Authentic handmade Native American jewelry is valued for its unique beauty and hand craftsmanship. Because the jewelry is handmade, using natural materials, it may be more vulnerable to damage than the generic mass-produced jewelry found on the market. Here are 8 tips to consider for maintaining your authentic handmade jewelry:
- Avoid Water
Avoid submerging jewelry in water or other liquids. A natural patina is the desired look with Native American jewelry. Uneven exposure to water can cause uneven oxidation to the metal. Traditionally, when setting a stone in silver housing, Native silversmiths use wood chips or sawdust under the stones to level and secure the stones tightly. If the wood sawdust becomes wet it can swell and push the stone out of the bezel. In modern times silversmiths will use special jewelry glues to hold stones in place. Water can degrade the glue and cause the stones to fall out. Items with leather, such as bolo ties ketohs and concho belts, can be permanently damaged by water exposure.
- Gentle Cleaning
If your jewelry becomes dirty and you want to give it a gentle cleaning, it is fine to use soap and warm water in a controlled manner. Soap makes the water slightly basic, which is not as harmful to metal as water in its natural acidic state. Take care to keep the cleaning solution away from the stones and stone housings. Wipe the jewelry with a soapy, delicate towel that will not scratch the jewelry surface and gently scrub. After cleaning, be sure to dry your jewelry with a fine towel. Complicated Native applique jewelry (jewelry with many set stones and fine silverwork such as leaves and beading) is best cleaned at a professional jeweler shop.
- Polishing Tips
Make sure the jewelry is clean before polishing. Even a small grain of sand can lead to scratching after it is forcefully rubbed on the surface of metal. Do not use a paper towel to dry or polish, because the fibrous material can scratch gem and metal surfaces. Use professional polishing cloths, they are fairly cheap and can be found at your local jewelry supply store.
- Avoid harmful products
Chemical products such as cleaning solutions, make-up, hairspray, perfume and other commercial products, can damage metals and gemstones. If you are using these products for any reason, make sure you take your jewelry off. Put on make-up and use hair products before wearing your jewelry to limit exposure to harmful chemicals. Turquoise and organic material such as coral and shell are extra sensitive due to their porous nature. Skin oils can get into stones and may change the stone’s color. To keep your jewelry looking its best, avoid direct touching of the stones.
- Safe Storage
Keep your jewelry in a safe place. Do not leave your jewelry lying around where it may be exposed to the elements, children, and pets. Keep your jewelry in a closed container. Jewelry boxes are nice as they keep out external forces. Avoid keeping multiple items in one box, try to have special pieces in their own private case. Too often, jewelry can be scratched by contact from other pieces.
- Regular Inspections
Inspect your jewelry for damage or wear. Daily use items should be checked on a regular basis. Rare pieces that are only worn on special occasions should be checked after their use. Native American handmade jewelry has not been mass-produced by a machine and does not always have perfect shape or settings. The uniqueness of these items will give the pieces individual shapes and sizes. Check the areas that may seem more vulnerable to damage. Identifying a potential weakness in the jewelry early on can prevent the loss of a valuable stone or even save the piece from breaking.
- Professional Repair
If you need your jewelry sized or repaired, rely on a professional. If the jewelry is forced to bend by an amateur it can strain the metal or put pressure on stone settings. This can and will cause the metal to crack or the stones to fall out. If the jewelry is damaged, never clean the broke pieces as it can make the problem worse. Take weakened or broken jewelry to a repair shop as soon as possible.
- Transporting With Care
Jewelry is most vulnerable when it is being worn or being transported. If you are moving or mailing jewelry make sure you keep it in a secure location. Shipping jewelry is much safer if it is double boxed. The outer box should be lined with packing materials such as packing peanuts. The jewelry should also be secured within the inner box to keep it from moving around. We handle our packaging with a little extra care at Turquoise Skies.