How to Clean Antique Jewellery – a Guide

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Unlike most modern jewellery, the majority of antique jewellery is not mass-produced. Each object has history; look hard enough and there’s a personal story behind layers of dust and dirt. If you’re lucky enough to own one, or several, of these beautiful pieces you’ll know that they need regular cleaning so that they can continue to be enjoyed for many years to come. Cleaning antique jewellery is a difficult task, but it’s both necessary and rewarding to see the gleam of a newly polished piece. Discover how to clean antique jewellery the right way with this guide, straight from the experts and you’ll never put up with dirty or dull pieces again.

How to clean antique gold jewellery

Unlike its cheaper cousins, real gold is soft and malleable. The higher the quality, or carats, the softer and more delicate the gold – in fact, 24ct gold is one of the softest metals known to man. So, of course, with its lustrous shine and rich deep colour, man decided it was the perfect jewellery material. When cleaning gold, be extra careful not to malform or break any extra delicate vintage pieces.

Rinse the item under warm water

Over time, dirt and dust can build up in the small cracks of gold jewellery. When gently rinsed under warm water, any hardened grime hiding behind stones or connections softens and can then be easily brushed away.

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NOTE: We recommend putting a fine sieve or tea strainer over your plug hole if you’re cleaning your jewellery over the sink. You don’t want them disappearing down the drain!

Gently scrub the item with a toothbrush

Now that any dirt or grime is soft enough to be brushed away, a gentle brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush will do the rest of the work.

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If it’s still not clean

Never be rough with gold, instead, apply a small amount of mild washing up liquid to the dirty area and gently wipe the soap onto the jewellery with a soft cloth. Let this sit for a few moments then try the toothbrush again.

Be careful not to snag details or the claws that hold the gems onto pieces – these can be bent easily!

Make it shine

Once all dirt is removed, it’s time to restore that typical golden shine. Gently rub the gold with a soft rouge-impregnated cloth until perfect. This technique can be used on all types of gold jewellery but be especially careful when learning how to clean an antique ring, as other materials used in the ring might spoil.

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How to clean antique silver jewellery

Highly polished silver is one of the prettiest sights to behold, but vintage silver can easily develop a tarnished or dull look after long periods. Thankfully for all real silver fans out there, this pretty metal is easily cleaned and much stronger than gold, albeit not invincible. If you find yourself having to clean your antique silver jewellery often, you may find it beneficial to store the pieces next to your skin, instead of surrounded by acid-free paper or in their box.

Rub the item with a soft cloth

Slightly tarnished silver will easily renew with a quick rub, but more heavily tarnished silver may require more work.

Cover in a silver cleaning solution

There’s a wide range of silver cleaning solutions available from most large shops or jewellers and most can be simply smeared over the material, left for a few moments, then polished off again with a soft cloth. To keep vintage silver clean for longer, pick a cleaning solution that contains extra protective chemicals that will hold shine for a greater duration.

How to clean antique diamond rings

Everyone knows that diamonds are expensive, so always double-check stones are secure before getting to work. The last thing you want is to dislodge, or even lose, a stone. If you do discover loose stones, take the ring to the jewellers to get it professionally repaired and cleaned. When working with diamonds, never work over an open sink. A bowl of water is the best environment to clean a diamond ring in but you must make sure to never pour the water away until every piece is accounted for.

Dip the ring in warm soapy water and brush with a soft toothbrush

All sorts of dirt, grit and grease can settle over the surface of a diamond over time, causing the stone to look gradually duller. You may not notice this as it happens, but vintage diamond rings almost always need a good clean. Gently brush the diamond in warm soapy water until shining. Never use a cloth on a diamond, always opt for a soft toothbrush or artist’s brush to avoid causing damage with loose threads.

Check the stones again

Diamonds can easily become dislodged during cleaning, so always rinse the ring and check every single stone is accounted for before pouring away any water used. Even if no stones have dislodged, gently prod the stone to test for movement, just in case.

How to clean antique pearls

Pearls are particularly difficult to clean and are notoriously ugly when damaged due to their porous nature. If harmed, pearls often discolour and permanently reduce in shine. As such, it’s especially important to keep pearls away from perfume, hairspray, nail varnish remover, make-up and facial creams. You can still wear pearls if you’ve been using these products, but you must leave sufficient time for said products to dry and dissipate before wearing, as well as wiping the surface clean after removing.

Apply a light cleaning mix to the item

Pearls should always be cleaned separately from other jewellery, but the process is much the same. Lay the pearls on a clean and soft cloth and gently clean them with a delicate brush dipped in washing-up liquid or homemade jewellery cleaner. The best brush to use is a make-up brush but, as pearls don’t react well to make-up, this brush must be completely clean before use.

Rub each pearl individually

Take the time to gently clean the solution from each individual pearl. When done, give the pearls a final wipe with a damp, soft cloth. Then, lay the pearls on a clean and soft towel to dry. Cleaning antique earrings is less particular, as necklaces need to be laid straight to prevent the cord from stretching, whereas earrings don’t need that amount of care.

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Vintage jewellery can be as difficult to clean as it is captivating to look at, but the majesty of each piece is worth it. That said, if you’re unsure about the process or simply looking to convert your antique jewellery into cash, we are always looking to buy old pieces. No matter the condition or cleanliness, we’ll give you cash for any antique jewellery, so if you’re struggling to clean your pieces before sale – don’t worry about it!

Want to find out more? Contact our friendly team today for real expert advice.

Do you have any tips and tricks for cleaning antique jewellery? Let us know in the comments!

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