Just as it is gorgeous, antique jewelry can often be delicate and require special care when cleaning and storing. Remember that whether given to you by a family member or purchased at an antique jewelry online store, antique jewelry has survived long enough to be yours partly due to proper care, the same care that will make it possible for you to pass it down to further generations.
Below are some of the most important aspect any jewelry owner should follow for a proper antique and vintage jewelry cleaning, care and storage. Also, look for specialized and professional help if you have any questions.
Cleaning Antique Jewelry
When cleaning your antique jewelry pieces, bear in mind that it is always better to under-clean something than to over-clean it. An item can always be cleaned a second time, but it is difficult to replace broken enamel or a destroyed paste stone.
It is fine to gently scrub a diamond and gold ring with a soft toothbrush in warm, soapy water. But pearl, opals, cameos and emeralds should never be scrubbed with a brush, immersed in water or any type of jewelry cleaner. If the jewelry has painted accents, it should not be placed in water either, as the paint will be destroyed.
Be careful with an ultrasonic cleaner. The vibrations easily loosen stones and break delicate filigree. You should also be wary of store-bought dip solutions: they contain harsh chemicals that can strip away the beauty of an old piece.
Caring for Antique Jewelry
Keep an eye on your jewelry. Pay special attention to the settings around your stones. The moment you notice that a stone is loose, take it to your jeweler for repair. When choosing a jeweler, find one that is familiar with the intricacies of antiques. Few jewelers are skilled at taking care of old pieces and your beautiful antique may come home with a bad repair that devalues or destroys it.
To avoid losing a piece down the drain, it’s recommended to use a small jar for your cleaning solution and fresh water. It is not uncommon to have dirt and grime be the only thing holding the stone into an old setting, so keep your eyes open while cleaning.
Storing Antique Jewelry
Don’t dump your antique pieces into a pile on your dresser. Jewelry boxes aren’t just decorative furniture; they feature slots and fabric-lined compartments to securely hold expensive pieces of jewelry. Compartments and slots keep each piece separate from the others, which prevents scratches and other damage. If you have a lot of sterling silver jewelry, you may want to invest in an anti-tarnish jewelry box.
Storing in plastic bags is not recommended as moisture can be trapped inside the bag and possibly cause damage.
Finally, it’s important to keep antique jewelry away from perfumes, hairspray, makeup or any moisture that can compromise the jewel integrity.