USEFUL TIPS FOR CLEANING ANTIQUE JEWELLERY
PHOTOGRAPHS of all your jewellery are a thousand times more useful than a worded description in a police report. They don’t have to be top quality pictures like an instore catalogue, just good enough to identify them in a line-up. This has proven to be the single, most important thing you can do, to recover your valuables. That’s it! My top anti-burglary and insurance claim tip.
The Care and Cleaning of Gold, Silver and Platinum
Gold and silver are malleable and ductile, chemically stable by themselves and can be recycled and remodelled into a multitude of items. Gold retains its lustre over prolonged periods and will not chip, flake or corrode. Highly polished silver is the best reflector of light and retains its strength despite distortion. Unfortunately, this does not mean that either of them are indestructible.
– Gold is measured in carats and is an indication of its purity. Most of us discover the importance of gold ranges when we get married, and the choices are usually from 9 carats (9ct), 18ct, 22ct and 24ct. However, the purer the gold, the softer it is, until, in its purest form of 24 carats, it becomes one of the softest metals known.
|Purer gold scratches and buckles easily with any kind of abrasion or force and so is best removed to do work which might damage it. Equally, several rings on the same finger can often be the cause of a ring suffering deep scratches or wear, particularly if they are of different carats and perhaps one or more containing even harder substances like diamonds.|
Surprisingly enough, most gold jewellery can be cleaned in warm soapy water, and any angular areas around stones or the back of the item, which may be indented, can be reached with an old soft toothbrush, dipped in the soapy solution. Gold also responds to a light rubbing with a rouge-impregnated cloth, which gives it a shine, available in most supermarkets, but high carat golds shouldn’t need it.
18ct gold and higher, will not usually suffer from discolouration or tarnish and isn’t harmed by contact with household chemicals. However, bleach and other cleaning products WILL damage lower carat golds as they aren’t so pure (being alloys of metals) and are therefore much more prone to attack by corrosive chemicals.
When putting silver into storage, it’s not necessary to clean or polish it. After prolonged storage, it will need cleaning anyway. Don’t use ordinary newspaper to wrap the silver, nor use elastic bands to bind several pieces together. After a while the rubber will bond to the silver as the band deteriorates and rots, leaving a stain, as will newspaper. Instead, use acid-free paper to wrap items and store where it’s not damp.
Slightly tarnished sterling silver will easily renew to a bright polish by simply rubbing or buffing with a soft cloth. When an item is heavily tarnished then a proprietary silver cleaning solution, such as Goddard’s Silver Dip will always do the trick.
|To remove heavy tarnish there are many liquids and creams available that are rubbed or smeared on and polished off again with a soft cloth. Many have names that include the terms, “long term”, “tarnish resistant” or “long shine”. This means they contain a chemical that leaves a protective layer on the silver, which reduces its direct contact with the air. Cutlery should therefore be washed thoroughly before use.|
A WARNING ABOUT SILVER PLATE! Always use the least abrasive option when dealing with silver plate. Over enthusiastic rubbing will remove the silver to reveal the base metal, especially on external corners and the rims of lids etc. Any trip to any antiques fair will reveal many, many items that have suffered this fairly tragic fate, which can be expensive to repair.
The Care and Cleaning of Diamonds and Gemstones
Perhaps the most important thing to bear in mind here is the potential for loss. Always use a bowl of water to clean your jewellery, not the sink. If you stand the bowl in the sink, put the plug in first, and don’t remove it again until you’re sure you’ve got all the pieces you started with. It might sound obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how much jewellery goes down the drain!
Firstly, check the gemstone or diamond is secure in its claw mounting. Hold the item in one hand and use a fingernail to just touch the diamond. If it’s loose you’ll see it rock or move. This will need to be repaired by your jeweller first, who will tighten the claws. An old soft toothbrush and warm soapy water is ideal to remove the grease, dust, grit and dead skin that fills the gaps and indentations around the stone anchors of a ring or other item of jewellery. This works equally well for almost all types of gemstone, including, ruby, emerald and sapphire.
A gentle brush, even an artists brush is infinitely preferable to using a cloth from which threads can be snagged and pulled. If a thread gets caught in a claw, it can bend or weaken the grip of the claw and stones can be lost weeks or months later.
Once again check the stone for movement, just to make sure it wasn’t the dirt holding it in place. It should now be gleaming again with a nice new sparkle!
|BE AWARE! That some stones are quite ‘soft’ and others are particularly absorbent. Gemstones that fall into this category are; pearls, ivory, coral, turquoise, opal and amber. Care must be exercised when cleaning not to scratch them or leave them soaking. They are also best stored in separate compartments of a jewellery box.|
The Care and Cleaning of Pearls
Pearls are of particular concern because any damage usually results in discolouration and/or a reduction of lustre. They can be affected by perfume, hairspray, deodorant creams and sprays, makeup, skin lotions and nail polish remover. Put pearls on AFTER using any of these products and after sufficient drying time for sprays and creams. Just wipe your pearls off with a soft damp cloth before putting them away, so that any residue doesn’t remain to damage them in storage.
Whilst your jewellery is not being worn, it is best stored in a lined box or soft pouch, similar too, if not the one you had, when the item was purchased. Necklaces shouldn’t be allowed to become tangled and metal or diamonds can easily scratch other metals or plate, just by being next to each other.
This can ruin or dull a polished surface very quickly, with the obvious disappointment and loss in value that will be the result.
I also would advise against wearing your jewellery whilst gardening, doing housework, or playing any kind of sport, in particular swimming. Jewellery is particularly susceptible to damage from the effects of chemicals present in perfume, hairspray, nail polish remover and deodorant.
If a lost ring or earring is trodden into the lawn, it can be a hundred years before it’s found. Likewise, rings can all too easily slip off soapy or sweaty hands and be lost forever.
Your local swimming baths are especially destructive to expensive jewellery as the chlorine found in the water can cause surface damage. Gold and silver hate chlorine which was an active ingredient introduced during the refining process to separate the base metals in the melting crucible.
I apologise to our American friends who will object to my spelling of jewelry as jewellery. We must, in this instance, agree to differ and blame it on the pond. Thanks 🙂
There is a huge variety of antique and specialist books by UK and world authors covering all aspects of antiques whether you are an experienced collector or just starting out.