As a jewelry designer I'm frequently asked by customers and friends for tips on how to care for jewelry. While some metals like tungsten and titanium barely oxidize or get scratches the majority of jewelry is made from metals that can oxidize, scratch, tarnish, and otherwise show signs of wear if not cared for properly. As someone who has worked with a wide variety of types of metals and jewelry finishes I do have the following tips that can help you keep your jewelry looking good as new if you follow them:
- Avoid chemicals (e.g. hairspray, household cleaning products, perfume)
- Don't shower or bath while wearing your jewelry
- Don't swim with your jewelry on
- Minimize exposure to sweat by removing jewelry before exercising
- Dry jewelry carefully before putting it away
- Giving jewelry a gentle swipe with a soft polishing cloth to remove oils
- Store jewelry in a soft pouch, acid free baggie or other dry spot.
- You may even wish to purchase a commercial anti-tarnish pouch or strips to store with your jewelry.
- Remove jewelry before going to bed to avoid potential damage, snagging, etc..
- This is a weird one, but avoid contact with most wood (unless a box is specifically designated for jewelry) A lot of wood can contain acids that can cause jewelry to tarnish.
TIPS FOR SPECIFIC METALS
Sometimes certain metals require some extra care. here's a few metals I work with often and my advice for taking care of them.
Sterling Silver Jewelry/ Oxidized Silver
Sometimes sterling silver jewelry has been intentionally oxidized by a designer to give it a more rustic or industrial look or to put emphasis on a texture or design in the metal. You DO NOT want to use silver polish to clean as it can remove the oxidation. Use a soft cloth to gently wipe off moisture only. At times you might wish to use a polishing cloth specifically if you've had a lot of grime build up but be aware that oxidation can wipe off with too much force, or lighten up on a piece you wear often. If your sterling is shinier be careful in choosing polishes and only use those specifically made for silver as it is a softer metal and can scratch easily.
Brass is often a very popular material for jewelry to be made out of since it is a much more affordable alternative to gold, and as opposed to plated jewelry there is no outer coating to wear off. It can tarnish and oxidized petty easily however. This isn't always a bad thing. Brass jewelry that has oxidized can often take on a lovely vintage looking patina, giving jewelry an antiqued heirloom look. If you prefer your brass shiny and new however use brass polish or a polishing cloth to shine it right up. For solid brass jewelry that has an excessive amount of tarnish you can sand it with super fine sandpaper (e.g. 2000 grit or if you can get your hands on jewelers polishing papers even better!) going in the same direction to bring back the original shinier color. I tend to like brass because it is so super easy to shine up.
IF YOU HAVE ALLERGIES
If you have a piece of jewelry you really love, but you find you have an allergy to there are a few things you can do. Some people find that simply coating the piece where it offends their skin with clear nail polish can serve as enough of a barrier for the metal to not irritate them. Or you can purchase a commercial product like jewelry shield to coat your jewelry. Sometimes it's not that you have an allergy to the metals at all but things like moisture or chemicals trapped between the metal and your skin can cause a rash, that "green tinge" or itchiness. Following the above mentioned list of tips can sometimes cut down on this.
EXTRA FUN LITTLE TIPS
- Store jewelry with chalk since the calk absorbs extra moisture
- Keep those silica packets that come in shoeboxes to store with jewelry. They absorb moisture too!
- Run necklace chains through a straw and then close the clasp to keep them from tangling.