17 July 2012

Fashion: Protecting Vintage Jewelry

This post is written by contributing author Paige Ronchetti.

You may or may not know this, but I make jewelry for a living. Even before it was my job, I was totally obsessed with gems - especially anything vintage. Older pieces are awesome, but all of that history requires a little extra care. Cleaning vintage items incorrectly is the fastest way to ruin them (dramatic, but true), so today I have some quick tips for how to avoid that.

1. Never get your rhinestones wet. Ever. Vintage rhinestones have foil backings, which is what makes them so sparkly and wonderful. But if that foil gets wet or starts to scrape off (from scrubbing with a brush, for example) the stones will get dark and cloudy. Here's a visual for you:

Happy rhinestones!

Sad rhinestones.

If you buy a rhinestone piece that needs a little TLC, try wiping it off with a soft cloth first. A piece of an old t-shirt works really well. If there's still some grime around the prongs, use a pin to gently poke it out. In dire situations, you can spray a bit of glass cleaner onto your cloth and gently dab at the stones. But that's it! No water, and definitely no commercial jewelry cleaner. Please. It will make me sad.

2. Be gentle with aurora borealis beads. These shiny iridescent pieces are some of my favorites. Items in great shape are hard to find because a lot of people don't realize the finish rubs off until it's too late. If you find one that's a little dusty looking, just wipe it off with a soft cloth.

As with its cousin the rhinestone, you'll want to avoid brushes and commercial jewelry cleaner.

3. Gemstones need more cleaning power. Remember when I said to avoid that pesky water? That doesn't apply to real gemstones! The best way to clean more valuable pieces (real stones set into a fine metal) is with warm soapy water and a soft-bristled brush. If something is looking especially gunky, dip the brush into some jewelry cleaner and scrub away. Just don't drop the item into the cleaner, since that might be too harsh.

Clean gems are more valuable than those that aren't, so it's worth it to keep them looking nice. Plus, if there's not a bunch of grime in the way, it's easier to catch the details:

Do you own any vintage jewelry? What's your favorite piece? Have you developed any cleaning methods over the years? Or accidentally ruined a piece? (I used to think rhinestones could get wet. Sad times.)

Paige Ronchetti lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband. They have no kids and no pets, which gives them a lot of time for eating spicy food and looking for bargains. Paige's blog is Little Nostalgia is a collection of projects and pretty things. There you can find DIY tutorials, home decor inspiration, and affordable fashion ideas. When she is not blogging, Paige is working on her vintage-inspired jewelry lines, Little White Chapel and Oh Nostalgia. Connect to Paige via twitter or pinterest.