♦ General tips for looking after jewellery
♦ Solid gold jewellery
♦ Platinum jewellery
♦ Vermeil jewellery
♦ Silver jewellery
♦ Resin jewellery
♦ Verdigris jewellery
♦ Enamel jewellery
♦ Brass jewellery
♦ General cleaning advice
♦ Our reconditioning services
By its very nature, jewellery is precious and needs consistent and continuous TLC to stay looking its very best.
Like all things overtime, jewellery needs to be cleaned, polished, brightened, rejuvenated and sometimes professionally restored to prevent it from chipping, fading, scratching, bending, warping, falling apart or incurring long-term damage.
The below guide hopes to give you a basic understanding of how to look after your jewellery, whether it be made of solid gold, silver or something a little more unique like verdigris or enamel.
GENERAL TIPS FOR LOOKING AFTER JEWELLERY
♦ Check jewellery regularly for signs of dirt, wear and tear. The quicker you spot trouble the easier it is to clean it.
♦ Do not use abrasive cleaners on jewellery. EVER.
♦ Be gentle when you clean jewellery. You always want to do your best not to scratch the metal, the gemstones or dislodge a setting.
♦ After each wear, it is recommended to wipe jewellery clean with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth to remove any make-up or natural skin oils. In practice this doesn’t happen – most people are too busy to remember – but in principle its always a good idea….
♦ Do your very very best not to get threaded pearl or beaded jewellery wet as water may cause the string thread to weaken and break.
♦ After wearing, clean natural pearls with a soft, dry cloth and store in breathable fabric pouches or tissue.
♦ Book in a professional check-up / clean-up for your most treasured pieces once every few years, or as wear-and-tear demands.
♦ If you notice damage – such as a loose stone, broken claw, thinning metal or any fractures in a piece of jewellery – stop wearing it immediately and take it to a professional for evaluation.
SOLID GOLD JEWELLERY
WHAT IS A CARAT?
Gold jewellery comes in varying levels of purity or finesse, known as ‘carats’. It’s not the same thing as gemstone ‘carat’ weight. Gold ‘carat’ weight refers to the purity percentage of the metal, whereas with gemstones, ‘carat’ is a mass weight metric.
In the UK, gold jewellery comes in standard purity measures of 9ct, 18ct, 22ct and 24ct gold, with 9ct and 18ct gold being the most widely used for fine jewellery.
Gold is typically ‘mixed’ with other metal ‘alloys’ when used for jewellery. These carat numbers signify the different ratios of pure gold to alloy in any given piece of jewellery or batch. For example, 9ct yellow gold is 37.5% pure gold and the remainder a mix of silver and copper alloy. 18ct gold jewellery, by comparison, is made from 75% pure gold, which is why it is more expensive.
Here’s a breakdown of the gold-to-alloy ratios:
9ct gold = 37.5% pure gold
18ct gold = 75% pure gold
22ct gold = 91.6% pure gold
24ct gold = 99% pure gold
WHICH CARAT FOR WHAT?
Within British-made jewellery, 9ct and 18ct gold are used as standard due to the hard-wearing nature of both ‘mixes’. Whilst generally suitable for all types of jewellery, there are some small pros and cons with both options, and it’s always worth weighing these up when buying or commissioning solid gold jewellery:
♦ Because of its higher gold purity ratio, 18ct yellow gold has a warmer and brighter gold tone than 9ct yellow gold. If you are looking for that intense ‘gold’ look, then 18ct is your man.
♦ Unsurprisingly, 18ct is more expensive gram per gram, so if budget is a consideration, small savings can often be made by using 9ct gold instead 18ct gold.
♦ 9ct gold (with its higher percentage of alloys) tends to be considered more scratch resistant and ‘harder’ than 18ct yellow gold. However, because it is ‘harder’ it is also more brittle, making it more susceptible to break cleanly.
♦ 18ct gold, by comparison, is softer, but less likely to cleanly break. When damaged, it is more likely to scratch, bend or warp out of shape.
