September 1st, 2018

Fall cleaning your jewelry box

Does your jewelry box look like one hot mess? Katrin and Karen happily share their advice on how to properly store and care for your jewelry, so you can keep your precious pieces sparkling all year round.

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‘“Why does silver tarnish?” definitely tops our list of most frequently asked questions’, Katrin and Karen explain. To make sense of the answer, understanding the difference between silver-plated jewelry and Sterling silver jewelry is key. The first option refers to pieces of non-precious metal jewelry coated with a thin layer of silver. When this silver layer wears down, the underlying metal shines through, leaving a black tarnish. Sterling silver jewelry, by contrast, is made entirely of an alloy of pure silver and other metals. That tiny '.925' stamp you see on silver jewelry means that 925 out of 1.000 parts are silver, while the remaining 75 parts consist of a mix of other metals, mainly copper. Sterling silver jewelry oxidizes when exposed to air and water. During this chemical process, impurities stick to the silver surface, which becomes dull and dark as a result. Fortunately, there are ways around this. A few pointers:

Wear it or work it

The more you actually wear your jewelry, the less you have to clean it. The oxidation process slows down in pieces that are often worn: they frequently come into contact with other materials, so impurities won’t stick to the silver surface so easily.

Jewelry box

It’s impossible to put on your entire collection all day, every day – even if you’d want to. Keep those pieces you don’t wear in a dry and dark place. The best idea is to store them in an airtight bag in a box. Whatever you do: ban your jewelry from your bathroom. It makes good sense to fall-clean your jewelry box to maintain order at all times. Whenever possible, store your jewelry separately. Necklaces, for instance, have a way of getting tangled and are often damaged when you try to untangle them. Broken necklace? Orphaned earring? Our goldsmiths in the atelier in Antwerp are happy to help you. Stop by one of our stores with your damaged or orphaned jewel to discuss the options.

Everyday dirt

Though silver jewelry oxidizes less quickly when worn, dirt always seems to find a way in. And then there’s those summer months and the inevitable sweat that can tarnish your jewelry. The easiest thing to do is to polish your piece of jewelry with a toothbrush and a mild detergent. Please note: due to their fragility, pearls and (semi-)precious stones are best left to a professional. Do you like to go to the sauna from time to time? Your jewelry most certainly doesn’t. Take your rings, bracelets and necklaces off before stepping into the steamy cabin, because Sterling silver does not mix well with chloride and salty water.

Major clean-up

If you’ve given free rein to oxidation for too long, a mild detergent just won’t do. Tackle the most stubborn stains with a silver-polishing cloth or a silver dip (both available from your local drugstore), which will make your silver jewelry shine again in no time. Make sure to wash your pieces of jewelry with a mild soap solution and to rinse them with lukewarm water after using the silver dip. However, keep in mind that prevention is better than cure. Chemical polishes like silver dip or silver-polishing cloths dissolve the copper in the top layer of your Sterling silver pieces. So while there’s no harm in using them every once in a while, you should not repeat this treatment too often.

This article was first published in Dutch on