by Richard Alan
I left off last time with the daunting task of cleaning silver. Ten years or so ago it was fairly easy to do, but with current technology most silver jewelry is now plated with a coating of nickel, rhodium or palladium. Most folks know that sterling silver tarnishes, the younger generations blame the jeweler, I explain that if it didn’t it would cost the same as gold.
Living on a tropical island surrounded by salt water and constant heat and humidity it’s nearly impossible to prevent. However, you can slow down the darkening process by these simple steps. Purchase a jar of silver cleaner or silver cleaning cloth. They can be found at any super market or hardware store or from Harbor Goldsmith.
Once again it is important to identify any gemstones that are in your jewelry, pearls and porous gems such as turquoise or lapis-lazuli for example can be damaged if submerged in many solutions. (This is where a trusty old tooth brush comes in handy to clean tarnish from around the stones.)
After the pieces are cleaned and polished bright they should be stored in plastic zip-loc bags. If one adds my secret ingredient into the bags (a small anti-tarnish square of carbon impregnated paper created by 3M.) the pieces will stay bright longer. Another helpful tip is that after wearing; wipe the piece clean with the silver cloth before placing back in the zip-loc.
The plated pieces I referred to present a different problem. Although the plating processes do prevent tarnishing for a long period of time, it does wear off unevenly eventually and is impossible to fully remove even from professionals.
There has been a breakthrough in recent years with new alloys mixed with silver such as “platinumized” silver. The result: almost no discoloration, but it is more expensive than sterling silver.
Cleaning costume or fashion jewelry is a touchy thing. Nine times out of ten you make it look worse than before. Glued-in stones fall out or lose their sparkle. Above all, never submerge costume jewelry in cleaners. It will do more harm than good, and actually turn the piece darker. A damp rag or a cotton swab with jewelry cleaner applied carefully can sometimes do the trick; try it on the back first to see if there is no bad reaction, and always remove cleaning solutions with water to neutralize the chemicals in the cleaner.
Another important thing is to get rid of old cleaning solutions. After a year or so they no longer work and can actually tarnish your jewelry. If in doubt you can always e-mail me at email@example.com and I can help you avoid any jewelry cleaning mishaps.
Placing and storing of your fine jewelry is very important. Letting things bang against each other in a bag in a cabinet drawer or jewelry box can chip or scratch your precious gemstones as they tumble together.
I have felt lined compartmented jewelry trays that I store my jewelry in before placing in the safe every night that holds rings or bracelets etc. They are wonderful and they can work for you too! They come in different sizes to fit in drawers or personal safes. Just storing your jewels in small plastic zip-locks will also be an inexpensive way to prevent damage and discoloration.
A cool trick to prevent chains from tangling is to place the chain through an ordinary drinking straw or straws; then connect the clasp and store. Keeping your beautiful jewelry clean and safe is not as difficult as it seems by just using common sense, and my cleaning suggestions will insure many years of enjoyment.
Richard Alan is a designer /goldsmith with over forty years of experience. He is also the owner of both The Harbor Goldsmith and Richard’s Reef’s on Marco Island. He welcomes your questions about “all that glitters” 239-394-9275 or firstname.lastname@example.org