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How to Clean Metal Jewelry

by Staff Writer

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Clean metal jewelry

Things You Need:

  • Water
  • Ammonia
  • Soft cloth
  • Soft-bristle toothbrush
  • Mild dish soap
  • Silver polish

You have a piece of beautiful metal jewelry. Maybe it is a traditional metal like gold or silver, or maybe it is one of the more modern metals like platinum or tungsten. To keep your jewelry looking bright and new, here are some tips for cleaning metal jewelry. First, no matter what metal your jewelry is made of, take it to a professional jeweler at least once a year to have it professionally cleaned and polished, have attachments and prongs tested for weakness and have any gems inspected for cracks or chips. Between professional cleanings, however, you can keep your metal jewelry looking great by following this advice.

Cleaning Metal Jewelry:

  1. Gold: Although pure gold, 24-karat, does not tarnish, it is extremely soft; so the majority of gold jewelry will be a mixture of gold and other harder metals, such as silver, copper or nickel. These other metals will tarnish if exposed to air and other chemicals.

    To clean gold, remove any oils or grime by mixing a few drops of mild dish soap and a drop of ammonia into a small bowl of warm water. Soak the item in the soapy water for one minute, and then rub the jewelry gently with your fingers. More stubborn bits of dirt can be scrubbed carefully with a very soft brush, like an eyebrow brush or baby toothbrush.

    Thoroughly rinse the jewelry in cool water and quickly towel dry with a soft cotton cloth or microfiber cloth from an eyeglass cleaning kit. Do not use tissues or any other paper products. The fibers in paper can scratch your gold, leaving the surface dull. To dry more quickly, a hair dryer can be used but only on the lowest setting, with no heat. Drops of water left to air dry can leave behind deposits and make your gold jewelry tarnish faster.

  2. Platinum: Care for platinum jewelry in the same way that you would care for gold jewelry. Pure platinum also does not tarnish. Though it is stronger than gold, it is also usually mixed with other metals to increase its strength; so it can slowly tarnish over time.

  3. Silver: Silver tarnishes very easily and it needs regular cleanings to keep its shine. There are many silver polishes available commercially, but be careful of any powders or scrubs, since larger particles in these products can scratch and damage fine silver jewelry.

    Wash silver jewelry in the same way described above for gold. If there is tarnish on the item, use a commercial silver polish -- the best type for jewelry is the dip-style polishes -- following the package directions. Then rinse the silver well before wearing it; the chemicals in silver cleaners can damage skin.

  4. Titanium and tungsten: These two metals are becoming very popular in men's jewelry since they are very durable and do not scratch or tarnish. Jewelry made from these materials just needs a scrub with warm soapy water to remove any oils or grime.

Tips:

  1. If your metal jewelry has soft gems, such as pearls, amber or turquoise, do not soak it in the cleaning solution; just apply the solution to the metal portions with a soft cloth. Soft gems absorb liquid, which can cause the gem to crack or chip.

  2. If your hands are going to be exposed to any harsh chemicals, especially ones containing chlorine bleach, remove your jewelry. Chlorine bleach can turn some metals, like silver, completely black. Other cleaning chemicals can soften or erode metal, especially thin pieces, such as the prongs holding a gem or the links of a chain.

  3. If you are not wearing a piece of jewelry every day, place it in its own plastic bag or specially designed storage bag. This will protect the jewelry from scratches and limit its exposure to oxygen, moisture and other environmental effects that will cause the jewelry to tarnish.

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