Brass, bronze and sterling silver jewelry has an appeal that is hard to match. The warm earthy tones, the low cost and the rustic appeal all contribute to its lovely charm. Unfortunately, over time and when not worn, these lovely metals can tarnish and turn dull. This natural oxidation process is intriguing, simply because it gives the jewelry character and builds upon its story.
However, every once in awhile, that dull finish needs a facelift and the jewelry needs a good cleaning. Besides, who wants their jewelry just sitting around, looking drab? Let’s make those beautiful handmade pieces shine so we can wear them with confidence!
At the CSB Jewelry studio, we have tested some great DIY, all-natural jewelry polishing techniques and are happy to share them with you here. Please note that these tips are geared towards cleaning CSB Jewelry pieces. If you have questions about cleaning a piece of jewelry from another independent artist, I highly recommend emailing them to ask. They will know best practices for cleaning their handmade pieces.
I do NOT recommend using chemical jewelry cleaner. The harshness of these products can potentially destroy the finish of the piece.
Polishing & Cleaning Mixed Metal Jewelry (combination of Brass, Bronze & Sterling Silver)
What you will need:
- White vinegar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Baking soda
- Old toothbrush
- Soft cloth
- Fine steel wool #0 or #000 (the more 0s, the finer)
In one small bowl, add approximately ¼ cup vinegar
In a second small bowl, make a baking soda paste: Use approximately 1 tsp lemon juice and 1 tsp vinegar, then add just enough baking soda to make a thick paste (be prepared for fizzing!)
Drop jewelry in the plain vinegar (first bowl) and let sit for a few minutes - be sure the piece is completely submerged
Remove jewelry and use an old toothbrush to gently scrub the baking soda paste (second bowl) all over the piece for another couple of minutes - this will release any dirt and oils on the piece
Rinse and dry jewelry with a soft cloth
- Bracing the piece on a clean, non-metal surface, gently rub in tiny circles using the fine steel wool - be delicate with ear posts, ear wires and chain. Also, be aware that the steel wool will leave tiny scratches on the surface. We use this method to finish our jewelry designs, but if you are cleaning a piece that has a high polish finish, skip this step and simply use a polishing cloth (see below).
For a portable, no-fuss option, use a treated polishing cloth. Our favorite is the Sunshine Polishing Cloth - coming soon to clairesommersbuck.com!
Polishing & Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry
If the tarnish is not too severe, using the Sunshine Polishing Cloth mentioned above is your best bet. If the polishing cloth is not enough to remove a heavy build-up of tarnish, you can make a simple solution at home to remove the excess oil & dirt that is preventing you from polishing the silver. Mix a paste of 2 tsp white vinegar & 1tsp baking soda. Using an old toothbrush, gently scrub the paste over the piece focusing on those hard to reach areas. Rinse and dry well. Follow with the Sunshine Polishing Cloth.
Polishing & Cleaning Gold Jewelry
Mix 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid to 1 cup warm water. Submerge the piece in the soapy solution and use an old toothbrush to gently scrub the piece. This will help remove any dirt buildup in those hard to reach places. Rinse & dry well.
Keeping Your Jewelry Looking New (the Do’s and Dont’s)
- Never shower or swim in your jewelry
Apply lotions and perfume before you put on your jewelry for the day
Avoid storing jewelry in bathroom - the humidity expedites the tarnishing process
When you aren’t wearing the jewelry, keep it stored in a pouch or air-tight plastic bag
Treat your jewelry with LOVE - a lot of care and attention was involved in making the jewelry, and it should be treated in the same fashion
Handcrafted jewelry is a great investment, and we hope these tips are helpful to keep your pieces looking new. Here at CSB Jewelry, we are dedicated to the belief that soulfully produced items can truly enrich our lives. When treated with love, we hope our jewelry will empower & engage you for many years to come!
Thank you for reading! If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at clairesommersbuck.com/contact/.