How To Care For Your Jewellery

Posted by Katie Gowers on

Jewellery can make us feel special. Whether a family heirloom or costume jewellery it can give us confidence and add a splash of personality to our outfits.

Like so many others I used to abuse my jewellery horribly until I started to make it professionally and realised the damage I was doing!

I’d get home from work, tired and hungry, and put my jewellery on the window sill in the bathroom. Often in a pile of other similarly discarded jewellery.

What I didn’t realise was that I was damaging my jewellery and that as a result it wouldn’t look as great or last as long.

Don’t fall in to these simple mistakes, like I did.

There are some really simple things to do that will keep it safe and sparkling (and it’s not all about tidying up).Jewellery gift box

Keep it safe while you aren’t wearing it

Leaving jewellery lying around leaves it open to knocks, being dropped on the floor and exposure to moisture, sunlight and air.

Sunlight can dull bright colours and make plastics brittle and exposure to moisture and chemicals can cause tarnish, discolouration or damage to metals and gemstones.

So the bathroom window sill is not ideal (in fact along with the kitchen sink it’s pretty much the worst place). Avoid these at all costs.

However, before we go any further I have to say something.

It is really important that you don’t carefully pack your jewellery away safe but never worn.

Jewellery is made to be worn.

To shine in the light. To bring you confidence and joy.

It is not for keeping in a dusty box under your bed never to see the light of day.

I’d rather your kept it on the bathroom window sill!

So, the storage solution needs to be something that works for you and your jewellery.

I’m not one to prescribe a one stop solution to your jewellery storage.

I will however give you the key things to look for and consider and some suggestions.

Jewellery often comes in gift boxes and these are a good way to protect your jewellery. The downside is that they can often take up a lot of space and be a bit awkward to look through.

A jewellery box can work really well. All of your jewellery is in one place and protected.

It is easy to see your pieces and choose what you want to wear today. Be careful though that things don’t get tangled up.

If this is a perfect excuse to buy a beautiful jewellery box – who am I to stop you!

There are however cheaper solutions, particularly if we aren’t talking about protecting family heirlooms.

Acid free tissue paper (which you can buy easily online or in craft stores) will protect jewellery from small bumps and will stop exposure to air, moisture and chemicals so will reduce tarnish.

Acid Free Tissue Paper

  

 

Even sandwich bags will protect your items, keep them separate and untangled and you can still see everything so can easily choose the pieces you want to wear.

A plastic clip top box in your sock drawer with your jewellery wrapped safely in tissue paper or sandwich bags is going to be as effective as any jewellery box.

As I say you need to find a solution that works for you.

Some things to keep in mind when choosing somewhere to store your jewellery:

  • not locked away never to be worn
  • out of direct sunlight
  • low humidity (not on the kitchen windowsill or bathroom sink)
  • where it won’t get knocked or tangled with other jewellery
  • where it won’t be exposed to chemicals (for example cleaning products or soap)

 

Protecting your jewellery when you are wearing it

So, you have chosen a necklace to wear on a date night and it’s beautiful.

While it’s around your neck it surely can’t be exposed to damage, right? I’m afraid not!

Many cosmetics contain chemicals that can damage jewellery.

Again, we aren’t talking immediately recognisable damage but a slow build up over time can damage even the most precious metals and gemstones.

The good news is that, now you know, there are some very simple steps to reduce this damage.

One of the easiest ways is to apply all cosmetics before you put your jewellery on.

Yeah, it’s as simple as that.

This will help to reduce the exposure and therefore the impact.

The same applies to cleaning products – if you are cleaning remove rings and bracelets or protect them with gloves.

Try to avoid exposing your jewellery to the following (and anything similar):

  • moisturiser
  • perfume
  • makeup including foundation
  • shampoo, conditioner and shower gel
  • hair dye
  • fake tan
  • cleaning products
  • chlorine (for example in swimming pools)

Makeup bag with cosmetics

I’m not suggesting you don’t use these items, just that you keep jewellery out of the way whilst you do.

Exposure once is unlikely to damage your jewellery in any obvious way but if it builds up over time you may see tarnishing or damage accumulate.

Putting your jewellery on last when you get ready and taking it off for cleaning, swimming and showers etc. will all help to keep it looking beautiful.

If you swim often (or need to take your jewellery off for other reasons whilst out and about) it might be worth having a dedicated safe place to put it in your bag.

I have a small fabric purse in my bag which offers some padding and keeps my necklaces and rings safe.

 

Every day and special occasion jewellery

It’s important to understand what your jewellery was designed for.

Is it an heirloom designed to be worn every day for generations?

Some jewellery is designed to last a lifetime. The properties of the materials have been carefully considered and taken in to account when the piece was designed.

If you look after it, it will be around for your grandchildren.

Some jewellery is for special occasions – designed to make a huge impact but maybe not made for knocks every day.

Some of the pieces you see on the red carpets or fashion shows are stunning but wouldn’t be practical in everyday life.

