How to Make Your Old Jewelry Look Like New
And ensure any new purchases will stay shiny.
Jewelry is one of those things that we obsess over from afar via Pinterest, Instagram and by stealthily (we think) snapping a picture of a stranger’s finger at Whole Foods. But when it comes to the jewelry we actually own, it gets worn in the shower, to sleep, and is stuffed into makeup bags for travel (DON’T do the latter—we’ve learned from experience).
But then we visited Deirdre Maloney, co-founder of Capsule Show and BPMW agency and, when we commented of the shininess of her bling, she showed us her secret weapons: two contraptions that she uses to clean and care for her jewelry daily. In comparison, we frankly felt careless and lazy. And, okay, so we weren’t about to go out and purchase a professional grade steamer like she had, but we figured that tossing all our jewelry in the same bag and then shaking it around (which pretty much = our jewelry storage system), probably wasn’t the best way to treat items that we’ve forgone rent for. So we called in the experts who told us exactly what we should be doing when it comes to both fine and antique jewelry. May your rings always be shiny and bright.
Nadine Kahane, Founder and CEO of Stone & Strand, on caring for…
When You’re Buying a New Piece:
“There are two different aspects to quality: the materials used in a piece as well as the craftsmanship involved in its creation. When buying fine jewelry it’s important to know what you are buying and how to care for it. For example, anything that is gold plated will wear off over time, and for rings that are worn on a daily basis this can actually happen very quickly!
“Pay special attention to the stones used in a piece as certain stones; For example, opals are much softer than diamonds and can break relatively easily. This most likely won’t be a big deal if used in a pair of earrings or a necklace, but you don’t want to have a big opal in your engagement ring that you’ll be wearing on a daily basis.
“Craftsmanship can be trickier to evaluate when making a purchase, but attention to detail is key to look out for. Check for stones that feel loose, and turn the piece around to see what the finish on the back looks like.
“Finally, even the best made pieces will need some TLC every so often to keep them in good shape. Take the time to learn about the company’s repair policy if it is a purchase you’ll want to hold onto for a while!”
How to Store and Care for It Day-to-Day:
“The best way to care for fine jewelry is to keep it cool and dry. Take it off before you get in the shower, and try to prevent any lotions or sprays from coming into contact with it.
“Gold and diamond pieces can be washed gently with a toothbrush and soapy water, or you can find a stone-cleaning solution online. Remember to wash it in a bowl rather than in the sink—that’s a major accident just waiting to happen.
“Special care should be taken with gemstones, and a quick check on Google will tell you whether or not the stone can be washed in water.
“In an ideal world I would get my engagement ring professionally cleaned (they do this using an ultrasonic and steam technology to dislodge any debris) about once or twice a year, but in reality it usually ends up getting dunked in soapy water at home!
“Finally, store jewelry in a box or travel case that allows each piece to sit individually so that the pieces don’t end up scratching each other. A jewelry industry standard is to use tiny plastic bags for storage, and I usually do this when travelling to prevent everything from getting tangled. Not the most glamorous or sophisticated system, but highly effective and easy to do when packing late the night before a flight.”
What to Avoid:
“A lesser-known tip is that salty air can be especially harmful to rose-gold jewelry because of the copper alloy in it, so leave these pieces at home when heading to the beach.”
Rhianna Shennum, Co-founder of Bell & Bird, on caring for…
When You First Find a Piece:
“Always give a piece a very slow look on the front and back. Keep an eye out for poorly executed repairs that can compromise the wearability of the piece.
“When shopping for antiques, you should also consider authenticity. If an object was made to deceive, it could be executed very well. It could be the wrong faceting designs on a stone or prongs that are too sharp—but most telltale signs are learned with experience and study. An object that has been around for a hundred years or more will show signs of its age. Even a well cared for, rarely worn piece will reveal the passage of time—antique pieces have a softness that a freshly made piece cannot mimic. And of course, if something seems too good to be true, you must always question its authenticity.”
If a Vintage Piece Is in Bad Shape:
“If a piece seems to need more than a simple cleaning, it is best to take it to a professional who has a lot of experience with antiques. The trouble you see most frequently with jewelers who do not specialize in old pieces is over-cleaning. If a piece is put in the wrong hands, decades or even centuries of beautiful patina can be polished off in seconds. Most antique pieces should not be repaired or altered with a traditional soldering torch that uses heat. Seek out a jeweler who does repairs with a laser.”
How to Care for Antique Jewelry at Home:
“A fine antique piece should be thought of and cared for as such. To put it simply, we recommend our pieces to be thought of and worn like a silk dress rather than a pair of jeans.
At home, pieces should be kept in dry boxes or individual pouches. Jewelry shouldn't be jumbled together as stones and metal on one piece can scratch or dent another. Most items can be cleaned with a bit of non-abrasive cleanser on a soft bristle toothbrush. Diamonds attract oils so it is best to take your diamonds off when applying lotions, but you can cut the oils with an ammonia or vinegar based cleaner. Pieces that have closed back settings (usually dating to pre-1840) should not be submerged in water. It’s best to have rings with stones inspected by a jeweler a couple of times per year. You can check if your stones are loose at home by poking at them with a pinpoint, if there is any movement, have them tightened up by your jeweler right away.”
What Not to Do:
“The biggest jewelry care myth is that jewelry can withstand being worn at all times. This is especially true of antique pieces but also applies to new pieces. Most people like to wear their favorite jewelry all the time but we recommend not wearing your most precious things while working out, gardening, sleeping or bathing... Rings should always be removed when doing anything strenuous with your hands like carrying heavy objects, biking, etc.”
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