Sunday, August 16, 2009

Care of Antique Jewelry

Care & Cleaning of Antique Jewelry

Jewelry which is open backed (usually made after 1840) can often be cleaned using a mild jewelry cleaner or even a window cleaning product that is based on ammonia and water. Often water alone is sufficient. A light rub with a soft, lint free cloth or a very soft old toothbrush used dry or in combination with these liquids can remove dirt and grease. However, opals, pearls, turquoise, and other soft and porous gems should never be cleaned in this manner. When in doubt please consult your local jeweler. We do not recommend ultrasonic cleaners for any antique jewelry.
Do not rub hard or use harsh fabrics as these can mar the surface of stones. Over time even wearing jewelry while sleeping can affect the surface of the stones. Be cautious about leaving jewelry in areas where the temperature is too extreme in either direction or is in direct sunlight for any period of time.
Jewelry should be stored in cotton or soft cloth and care should be taken that pieces do not knock against other pieces of jewelry. Storage in dry humid-free areas are best. Do not store at length in closed, air tight plastic bags or boxes. With a modicum of care, the jewelry you adore can last many more lifetimes to come.

Special Note for Georgian & Earlier Jewelry (Circa 1840 - prior)

Any jewelry which is closed back most likely has set stones which are foiled on the reverse. This is a metal coating that allows the stone to reflect more light. No closed back jewelry should ever be placed in water or left on the hands while washing or engaging in any other activity where water may come in contact with the stones. Any tiny gap between the mount and the stone can let in moisture and the foiling can be spoiled and change color. Be careful wearing jewelry in heavy rain as well.
Never clean any early jewelry (those with closed backs) with water or any other liquid. Use only the softest toothbrush to very gently brush away dust or old dirt. You may also use a very soft, lint free cloth to clean the surface of stones and gold and silver. Silver cloths for silver mounted jewelry or gold and silver treated cloths are fine as well to use for metal areas. Eyeglass cloths are ideal for removing light grease and dirt.


If repairs are needed, make sure the person(s) you choose has a good deal of experience with antique jewelry before entrusting pieces to their care. Don't be afraid to ask questions about their level of confidence with antique jewelry. Often, the older the piece of jewelry the more expertise is required to restore or repair the item.

1 comment:

  1. Very informative and well written. I look forward to the next post! Kudos.