Cleaning & Care
Copper and many copper-alloy metals (Brass, Bronze) react with oxygen in the air over time, causing them to oxidize (tarnish). Unlike rust corroding metal, the tarnished layer (patina) acts as a barrier protecting the metal from further oxidation. Sometimes metals are oxidized on purpose and then buffed to create contrast in jewellery; these are likely to be treated with a sealant after so the change is not altered with basic cleaning.
Silver is a little different as it reacts instead with sulfur compounds in the atmosphere, creating a yellowish tint or black layer of sulfides. When this effect is done on purpose to highlight details, the term 'oxidized' is still used even though silver is stable in oxygen. There are also many daily items that contain sulfur and can discolour your silver if it comes in contact with them including wool, ingredients in some personal care items or cosmetics, household cleaners, and certain foods.
Check out the About Metals page for detailed information on the various metals, their oxidation processes, and interactions with body chemistry.
Cleaning your jewellery can be a very easy task
as long as you do it regularly!
5 quick tips to keep your items looking their best:
1. The well-known "Last on, first off" rule!
Metals and stones can be affected by common personal care products as well as the body's natural moisture, salts, and oils (some stones may even absorb them). What kind of personal care items? Shampoo/conditioner, shower gels, moisturizing lotions, perfumes/body sprays, face cleansers, sun block/tanning lotions, bug spray... Putting your jewellery on last before you go out and removing it first at the end of the day will go a long way to keeping it out of harms way!
2. The KISS principle is true!
Keeping It Short and Simple means its easier to look after your items without waiting until you have the 'right' cleaners or 'enough' time. For most metals and stones, working up a tiny froth of dish soap and water in your palms and then rubbing your hands over your jewellery before rinsing them off will take care of the day's grime. Pearls are a little different and have their own cleaning information:
3. As strong as the weakest link (or stone)!
Different metals and stones may have different cleaning requirements. In pieces that have combinations of elements, always begin cleaning with the most sensitive part in mind. Once you have started at the most basic level, caring for other metals or elements may be done with more direct attention or faster with less risk to the overall piece. This is especially true of jewellery containing porous or soft stones and organic materials.
4. There is no substitute for softness.
Avoid using harsh cleansers, abrasives, sharp objects or rough cloths on your beloved pieces. You may be tempted to use toothpaste, baking soda, needles, or paper towel to get into crevices or give a fresh polish - don't do it! Stones and metal are softer than you think and can become scratched and hazy looking. Keep a light touch with very soft brushes if necessary, and if you don't have a jewellery polishing cloth use lint-free flannel or old soft cloths. Use gentle circular motions.
5. Safe storage, my friend.
Protect your jewellery from the elements, and from each other! After cleaning, allow your pieces to air-dry fully before storing them. Moisture takes longer to evaporate from wrapped sections, coils, joins, and spaces between metal and stones as well as beads. If you seal up your jewellery while still damp, you may find it looking rather tarnished next time you take it out with stubborn spots that are harder to freshen up. In storage, items can scratch each other or tangle if tossed loose into a jewellery box. Keep items separate in boxes, bags, or compartments. Anti-tarnish paper or tabs can also help keep tarnish away by absorbing atmospheric oxygen and sulfur, great to include with stored intricate pieces or in a jewellery box.