Some jewellery is designed for everyday wear, but the materials used will eventually be worn down and won’t last forever (organic materials such as leather may fall in to this category).

Some jewellery is beautiful but is made from cheaper materials such as base metals, plastics or paste gemstones.

It can be useful to understand where your jewellery pieces lie in this range. I’m not saying any is better than another.

It depends on what you want from your jewellery and what you can afford to spend on it.

Can you be comfortable wearing something every day and have the confidence that it will survive the stresses it is exposed to?

Is a piece of jewellery beautiful and brings you joy but isn’t going to last forever?

If so, this isn’t a problem – you understand that this is the case and can move on when that day arrives, and it can’t keep going. It still brought you joy!

When you buy jewellery, it is important to read the description and understand what materials have been used.

This could affect how you look after the piece and how long you can expect it to last. It might also affect how much you are willing to pay for it.

We don’t all have the budget to buy diamond rings every week (if only) but we can make good decisions about what we do buy with a little knowledge about the materials and design.

If buying in a store, ask questions and do some research before handing over your hard-earned cash!

If buying handmade items online (for example in an Etsy store) and it isn’t clear, then please don’t hesitate to contact the maker/ seller and ask questions.

In my experience, people who dedicate their life to making beautiful handmade items are passionate about what they do and will happily answer any questions that will help you to feel comfortable.

 

Some specifics

There are so many materials that you can use to make jewellery from. I have included some very general advice below for a few but it is not exhaustive by any means.

Gemstones

Different gemstones have different properties – some are very susceptible to damage from acid (so you need to be careful what you use to clean them). Whilst others might be fragile and more likely to be damaged from being knocked.

This topic is a blog post (or ten) in its own right.

There is a lot of information online but if in any doubt go and talk to a jeweller and get some advice.

Gemstone jewellery set

Gemstone jewellery set in store now

Gold

Gold is a relatively soft metal and can scratch easily so keep it somewhere safe and protected from other pieces.

It can also be dulled with exposure to chemicals and cosmetics.

You can buy sprays and cloths for cleaning and polishing gold at home.

If you are concerned about the impact of cleaning for example on gemstones in the piece, ask a jeweller for advice.

Sterling silver

Sterling silver is made of 92.5 % silver and 7.5 % of other metals including copper.

It will tarnish (lose its shine and eventually start to turn an orange hue) over time.

This isn’t a manufacturing fault but is due to the copper reacting to moisture and chemicals in the air.

The good news is it isn’t permanent and is completely manageable.

You can reduce the amount silver tarnishes by following the general advice above – keeping it away from moisture, chemicals and reducing exposure to air when you aren’t wearing it will all help.

Even if you do all of this it may start to lose its shine, but this is easily remedied with silver polishing cloth which will help to remove the tarnish and protect it longer.

Silver Polishing Cloth

  

 

It is important to consider the impacts of different cleaning methods on your piece if there are other materials like gemstones or plastics.

As always, if in doubt ask a jeweller for advice.

Plated jewellery

Some jewellery is made from base metals plated with gold and silver.

These can make lovely cheap alternatives to sterling silver or gold jewellery, but you need to take care not to damage the top layers and expose the base metal below.

If they start to dull you can gently clean with a soft polishing cloth.

Pearls

Pearls are quite delicate and are susceptible to damage from heat and chemicals. They should also be protected from knocks and bumps.

If you notice any sign of damage to pearls, then you might want to consider having them restrung – talk to a jeweller about the best course of action.

Fabrics and textiles

Keep away from water and chemicals and if they do get wet dry naturally (don’t heat it up or you might distort the piece or affect any adhesives).

Store safely and keep away from sharp objects which might catch strands and damage the fabric.

They can also be stained so care should be taken for example when applying cosmetics (fake tan, foundation and even moisturiser).

Fabrics are sometimes attached to clasps and other items in the piece using adhesives.

Care should be taken not to put too much pressure on these connections or expose to chemicals as this can weaken the adhesive bond.

Plastics

Plastics are often used in modern jewellery and include acrylic, resin and polymer clay.

They can be damaged by exposure to sunlight and chemicals which will weaken them and could eventually make them brittle.

They should also be kept away from too much heat – so definitely don’t keep them on a windowsill in bright sunlight or on a radiator. At best they could discolour or distort, at worst they could start to melt!

Leather

Keep leather away from water and chemicals like chlorine as it can dramatically reduce its lifespan.

Leather is a relatively soft material so will break down over time.

Keeping it dry and safe between wears will help but it is unlikely to last forever.

So, wear it and love it and be aware it isn’t going to last forever but while it’s with you it can still bring joy.

 

Have you got any top tips?

Do you have some fab ways to safely store your jewellery? Do you do any of things mention in the article? Are you going to change the way you look after your jewellery?

Let us know in the comments.

Sign off for Katie at Katie Gowers Design

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