Eight Things to Know Before You Clean Old Jewelry

by Nancy Plante November 16, 2017

Eight Things to Know Before You Clean Old Jewelry


Your jewelry came to you in different moments of your life, and the way you use each piece expresses something about you. The oldest pieces have had the longest time to develop a history with you. To keep those memories shiny, there are a few things that you need to know before you clean old jewelry. Read these eight tips to keep your vintage jewelry looking as brilliant and intense as it did the day it first caught your eye.

1.  Revise Jewelry that You Haven’t Used in a While

Before you use a treasured piece of jewelry that you have had stored away, give it a good checkup. You might be surprised to find that all it needs is a little touchup before showing it off.

Some metals oxidize and need polishing prior to use. Temperature and humidity extremes in storage can affect gemstone mounts, and clasps sometimes get stuck. A good revision before wearing it in public might save you from losing your favorite charm or chasing after bouncing beads in a busy store.

You might also consider a complete redesign; a good jeweler can create a custom piece using the original piece, turning it into a keepsake that still reminds you of the person or occasion you associate with the piece, but set in a completely new style.

2. A Jeweler Can Reset Fallen or Loose Gemstones

It's a shame if you start wearing your mother's ring and find that its gemstone is loose. A reliable jeweler can look at the setting to determine if it’s loose and secure it to make sure that the ring’s focal point won’t come loose again.

3. Take Advantage of Jewelry Repairs to Get Jewelry Cleaned and Polished

After time in storage or heavy use, your jewelry might lose that brilliant luster that it had when you first tried it on. While you’re visiting the jeweler for a jewelry repair or purchase, you might want to have the piece cleaned and polished. Jewelers have specialized cleaning techniques to work with whatever material your jewelry contains.

4. Jewelers Can Fix Clasps that Won’t Close Right

Sometimes a clasp gets jammed or just won’t seem to stay shut. You certainly don’t want to have it come loose while you’re on a busy sidewalk or strolling on a boardwalk.

Have a jeweler check misbehaving clasps to be ensure that they close properly and don’t spring open. Sometimes they simply get bent, and an experienced jeweler will know just where and how to apply pressure to get it back into place, without snapping the clasp. It’s a simple operation, and you may be able to get it done while you wait.

5. Have an Expert Look at Jewelry that Snags or Feels Sharp

Have you ever had a piece of jewelry snag your favorite sweater or scratch your skin? Snags and sharp edges mean that your jewelry needs repair. A jewelsmith can search for tiny spurs or rough edges and leave your jewelry smooth and flawless.

6. Even the Finest Metals Tarnish

When you haven’t seen your jewelry for a long time, it often seems duller than you remembered it. Don’t blame your memory, even the finest metals tarnish over time. Yellow gold, known for its resistance to oxidation, can darken, and some pieces may look dull or lifeless.

Each type of metal used in jewelry requires special treatment, and your jeweler can polish it and make it look like new. When you take a piece in for cleaning, ask for cleaning and storage tips. Jewel retailers deal with jewelry made from many types of materials and will know which techniques best preserve the beauty and value of your jewelry collection.

6.  Strands of Pearls May Need to be Restrung

Dust, humidity, sunlight, stretching, and even perfume can damage the silk used to string your pearls. The fibers tend to wear and give way, particularly near the clasp. If you have had a strand for some time, it’s a good idea to have it restrung.

Your jeweler will have the right kind of thread and replacement clasps, if needed. He or she can also give you storage and use suggestions to help your silk and pearls stay in good shape for a long time.

7. Beware of Internet Tips

The Internet is full of information, but much of it comes from inexpert sources, and some well-intended content may actually end up damaging your prized jewelry. Always check with an experienced jeweler before trying home remedies.

8. Insure Your Valuable Jewelry

Your cherished jewelry came to you at a price, and its value deserves protection. Your homeowner’s insurance may cover loss, theft, and damage to jewelry, but you need to have it appraised and inventoried to assure complete coverage.  

If you feel that your jewelry may have significant value beyond that covered by your homeowner’s insurance, you should consider insuring it with a company specialized in jewelry insurance. Likewise, you will will need an appraisal of each item in your collection, in order to get coverage. Your local jeweler will know of reputable insurers specializing in jewelry, gemstones, and related items.


Your old, tarnished jewelry doesn’t have to stay in the jewelry box. In fact, if you take care to have it properly cleaned, it can become some of your most interesting adornments and conversation pieces. Treat it with care, and always consult an expert before trying home cleaning techniques.

Nancy Plante
Nancy Plante


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