For millennia, human beings have sought out durable and beautiful things to use as talismans to remind us of the most important people and events in our lives. Deeply sentimental, delightfully fun, and financially valuable, it’s no wonder that we fall in love with our jewelry!
Your grandmother’s locket can transport you back to her lap, while your engagement ring reminds you of the sparkle in your partner’s eyes. Even those silver earrings you bought on the beach can evoke the starry night that followed.
Your jewelry and the story it carries is worth preserving, so we have some simple guidelines to care for your treasures so they continue to shine and work their emotional magic:
1) Be a caretaker. Beautiful old jewelry exists today because someone took care of it in the past. Now it’s your turn to treat your pieces with the respect they deserve, so future generations can enjoy them too. Wear your treasures mindfully. That means no rock climbing, gardening, or retiling the kitchen wearing your rings. Avoid wearing softer stones to the beach, exposing any jewelry to harsh chemicals, and storing your jewelry tossed together–even diamonds can chip (that’s how we cut them).
Even with mindful wear, it’s a good idea to have a professional jeweler check for wear, loose stones, cracks, or other problems at least once a year. Most problems start small, and a timely expert repair can save lots of problems and heartbreak down the line. The best jewelers will be able to use lasers to do the most delicate and least invasive repair work.
2) Clean and check regularly. A quick trip to “spa” will do your jewelry a world of good. Hand sanitizer, sunscreen, soap, even cooking debris can all wind up both on your jewelry and behind the stones. Over time, built up dirt can even start pushing on stones, causing them to loosen.
While it’s best to let a professional jeweler clean your sparklies, between visits you can use this gentle cleaning process for everything except costume jewelry, pearls, opals, and emeralds:
- Fill a dish with a cup of hot tap water (not boiling water), and add a teaspoon of dish soap and a few drops of ammonia.
- Mix well, then add a piece or two of jewelry.
- Let the jewelry soak for about 15 minutes.
- Remove the pieces and gently scrub on all sides with a soft child's toothbrush, paying special attention to the areas behind the stones.
- When you’re done, rinse well, and gently blot dry.
3) Take it off when you sleep. It may seem like your jewelry will be resting when you do, but while you sleep, prongs can catch on the sheets, chains tug while pressed between your body and the pillows, and earrings pull loose. Sleeping in jewelry is also bad for your body, since hands swell while you sleep, and rings that fit well during the day can become tight, eventually contributing to swelling in your knuckles. Get a little dish for your nightstand, and put your jewelry there while you snooze. This practice also gives you that moment in the morning, when reaching for your rings, to stop and think “wait, I’m going white water rafting today”, so you can leave the jewelry safe at home.
4) Wear it! No one has fond memories of the bracelet that spent its whole life locked in a bank box. Our connections to jewelry build through wear. The sound of a jingling charm bracelet, the delight of noticing rainbows on the ceiling refracting from a diamond ring, or the way a favorite pair of earrings frames a loved one’s face. Memories of well-loved jewelry is how the next generations build sentimental attachment to family heirlooms.
5) If you don’t love it, change it. If you have pieces in your collection that you never wear, consider working with a custom jeweler to have them re-styled into something you love. Custom work can be both fun and affordable, especially when working with professionals who combine design and fabrication all in house. Maybe you’d wear that sapphire more if it was set in a platinum ring instead of a yellow gold pin, or maybe some of those links from grandma’s broken diamond watch could become your new favorite earrings! Look for an experienced jeweler that specializes in hand fabrication techniques to salvage design elements you love and rework them to give them new life.
Located in Downtown Portland, Maloy’s Jewelry has been tenderly restoring, redesigning and caring for jewelry, both antique and modern, for over 30 years. Schedule an appointment or peruse their collection of antique and heirloom jewelry at www.maloys.com