Jewellery Care and Cleaning options

Jewellery Care & Cleaning

February 2020

how to care for and clean your handmade jewellery

How to look after your handmade jewellery:

Let me guess?  You’ve got a collection of jewellery (jewelry) that’s tarnished or just not looking as sparkly as it once was and you need some advice about jewellery care and how to clean it?

All Curlicue NZ Jewellery is created by hand with care and passion, from recycled Sterling Silver or Copper wires and genuine semi-precious stones, pearls & crystals.  Shop now to find sustainably elegant handcrafted jewellery.

However, your jewellery can easily be damaged if:

  • Jewellery is pulled or squeezed aggressively
  • Perfume, hair or other sprays are applied while jewellery is worn
  • Lotions and creams are applied while jewellery is being worn
  • Jewellery is left in direct sunlight, damp areas or where moisture may build up (for example in a plastic bag, in the sun)
  • It goes through the washing machine

How to safely clean and care for your jewellery?

Don’t worry, you’re in just the right place!

Here is my comprehensive guide to help you best care for and clean your eco sterling silver or copper jewellery to keep it in great condition now and into the future.

General Care tips for all Jewellery types:

Hopefully this is obvious, but all jewellery will be fragile to a certain degree, especially handcrafted jewellery.

  1. Always remove your jewellery before entering the water, doing cleaning or heavy exercise
  2. Thoroughly dry your jewellery with a clean, dry and soft cloth once it has been exposed to water.
  3. Avoid contact with perfumes, lotions and powders (always put your jewellery on last)
  4. Make sure that your jewellery is the first thing to come off before getting undressed.
  5. Gently wipe your jewellery clean to remove skin oils and makeup.
  6. Store your jewellery separately in an air-tight box or bag, (if possible including an anti-tarnish tab) to prevent scratches and preserve the metal finish.

Specifically, with Curlicue NZ Jewellery, pieces where Swarovski Crystals, cultured pearls and wire wrapped spirals or flourishes are included, special care must be taken or wires can be bent out of shape or pearls or crystals damaged beyond repair.

Try to not have jewellery pieces all jumbled in together!

They shouldn’t be able to rub against each other, other metals or any harsh surfaces as they will scratch and wear.

Nor should they ever take too much weight or force. You should also avoid harsh chemicals from coming into contact with your jewellery.

It’s a great idea to store your jewellery in small boxes or pouches when not being worn to help keep it clean and prevent it from being scratched.

All jewellery purchased from my online jewellery shop comes in either small pillow boxes, or cotton bags, which are perfect for this.

Packaging_Pillow Box and Black Cotton and silk Bags
Current Packaging

Sterling Silver Tarnish:

Tarnishing is a natural process which is caused by oxygen and moisture coming into contact with various types of metal. If your once shiny jewellery has turned dark, this is likely to be the reason why.

All precious metals can tarnish to some degree. Platinum and pure gold are the most tarnish-resistant metals and will show very minimal (if any) tarnish over many years.

Tarnished and Cleaned Letter E Necklaces with turquoise in eco silver

By contrast, sterling silver jewellery will tarnish relatively easily, meaning it will turn a brown, grey or black colour over time. You may have read that pure or fine silver won’t tarnish, but that isn’t true: it does, just more slowly and in a less noticeable way than sterling silver.

The reason sterling silver tarnishes more easily is because pure silver has been alloyed with copper, which has the benefit of making the metal harder and much more suitable for making jewellery than pure silver, which is too soft for many uses.

All Curlicue NZ jewellery is made of real genuine metals (100% recycled .925 Sterling Silver; .935 Argentium Silver and Copper wires), and may tarnish over time.

Cleaning Your Sterling Silver Jewellery:

Your Silver jewellery cleaning can be done as needed using tarnish removers, along with warm soapy water to remove dirt and grime. Read on to learn more.

Precious Metal Polishing Cloths

care and cleaning_ a Curlicue NZ anti tarnish silver polishing clothGood quality polishing cloths are impregnated with chemicals which remove tarnish and are soft enough to not scratch the metal. You can use these cloths until they are black – they should never be washed.

These are generally the safest option to remove tarnish from your metal jewellery.

To remove tarnish rub your jewellery gently with a polishing cloth, doing your best to get into crevices, until the shine is restored. You’ll find the cloth getting black marks on it as the tarnish is removed.

While polishing cloths are great for cleaning tarnish from your jewellery, they may not remove general grime and dirt from hard to reach crevices. Soap, water and either a soft cloth or child’s toothbrush are best for this sort of cleaning.