♦ It is illegal in the UK to market and sell an item of jewellery as ‘gold’ if it contains less than 37.5% pure gold (9ct). 9ct gold is therefore the lowest, recognised calibre of solid gold in the UK.
♦ Because different golds have different hardenesses, it’s always a good idea to try and match the gold carat weight of your engagement ring with that of your wedding band. A 9ct gold band, for example, can wear down the edges of 18ct gold engagement ring if worn side by side continuously for many years.
♦ This is also true when it comes to mixing harder platinum and softer gold – it’s best to avoid having those two materials next to each other on a long-term basis.
CARING FOR GOLD JEWELLERY
Pure gold is an inert metal, which means it does not oxidise or tarnish, so it’s pretty low maintenance as metals go. 9ct gold, with its lower purity percentage, can sometimes tarnish over time due to its higher silver content ratio, but generally speaking it still demands comparatively little attention when you compare it to silver, for example.
Solid gold jewellery is safe to wear in the bath, shower or sea, making it perfect for the kind of jewellery that you don’t want to have to take off and on 50 times a day – like wedding bands and engagement rings. It is, however, important to make sure that you keep all solid gold jewellery in tip-top condition so that it isn’t at any risk of falling off.
Regardless of carat weight, we always recommend that each piece of solid gold jewellery is kept stored or packed in individual pouches or boxes (such as those provided by us with every purchase) to reduce the chance of it being knocked or scratched by other, harder jewellery pieces.
If you would like to clean your gold jewellery, you can either gently rub it with a specially designed gold polishing cloth (we like Town Talk Gold Polishing Cloths), or you can soak it in warm, soapy water and gently scrub with an old, soft-bristled tooth brush, before rinsing in clean water and drying well.
We recommend that you regularly clean your gold jewellery, especially if it is gem-set, to ensure dirt does not embed into the cracks and corners of the gemstone settings (which can cause stones to become loose).
White gold jewellery often needs a little more care to keep the metal looking white. This generally means giving a piece of white gold jewellery a rhodium plating bath to re-coat the surface of the ring and bring it back up to white shine. Generally speaking, a regularly worn item of white gold jewellery, such as a white gold engagement ring, may require replating every 1-2 years.
WHAT IS PLATINUM?
Platinum is a very ‘white’ metal, which does not require colour enhancement (such as rhodium plating) to keep it looking pristine. It’s still considered a fairly recent material within jewellery, gaining popularity in the late 1800s, with its heyday in the Edwardian and the Art Deco period.
It is a very dense precious metal, much heavier in volume than white gold. Two identical platinum and white gold rings would have very different weights, with the former being considerably heavier.
In its pure state, platinum is a soft metal, but once combined with other alloys (iridium, rhodium and ruthenium), it becomes much harder, making it the perfect material for use in jewellery manufacture. In the UK, platinum jewellery tends to contain a very high ratio of platinum to other alloys (95% platinum and just 5% other metal alloy), making it a very good option for people who are often sensitive to particular base metals or alloys used in white gold.
CARING FOR PLATINUM JEWELLERY
Like gold, platinum is resistant to corrosion and is super hardwearing. Because it is both strong and malleable, it really lends itself very well to jewellery and can be used for particularly fine metal work and settings.
But like all fine metals, it does need TLC from time to time. Platinum jewellery needs regular polishing to keep it looking its whitest and best. It also needs to be checked over carefully if it sustains a knock or hit, as platinum jewellery tends to snap cleanly instead of warp when damaged.
That said, a platinum wears down much more slowly than a gold, so it generally requires very little maintenance. If you feel it needs a quick clean you can use warm, soapy water and a soft bristled toothbrush to get rid of daily grime.
GOLD VERMEIL JEWELLERY
WHAT IS VERMEIL JEWELLERY?
Gold vermeil is sterling silver that has been gold plated through an electrochemical process. Unless otherwise stated, our gold-plated jewellery is vermeil-plated-solid-sterling-silver with a layer 4 microns thick of 18ct yellow gold. Unlike regular gold-plating, vermeil plating deposits a thicker layer of gold on the metal’s surface so is more durable. However, it’s important to note that neither vermeil nor gold-plating is permanent.
