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a soft toothbrush and mild dish soap clean a gold and diamond ring

How to Care for Your Jewellery

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Dorothee Rosen Designer Jeweller Goldsmith and Silversmith Profile
with Dorothée Rosen


Handcrafted jewellery was made with great care; it is lovely to treat it in the same way.

Generally, follow common sense: shower or wash your hands and put on lotions, perfumes or deodorants before you put on jewellery. Avoid wearing jewellery where it can get damaged by contact with hard surfaces such as on the beach (sand = abrasive … as in ‘sandpaper’), at the swimming pool (chemicals), working out or using tools (steel is harder than sterling or gold). Chlorine can damage metals (even gold and platinum) and can slowly erode the finish and polish of gemstones, so do not wear your jewellery in the shower, swimming pool or hot tub. Remove rings during activities such as moving heavy objects, biking, rock climbing, weight lifting, etc., and remember that metal against metal will cause damage to your rings.

Sterling Silver Jewellery Care

What is sterling silver?

Chemically speaking, sterling silver is an alloy or mixture of metals of sterling silver are at least 92.5% silver, and 7.5% other metals. The metals react with chemicals found in air, especially sulphur, creating a dark surface layer

What happens?

Environmental factors such as proximity to the ocean, or high moisture levels in general, as well as exposure to sunlight and contaminants such as salt water or sulphur developing during cooking in your kitchen, can harm jewellery, especially sterling silver.  Additionally contact with materials such as cosmetics, hairspray, perfume, deodorant, body lotion, bleach, etc., can speed up the tarnishing process.

Body chemistry also matters: some people have skin with particularly acidic pH levels.  This has to do with amino acids, and can alter with changes in hormone balance, and with medication, particularly chemotherapy, as well as stress (!).

Lastly, dirt, sand and small rocks are abrasive: gardening, going to the beach or playing in the sand can be harmful to your jewellery.

How to fix it

What to do depends on the severity of the problem. Let’s face it, sometimes jewellery gets very, very neglected. To remove heavier tarnish or oily build-up, soak and then wash your silver jewellery with warm water and mild dish soap. Use a very soft bristled toothbrush to loosen any stubborn bits.

You can also apply diluted dish detergent to a clean cotton or flannel cloth and rub the piece in one direction. Try to avoid circular motions.

silver tarnish-removing dip with basket

If you would like an easy solution to tarnishing problems, I have one for you  – an amazingly well-working silver dip. Once rough debris or oils are removed, simply immerse the sterling silver piece in the basket, count one-onehundred, two-onehundred, three-onehundred, four, and out it comes. Don’t leave it in the solution longer than a few seconds! Then rinse immediately under running water. Dry with soft cloth. Voila!

Please be advised that this process will also remove any patina or oxidization, which may have been applied to your piece on purpose (these are the dark lines in recesses to highlight designs in some silver jewellery).

Let me say this: Such magic does not happen without chemicals, so it is recommended that you open a window (or two) while you do this. There is a definite smell to this product, as well. But trust me, I have tried many many such product, and this is the best! You will love it.

Unlike my Gentle Jewellery Cleaning Kit, the Silver Dip is not safe to use on all jewellery, but is exclusively used on sterling silver. Do not use on porous gemstones, delicate pearls, opals, enamels or fashion jewellery. Also please note that chemical dips should never be used on objects that have sealed hollow components, such as candlesticks and teapots with hollow handles, or trophies with hollow feet, as the liquid can become trapped inside.

Bottom line: if you can, to clean sterling silver jewellery, use a professional silver cleaning solution and/or polishing cloth, such as the products available in my shop.

Further prevention

The single best way to avoid tarnishing of your sterling silver jewellery is to wear it – worn jewellery rarely tarnishes, unless a person has very specifically acidic body chemistry.  This has to do with amino acids, and can change with changes in hormone balance, and with medication, particularly chemotherapy.

Don’t store your sterling silver over the sink, or by the open window facing the ocean, or next to your stove, or even in the bathroom where it is more humid than in other rooms.
Ideally, after taking off your silver jewellery and before storing it, clean it with a dry soft cloth, or polishing cloth – every time.

If you have them, store your jewellery in tarnish-resistance re-sealable plastic bags when you are not wearing the pieces (I am happy to send you some, free of charge – simply let me know!). This will also prevent the pieces from rubbing against each other in your jewellery box.

Having said all that…

It can be argued that there is beauty in tarnish, if it is in the right places: the dark patina which builds up over time in the crevices of the OneFooter Series rings can become a very attractive element of a well-worn piece. Many of my collectors value this sign of age, when the ring remains shiny on the outside, because they wear it every day. Soapy water will definitely suffice, in that case :)

A last word: please do not use any homemade jewellery cleaning ideas, such as bleach, ammonia, baking soda or even toothpaste, on gemstones. Toothpaste or baking soda contain abrasives and may scratch the surface of the silver. Do not use harsh chemicals such as bleach, acetone, etc, to clean your silver because they can make silver more dull, and ruin the surface. The same is true for boiling it with aluminum foil – don’t do it.

Gold Jewellery Care

Follow all other advice mentioned above about how to store and handle gold and pearl jewellery. Additional notes below:

To clean gold or palladium gold jewellery,  also soak each piece for 3-5 minutes in diluted dish detergent in a small bowl of water. Gently clean your item by using a soft bristle toothbrush. To ensure you removed all the diluted dish soap, rinse the piece under warm running water, and dry very ring with maple-leaf texture

For best results, use the Gentle Jewellery Cleaning Kit. This specifically formulated solution is safe to use on a wide array of jewellery, from beads and sterling silver to gold, gemstones, delicate pearls, opals, and unique fashion jewelry. This ammonia-free cleaner can be safely used on porous stones, soft stones, enamel and treated gemstones to keep jewellery sparkling like new. The kit also includes a polishing cloth. Follow the instructions in the package.
If you do not have the kit, try the warm water & soap, then rinse well and pat dry with a soft, lint-free cloth. Always be sure to dry your jewellery completely before storing or wearing  it solution and polishing cloth for fine jewellery

Pearl Jewellery Care

Kasumiga Pearl ring, with the pearl being wrapped in a swirl of 18k yellow gold

Pearls are an organic gem (and what an amazing one!) and they require specific care that will protect them for a very long time. They can be harmed by contact with many chemicals found in household cleaners, perfumes, cosmetics and hair care products of all kinds.

They should only be cleaned with diluted mild dish soap and warm water, or a cleaning solution especially created for such purposes, such as my Gentle Jewellery Cleaning Kit.  But you can also simply wipe your pearls with a soft cloth moistened with water.  Never place your pearls in an ultrasonic or use a jewellery cleaner not made for pearls. 

Always store your pearls wrapped in a soft cloth or pouch and protected from all abrasive objects, or metal jewellery. Pearl jewellery which contains sterling silver elements, such as my MoonPearl Series, should be stored in sealed plastic baggies, ideally tarnish-resistant ones.

That’s it for now; I will write another article on gemstone jewellery, as well as pearls, soon. Take good care of yourself, and your jewellery!

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Custom 18K Yellow Gold Ring with Diamond and Sapphire by Dorothée Rosen
People tell me they make it their Sunday morning ritual to read my letters. It's a personal look into the life of an artist, with intimate stories, care tips, and of course some exclusive jewellery previews as well.