I've been in the jewelry business for almost 20 years and I've learned some foolproof tips and tricks for how to keep jewels looking their best. This post recommends items that I've used over the years and had success with, and is not sponsored in any way.
Tarnish is essentially exposure to air or moisture. As far as types of jewelry that show wear the fastest are typically rings, necklaces and bracelets because they are in constant direct contact with the skin. Some people have more acidic skin than others and these changes in body chemistry can affect the tarnish rate. Amino Acids in perspiration contain sulfur or sulfides which accelerate the rate of tarnish. In hot humid climates, I would advise wearing higher karat gold or minimizing jewelry contact on skin to keep pieces cleaner longer. Changes in hormone balance during adolescence or menopause, medications (antibiotics) and chemotherapy have been known to change body chemistry.
How to Clean Your Jewelry
Make the effort to keep your pieces clean and you will be rewarded by the satisfaction and sparkle of enjoying freshly cleaned jewelry! It's so easy and really only takes 5 minutes or less and makes a world of difference.
DIY cleaning :
If you want to go the more natural, completely non-toxic route, give solid gold bracelets, chains and earrings a gentle bath in a solution of a few drops of non detergent dish soap (like Ivory or Dr. Bronner's) and a little warm water for about 5 minutes. Submerge and agitate the pieces in a dish, remove them, and then go over the crevices and chain links with a soft toothbrush to dislodge any residue trapped there. Rinse everything under running water. Buff dry with a microfiber cloth. Don't put away until fully dry, moisture is not a friend to the jewelry lover!
Before determining what kind of store bought cleaner you can use, make sure you don't have delicate stones on the piece that could be damaged. See delicate stone section below for more info. For gold, diamonds and precious stones, I like Connoisseur's Precious Bath. It's old school and easy to find at any drugstore or chain store and most of all it works! Dip jewelry into basket and leave in for a minute. Use the enclosed brush to clean front and back of settings to remove additional debris and residue. You can also use this on gold fill or gold-plated jewelry. If you have stubborn residue, using a polishing cloth can help, be careful and buff lightly if using it on gold plated items though because since it's only a veneer of gold you could remove it.
Silver Bath for Cleaning Sterling Silver by Connoisseurs. Easy peasy - dip into the bath for 10 seconds or so et voilà, good as new. But be careful, this contains acid so a little goes a long way and your items should not be left inside for extended periods of time. I also like using this on severely tarnished vermeil (18k gold over silver) pieces. But in and out! No dilly dallying or that can take off all the plating on a plated piece.
A polishing cloth also works well on silver, I like Sunshine Polishing Cloths. Rub surface to be polished with medium pressure as there are cleaning abrasives within the cloth. I like sunshine cloths because they are a little thicker than a standard jewelers polishing cloth and easy to use the stiff corners to get into crevices on rings etc. They are small so they normally come in a pack of multiples. If you have several pieces to clean, I recommend wearing gloves while using the cloth as a black like soot can get on your hands.
Lapis, coral, turquoise, opal, pearl and onyx are too fragile and porous to use either regular gold or silver cleaner. Those cleaners can remove the luster on delicate stones and make them dull and ugly so don't do it! I recommend using Delicate Bath by Connoisseurs or buffing with a soft cloth.
Tips To Keep Your Jewelry Cleaner, Longer
Keep your jewelry in your Janna Conner pouch or box or in a drawer or airtight container when not in use. Necklace and earring stands are pretty but since they are out in the open and constantly exposed to air, jewelry will tarnish faster and need to be cleaned more often.
Add mini dehumidifier packets to your jewelry drawers and boxes. You know those little packets that come in a shoe box or other packaged goods? They will help remove moisture from the air and protect your pieces. They use them in museums embedded in the showcase to help keep jewelry and metal artifacts tarnish free. If it's good for LACMA, it's good enough for me!
Do not store jewelry in humid areas like the bathroom.
So many are surprised when I tell them this! The moisture and heat will accelerate jewelry deterioration, discoloring and eroding plating.
Janna Conner Lapis, agate, botswana agate, snowlake obsidian, pearl stud rings and gold band on Michelle Lee.
Remove rings when...
washing your hands, applying beauty products, cleaning the house, cooking or applying lotions to keep the settings grime-free.
Put on jewelry last when getting dressed.
Especially after sunscreen, perfumes, oils, lotions, hairsprays and powders have had time to settle and absorb. This will keep your pieces cleaner, longer and reduce the need for frequent cleaning.
Going to the beach or the pool? Skip the jewelry.
Don’t wear jewelry while swimming — chlorine and salt water can damage it.
Live in a humid area?
Higher karat items will fare better in humid environments as they have higher gold content and can resist oxidization better. Wear necklaces and high skin contact items in cooler months for greater longevity.
Remove your jewelry at night before bedtime.
This will give your skin a break and your jewelry as well. Constant skin contact with plated items can contribute to metal allergies. Give your epidermis time to breathe in between wearings.
Don't let silver sit in your jewelry box — wear it! It becomes shinier the more it's worn (the friction slows down tarnishing).
Extra credit: treat your diamonds to an ultrasonic steam clean with your local jeweler once a year. They will be blindingly brilliant!
How do you care for your jewelry? Tell me in the comments below!