HOW TO LOOK AFTER VERMEIL JEWELLERY
Care should always be taken when cleaning any vermeil jewellery to protect the layer of gold from being worn away or scratched. The smallest of scratches can encourage vermeil jewellery to start to tarnish. The same applies to chemical and cosmetic exposure. For that reasons, we recommend that all vermeil jewellery be removed when showering, exercising or swimming to keep it looking at its best.
The best method to clean vermeil or gold plated jewellery is to soak it in warm soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly, then gently wipe with a soft microfibre cloth. Do not use any specialist cleaning products or impregnated cloths as they often contain chemicals that can accelerate the erosion of the gold micron layers.
As with all jewellery, we recommend storing vermeil and gold plated items in individual pouches or boxes to minimise scratches caused by other jewellery pieces rubbing against each other.
STERLING SILVER JEWELLERY
WHAT IS STERLING SILVER?
Sterling silver is a precious metal alloy containing 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals (usually copper). Its purity has been regulated as early as Saxon times and today is marked by the hallmark stamp ‘925’.
HOW TO KEEP SILVER CLEAN
As precious metals go, this one needs a bit of love and care to keep it looking its best as it has a tendency to tarnish when not maintained.
Tarnish is caused by the silver reacting with sulphur in the air. When tarnished, silver will turn dark grey or black, making it look like it has been painted with a cover of soot or tar. It’s generally much easier to remove when it first becomes visible, and comparatively harder to remove when the tarnish really sets in. For that reason, we highly recommend that you give your silver jewellery a good clean on a regular basis to stop this happening. Here are our top tips for silver cleaning:
♦ Silver jewellery with no gemstones can we washed in warm water with mild soap. Make sure you completely dry the silver jewellery with a soft lint-free cloth before returning it to its protective pouch. Don’t use paper towels as they can scratch silver.
♦ If the piece of silver needs a bit more of a deep clean, you can use a soft, old toothbrush along with soapy water to try and remove some of the dark residue. Alternatively, use a professional silver polish like this one to get at the tarnish.
♦ You may wish to invest in a couple of specialist silver polishing cloths for day-to-day use. These are 100% cotton and infused with silver cleaner, making it super easy to keep your silver jewellery looking tip top.
♦ Finally, it’s worth remembering that silver jewellery likes to be put on last – ie. after you have moisturised and perfumed yourself. It also likes to be kept away from household chemicals, sun cream and sand; and loves to be stored in dry, cool, dark places like a clothes drawer or safe.
We often use the ancient technique of enamelling to bring additional colour and texture to our jewellery.
We use vitreous enamel, which comes in a variety of bright, vibrant colours and tones. This enamel is produced by applying a glass-like powder (usually made from mixture of quartz and various metal oxides) to a metal base, and then firing both at a high temperature to fuse the glass residue to the piece of jewellery.
Care should always be taken when wearing, storing and cleaning enamel jewellery. It is fragile by nature, and the enamel in jewellery may crack, chip or break if it is dropped onto hard ground, knocked against a hard surface, or bent or warped out of shape through wear and tear.
We recommend that all our enamel jewellery pieces are stored in protective pouches or boxes to reduce the risk of the enamel being damaged by other jewellery.
Although enamel is highly resistant to colour-fading caused by the sun and UV, enamel colour can alter or fade over time if exposed to chemicals and cosmetics. We also strongly recommend removing enamel jewellery before showering, exercising, carrying out household chores or swimming; and cosmetics or perfumes should always be applied in advance of wearing any enamel pieces.
Standard chemical jewellery cleaning products should not be used on enamel jewellery, and enamel pieces should never be placed in an ultrasonic jewellery cleaner. If you want to give your enamel jewellery some TLC we recommend using a very, very soft bristled toothbrush and soapy warm water (followed by a good rinse and a thorough drying off).
If in doubt, feel free to drop us an email at [email protected] and we would be happy to advise on the best route forward. We also handle enamel restoration for pieces that need a thorough repair.
