Have your favourite pieces of jewellery lost their sparkle? Are they looking more grotty than glam? Then read on for some quick and easy jewellery cleaning tips to keep your gold, gold plated and silver jewellery looking its beautiful best.
Cleaning your jewellery isn’t difficult and yet it’s something we often forget to do. This is one of those things that it really is better to do little and often. However don’t worry, you don’t need to invest in expensive jewellery cleaning dips and special equipment, a few simple house household items will do the job just as well.
The first thing to say is that prevention is much better than cure….I know, I know, that’s not what you want to hear, but honestly….if you can take half an hour every now and again to give your jewels a thorough clean it’s much easier than having to clean pieces that are seriously dirty and tarnished.
Secondly, putting a bit of effort into looking after your jewellery will really extend its life which means you’ll be wearing those favourite pieces for years to come. In the words of the great Vivienne Westwood “buy less, choose well and make it last”, something that always makes sense when it comes to jewellery.
How do I clean my silver jewellery?
If you’re wondering why your silver jewellery eventually turns black, it’s because the silver reacts with the oxygen, sulfur dioxide and moisture in the air to produce a thin layer of tarnish. This deposit of tarnish affects the top few layers of the metal only and can quickly appear if your jewellery is not stored properly in a cool, dry place.
Even with careful storage, silver can dull over time so to give it back its shine try this simple solution. Take a bowl of warm water and add a few drops of liquid soap (not the antibacterial kind as this can cause problems with the metal) then immerse your pieces of jewellery in it for 10-15 minutes to loosen the dirt. Next take a soft cloth and work it gently all over the piece before rinsing in clean water. If you need to get into hard to reach cracks and crevices like a necklace or bracelet chain then a soft toothbrush can work wonders.
If the soap and water approach isn’t enough to shift the grime then try mixing one part bicarbonate of soda with 3 parts water to make a thin paste (as above). Dip your piece in water then very gently rub the paste into it using a soft cloth before again rinsing in clean water. The slightly abrasive texture of the paste will help to lift the dirt, but do use with caution to avoid damaging your jewellery. In both cases make sure you thoroughly dry the piece before storing it again or the tarnish will quickly re-appear.
I’m not a huge fan of silver dips (where you immerse your jewellery in a tub containing a special solution) as I find them quite harsh and unpleasant to use, but another option for silver jewellery is to invest in a special cleaning cloth, like these ones from Town Talk and available at John Lewis They are about £5 each (there's a different version for silver and gold) and not only will they clean up your jewellery nicely, but they are also impregnated with a special anti-tarnishing agent which will help to keep your jewellery looking shinier for longer.
A word of warning…do not use any of the methods above on oxidised silver jewellery or you risk damaging it for good! If the piece is very dirty, for example around an ear post or chain fastening then use a supersoft cloth to gently remove the grime, otherwise leave well alone or you’ll remove the surface colour permanently.
How should I clean my gold jewellery?
Gold jewellery can be cleaned exactly as per the first method outlined above – by using a few drops of liquid soap in some warm water and working a soft lint-free cloth and/or a toothbrush over the piece.
Gold plated jewellery however, requires a different approach. Gold plated pieces have a thin coating of gold over the top of another metal (I use silver, but gold-plated brass is also popular) and so care must be taken not to damage the surface and remove the gold layer when cleaning. In this case, prevention really is better than cure so remove your gold plated jewellery before going to bed and give it a quick once over with a cotton ball or soft lens cloth to get rid of any grime that’s build up over the course of the day.
When you put your pieces back on in the morning, make sure that it’s after you shower and apply any perfumes and body lotions which can damage gold plated pieces through direct contact. Gold plating does wear off over time and so if you need a piece re-plated do contact your jeweller to see if they can help. This is a service I offer my customers for a small fee so if you own a piece of my jewellery and would like it gold plated again then please do get in touch.
Can I clean my gemstone jewellery in the same way as pieces without stones?
Gold and silver jewellery that incorporates gemstones, can be cleaned by soaking briefly in some carbonated water and then gently working the piece with a cloth or toothbrush to restore their sparkle. Don’t immerse any strung beads (such as pearls) in water as this will weaken the string and make it more likely to break. Avoid water completely if you’re cleaning costume jewellery as it will affect the adhesive used to secure the stones which pay result in them popping off.
I hope you’ve found those tips useful. By taking care of your pieces every time you wear them you will help to keep them looking their best for longer so remember to: Remove your jewellery when showering or swimming
Avoid contact with perfumes and lotions and anti-bacterial hand gel/sanitizer
Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight
Minimise contact with other pieces by using a jewellery box with compartments or individual bags to reduce the likelihood of scratching (if you’re stuck for ideas on this you might enjoy my blog post 4 simple ideas for storing your jewellery)
Elin Horgan is a designer & maker of beautifully simple handmade jewellery, crafted from sustainable materials in her Bristol studio.