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The Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Vintage Jewellery

Vintage jewellery is considered to be romantic, innovative, captivating as each piece has its own personal story to tell. Estate and antique jewellery are especially loved by collectors because of their uniqueness and beauty. For those unfamiliar with the term, vintage and antique jewellery refer to any piece that is over a hundred years old. This is a lot of time for dirt and grime to collect under the metal to patina and gemstones, which is why the inherent beauty of the heirloom is lost.

Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Vintage Jewellery

It may be tempting for you to pick up a cloth to clean it all away. However, there is a right way and a wrong way of cleaning antique jewellery. Here are some basic dos and don’ts that you should be aware of before potentially ruining your investment.


  1. Create a Mild Cleaning Solution

Making a DIY solution is one of the greatest ways for cleaning antique jewellery. Most of the jewellery cleaners available in stores will most likely cost you money and might not even be as effective. Often, they also contain harsh chemicals. When making your own solution, mix a small amount of mild soap with lukewarm water. The key lies in the technique used for cleaning and not in the solution.

  1. Use a Lint-Free Cloth or a Soft Toothbrush

When you have prepared the cleaning solution, you can either submerge the item in the solution for a few minutes or lightly dampen the cloth and wipe. Before starting, make sure none of the stones are loose. Pay special attention to areas underneath the prongs. Using light circular motions can provide the best results.

  1. Rinse and Dry Thoroughly

Ensure that no soap residue is left on the jewellery once the cleaning process is complete as it will defeat the whole purpose of the cleaning. Run it under lukewarm water and pat it dry. When cleaning rings, buff the shank using the polishing cloth and avoid areas near engravings and stones. Allow the piece to completely dry off before storing.


  1. Use Ultrasonic Machines

There are a few times that you can put your vintage jewellery in an ultrasonic machine for a quick clean. But, the best thing to do is to avoid it altogether. It may be okay if you have a diamond or platinum ring from the 1920’s and the stones are tight with the prongs in great shape. However, the subtle and yet intense vibrations tend to do more harm than good.

  1. Clean with Chemicals like Ammonia

When surfing through the internet, you will often come across articles telling you how amazing ammonia is at making your diamonds shine. In moderation, it may work for some jewellery, but remember that vintage jewellery needs a much gentler approach while cleaning. Always try and avoid harsh detergents, household cleaners containing bleach and ammonia as it may damage your jewellery.

  1. Polish away Patina

Patina takes years to form on jewellery. Many reproduction jewellery pieces try to fake the patina to make the jewellery look older than it actually is. For Victorian and Georgian jewellery, it is important not to go overboard when polishing them. You wouldn’t want the gold to shine as yellow as it did on the day that it was purchased.

Also, be careful when having your jewellery resized by someone that is unfamiliar with vintage jewellery. They will most likely take the items to a high polish once the sizing is completed. The best thing to do is to advise them to lightly polish the part where the gold has been taken away or added.

  1. Keep the Jewellery Submerged

Liquid can be dangerous for some antique jewellery, especially ones with seed pearls, opals, cameos and any other kind of soft stone. For jewellery that is fragile, it’s best not to saturate it with any kind of liquid at all. To clean it, use a soft cloth or brush for the best results.

Vintage jewellery isn’t meant to look new. Avoid cleaning it too much as this will take away the years of character along with the patina. Your aim should be to get rid of bacteria and grime accumulated over the years, and not dispense with the priceless antique look of your heirloom.

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