Cleaning antique jewelry is not difficult to do and can be done at home without the need for costly products and equipment. To learn how, here is a quick guide.
Gold, Silver and Platinum
The vast majority of antique jewelry is made of gold, silver and less commonly platinum, or even a mixture of these metals depending on an items age and design.
All three continue to be the most popularly used metals with which to create jewelry and are brilliantly suited to doing so, especially in the case of gold and silver which both being so malleable and yielding provided jewelry makers for thousands of years with precious metals with which to work prior to the industrial revolution when using far hardier metals such as platinum became more common as technologies and machinery devised at this time made doing so more possible.
None of the three metals are indestructible it should be made clear though. Hence, to best preserve antique jewelry made of gold, silver or platinum it is worth knowing that all three of these metals can be cleaned using warm (not hot) soapy water. Simply remember to use a gentle, everyday soap and avoid any chemical products, especially those containing bleach and / or chlorine.
This is especially true when cleaning gold of less than 18carats. Being an alloy, gold of less than 18 carats is far more likely to suffer corrosion when coming into contact with harsh chemicals. Meanwhile, higher carat gold is far softer than gold alloy. Hence, however you clean your jewelry, do take care; antique items are those which have already survived over a century of wear and tear, it always bears remembering.
Stones and Stone Inlaid Jewelry
First and foremost, it is of paramount importance to warn anybody attempting to clean antique stones or antique stone inlaid jewelry from doing so over the sink; there is nothing worse than losing an item down the plug hole. So, always fill a bowl with water and place it on a table rather than using a sink in which to wash your jewelry.
Further, antique stones inlaid in jewelry can become lose in their settings. For this reason, ahead of cleaning an antique jewelry item, always take a moment to ensure all stones are secure and snug in their settings. Never wash items with lose stones as the combination of water and abrasion can force a lose stone to fall out completely.
If a stone is loose, you will need to take it along to your local jeweller for repair and it is advisable to do so as soon as possible to prevent the item incurring further damage or losing the stone(s) within it. It is also strongly advised to refrain from wearing the item until it has been repaired, again to prevent the potential loss of any of its stones.
Provided the item is secure and not in need of repair, it can be cleaned without causing most stones damage by using warm soapy water, just like gold, silver and platinum can be. Harder stones such as diamonds are difficult (near impossible in fact) to damage. The same cannot be said of materials such as ivory and pearl though, so do take this into account when cleaning your jewelry. In fact, because pearls specifically can be easily damaged by the chemicals in hairsprays, lotions, perfumes and deodorants, the best way to clean them is to begin by preventing them from coming into contact with any of these products in the first place.
Tools Worth Having to Hand
All you need to clean your antique jewelry is a bowl, some warm water, simple hand soap and something soft with which to pat dry your items. There is no need to spend a lot of money on tools or cleaning products.
That said, it is worth investing in a soft toothbrush which you can use to very gently clean the nooks and crannies many antique jewelry items bear as part of their settings and fixings. A childrens toothbrush is ideal for this as they feature brush heads which are small and well shaped for the job as well as soft bristles.