Verdigris is created by adding a layer of copper-based solution to base metals, such as brass. The solution is applied to the metal surface, and then once the desired colour or finish is achieved, the metal is sealed with a protective coat of lacquer to increase the durability of the green-blue finish.
The tone and texture of a verdigris piece can change over time, and for us, that’s part of the charm of it! Certain environments or atmospheric conditions, however, can cause these changes to happen more quickly than others so it’s important to be aware of your environment. We strongly suggest that you
♦ remove verdigris rings before washing hands
♦ remove verdigris jewellery before carrying out household chores (where you are likely to come into contact with chemicals)
♦ apply all moisturisers and perfumes well before putting on verdigris jewellery
♦ never wear verdigris jewellery in the pool, shower, bath, sauna or in the sea
♦ store each piece of verdigris jewellery in its own pouch or box
Care should also be taken not to drop, knock or bend verdigris jewellery as collisions can cause the verdigris finish to chip, scratch or crack.
Please note that standard jewellery cleaning products should never be used on verdigris jewellery, nor should they ever be cleaned professionally using an ultrasonic cleaner. Should you wish to clean the surface of your verdigris jewellery we recommend using a soft cloth or duster to remove any residue. Hard pressure should not be applied.
WHAT IS RESIN?
Resin is one of our favourite materials to use in our fine jewellery designs. It is a form of liquid plastic that remains pourable until combined with a hardening solution.
It’s pretty easy to work with, highly versatile and extremely lightweight, making it ideal for creating colourful jewellery.
WHAT SHOULD I BE AWARE OF?
As it is a plastic, resin is easily scratched by harder materials and over time can develop nicks to the surface. Whilst it won’t shatter if dropped, resin jewellery may chip or dent upon impact if knocked hard. In our opinion, it’s best to remove resin jewellery before carrying out any physical activity that may subject it to knocks or abrasion.
It’s also important that resin jewellery doesn’t come into contact with high temperatures or chemicals and solvents, as these can cause the surface of the resin to melt, go cloudy or take on weird textures (such as puckering, stickiness or waves).
Should you wish to clean your resin jewellery, regular wiping with a lint free cloth is great. You can also give it a gentle rinse with warm, soapy water and a soft cloth. We do not recommend using a toothbrush on resin as even the softest of bristles could cause very faint scratches on the surface of the resin.
We love working with brass. It’s super lightweight and can be used for a variety of pieces, from statement earrings to stone-set rings and necklaces.
Traditionally associated with fashion and costume jewellery, it is slowly becoming more commonplace in the world of fine jewellery as many designers look to challenge the boundaries of what materials belong where.
HOW TO KEEP BRASS LOOKING GOOD
Brass is naturally subject to tarnishing and changing colour. Chemicals from both the atmosphere and the human skin cause brass to take on different metallic tones over time, which we believe adds charm, life and individuality to brass jewellery.
That being said, there are a few things you can do to try and limit these changes:
♦ Keep brass away from extremely high temperatures
♦ Rinse brass with warm, soapy water and rub gently with a soft toothbrush. Be careful not to scratch any gemstones which might be set into the jewellery.
♦Some specialist anti-tarnish cloths are suitable for brass jewellery. Make sure to read the instructions carefully and check if the solution is compatible for use with all gemstones.
♦ Always make sure brass jewellery is completely dry before storing to avoid tarnish through oxidisation.
OUR REPAIRS AND RECONDITIONING SERVICE
Most of the time looking after jewellery is fairly simple – a clean here and there, along with a general check over on occasion is probably the most you will ever need to do in the short term.
However, jewellery is (by its very nature) fragile, and humans are (by their very nature) living organisms with moving limbs. Collisions between jewellery and a very hard place happen, and when they happen a little trip to the jewellery doctor might be what’s needed to get the show back on the road.
From a quick re-plating to a full rebuild, we are happy to handle the smallest and largest restoration jobs for all types of jewellery – both modern and antique. We’ll always give you a cost estimate quote before proceeding, along with any advice needed to help you make your decision about what to do next.
To get in touch please email [email protected].