine Silver Daisy Pendant
19. Most metals will oxidise with prolonged exposure to the air. Gold, sterling silver and copper can be cleaned with a metal polishing cloth. Liquid cleaners should only be used on entirely silver pieces as these may damage gemstone or glass beads

20. If you are certain your jewellery does not contain any porous stones, you can try this inexpensive way to clean tarnished sterling silver jewellery. Pour some just-boiled water into a clean, disposable aluminium container (the kind you get your Chinese takeaway in), then stir in two teaspoons of baking soda. Drop the jewellery into the solution, leave it sitting on the bottom of the container for a minute or two, then remove, rinse in clean water and dry thoroughly. Repeat if necessary



© Erika Price . All rights reserved.