Handcrafted jewelry is more than an adornment. Each piece is a work of art, created with the skill and vision of an individual who has invested the time and effort to learn the craft. Design and style reveal the depth of artistic vision.
With vintage jewelry, it is important to know that patina can bring value of the item. So before you decide to clean your precious artifacts please consider that you may be devaluing the piece.
Over time, your jewelry can become tarnished and discolored or get other materials caught in the crevices of the design. There are also times when an item may need repair, a process, which may be difficult to do without possibly damaging the jewelry. It may lose some of the luster it had. If necessity means the time has come to clean your silver and turquoise jewelry, there are some important things to keep in mind before you start.
The first step in determining what not to do when cleaning Native American jewelry is to know what techniques or processes will do more harm than good. Some of the techniques to avoid include:
- Do not immerse or soak the piece in a solution
- Do not use abrasive chemicals such as bleach or commercial cleaners
- Do not use ultrasonic and steam cleaners
Placing a piece of jewelry, particularly one with stones in the design, in liquid can be very damaging to the structure of the piece. Stones can become loosened or fall out. Often times artists use materials such as wood that may expand or change shape when immersed in a liquid, this can cause some permanent damage. Turquoise especially is a very porous stone. Chemical cleaners can cause discoloration of the stones or other unintended damage. Most silver cleaners are designed to remove the tarnish from flatware. Many times they are too harsh for the delicate inlay of some pieces, leaving them cleaned of more than the offending material.
The best way to clean is a simple one. A soft brush (such as an old toothbrush) or a soft cloth can be used to carefully remove the tarnish or other materials from the piece. Remember to be gentle with your touch, rubbing the piece with medium pressure to remove the tarnish. You can also use a mild soap if necessary, but be careful to not soak the piece. Keep in mind also that cleaning can remove the patina from your piece along with the weathering that shows its age. There may be some loss of value.
Another good choice for cleaning your jewelry is to take it to someone with the knowledge and skill to perform the task without damaging the piece. A reputable jeweler is an excellent option. Should you choose to do the cleaning yourself, you may still want to visit a jeweler to purchase polishing cloths which have been treated with a special non-abrasive cleaner.
To keep from having to worry about potential damage to your jewelry from cleaning methods, you can use some simple ideas about caring for and storing your pieces that will help prevent tarnish and discoloration from occurring. Storing your jewelry in airtight bags will protect it from exposure to the air which can cause tarnishing. One exception to this rule concerns pieces which have been intentionally oxidized to give them a vintage look. These pieces should not be placed in an airtight container, as that may remove the oxidization. You can simply loosen the bag or put a hole in it for these pieces.
Another way to protect your jewelry from damage and weathering is to remember to take it off when you are performing certain tasks. Gardening especially can get dirt into the crevices which may require cleaning. You will also need to protect it from perfumes, chemical cleaners and extreme changes in temperature. Taking the time to make certain your jewelry is stored in the best possible environment will keep it in good shape for a long time.
Here are a few more tips to consider when maintaining or cleaning Native American jewelry – 8 Tips