Silver dip:

silver dip is one way to clean tarnished sterling silver jewelleryFor many silver jewellery designs you can use silver dip which will very quickly and easily remove tarnish, including in hard to reach spots.

BUT – Silver dip can have harmful effects on metals that look like Silver, but aren’t (such as Nickel or some plated wires). When used on such metals, the chemicals can actually alter the colour of the jewellery – so you need to be absolutely positive the jewellery you are cleaning, is in fact Sterling Silver. Otherwise, please don’t use it.

When using silver dip make sure you follow the instructions carefully! Also please ensure that you rinse your piece and dry it thoroughly after dipping.

The DIY cleaning method:

Do It Yourself (DIY) cleaning jewelleryThis is an eco-friendly and low tech jewellery cleaning method and it will help to remove tarnish. Best of all, you should have all the ingredients in your cupboard!

Cut a piece of aluminium foil which covers the bottom of a glass bowl or dish. (I just covered the whole dish). Then mix the following into 1 cup of hot water and pour into the dish:

  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon dish washing detergent

Put the jewellery to be cleaned into the bowl so it sits on top of the foil and is covered by the solution.

After 5 to 10 minutes you can rinse your jewellery in cool water and dry it with a soft cloth. Discard the solution and the foil, which is likely to have turned a grey colour. Repeat if necessary.

This method can also help to remove scorch marks on silver – BUT don’t use it with soft stones, pearls or crystals as it can change the surface and quality of the items.

How to Clean Cultured Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are created in mussels or oysters in rivers, lakes or ponds and tend to be more irregular in shape and more varied in colour than saltwater pearls.

Man-made freshwater pearls sell for less mainly because they are more abundant and have more variations that naturally occur during their development.

How to care for these Silver Curlicue Earrings with Black Cultured Freshwater Pearl_Worn

Curlicue NZ’s freshwater pearl jewellery, like the ‘Silver Curlicue Earrings with Black Cultured Freshwater Pearl’ shown here, are not only real and beautiful, but also offer a great value for pearl shoppers.

Freshwater pearls are delicate and can get scratched easily. Cleaning tips for your pearls:

  1. To prevent damage always store your pearls separate from other jewellery, in a pouch or bag, or wrapped in a soft cloth
  2. Ensure your pearls do not touch perfumes or lotions as it may deteriorate the surface of the pearl.
  3. Gently wipe the pearls with a warm, damp cloth to remove body oils or dirt (which may harm the colours) before putting them away.
  4. Wash pearls periodically with mild soap (NOT detergent) and a soft cloth. When finished washing the pearls, rinse them in clean water and wrap them in a thin, damp cotton towel to dry.
  5. If the pearls are especially dirty, wipe the pearl with acetone polish remover. Acetone will not hurt pearls. DO NOT use jewellery cleaners with ammonia or vinegar in them.

Cleaning Swarovski Crystals Safely

jewellery care and cleaning methods for Swarovski Crystals

Swarovski crystals have a thin protective gold or rhodium plating, which limits the jewellery cleaning methods that can be safely used.

Fortunately, there are some simple ways to care for jewellery containing Swarovski Crystals:

  1. Cleaning with a dry, lint-free cloth. It’s best to use the dry cloth method for light cleaning or general maintenance
  2. Avoid wearing other jewellery with your crystals as they are soft and may scratch.
  3. Do not use jewellery cleaning solutions to clean your crystal as it could affect the lustre.
  4. If dirty, use a soft brush to wash your crystal in lukewarm water containing a very small amount of a mild detergent. Then rinse under running water. Dry with a soft, lint-free towel.
  5. Washing with dish soap works best for deep cleaning or occasional maintenance. Don’t use this method too often because it may wear off some of the thin protective plating on the crystals. Do not put away your jewellery until it is completely dry.

Ultrasonic cleaners:

An ultrasonic cleaner will more easily remove dirt and grime from gemstones and crevices than other jewellery cleaning methods – but they will not remove tarnish.

Use a domestic ultrasonic cleaner with warm water and a small amount of detergent.

Mythical methods:

To remove dirt and grime from your jewellery you can just use a mild soap and warm water with a soft brush or cloth. However, this won’t remove tarnish.

Bicarbonate soda, toothpaste and other harsh cleansers which are rubbed against metal are never recommended for cleaning jewellery. Such cleansers will remove precious metal from the surface, causing scratches and over time will deplete the precious metal content.  


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