Costume, fashion and handmade jewellery are for many people an affordable way to get the look they desire, but what many people don’t realise is that costume jewellery can actually last long when properly taken care of! While people know that their sterling silver might need polishing, when costume jewellery tarnishes people tend to give up on them. However the alloy metals used in a lot of (handmade) costume jewellery is quite often of a good/strong quality and can be enjoyed for much longer than you might expect. Here follows some advice on how to preserve costume jewellery.
1. Don’t let your jewellery get wet
A common mistake to make is to get your jewellery wet or to leave it in a damp area, such as a bathroom. If your jewellery does get wet make sure to quickly dry it with some cloth or even a blowdryer. Also make sure not to store it in a wet room, as the moisture of steam can cause tarnishing.
2. Store your jewellery in a dark space
I have seen many stunning jewellery displays, such as tree shaped jewellery holders or wall hooks, but unfortunately this will only cause quicker discolouration of your jewellery. Jewellery boxes on the other hand offer a clever way to keep your jewellery organised whilst in a dark and dry space. When it comes to picture tile jewellery such as shown above it is even more important to keep it out of (direct) sunlight! When I make picture jewellery I put a UV filter spray on the picture, but eventually it would still end up fading if left in the daylight for a long period of time.
3. Keep your jewellery away from household products, beauty products and perfumes
The chemicals in household products such as cleaning agents, or beauty products such as hairsprays can cause a reaction with your costume jewellery. Also be careful of getting perfume on your jewellery, as the alcohol it contains can really damage your jewellery. If you are wearing perfume, make sure to put it on a different part of the skin than where your jewellery will touch your skin. Other products such as body lotion might also make your jewellery oily, and if there is no way around it, make sure to clean your jewellery after wearing it (read lower down on how to clean your jewellery).
4. Take of your jewellery off before doing exercise
Not only is jewellery a safety hazard during exercise, the sweat produced can discolour your jewellery quicker. Sweat produces sodium on your skin, which can stick to your jewellery. One of the main causes of discolouration is sodium on jewellery (after all I use salt when I intentionally tarnish metals!).
5. Don’t seal / coat your jewellery unnecessarily
Quite often I hear people advising to put clear nail varnish or other sealing products on costume jewellery, but I have to disagree with this. The varnishes only last for a small amount of time and will either peel or become tacky, making it unsuitable or unpleasant to wear. Next to that it can damage the jewellery, by pulling of the colours/plating together with the sealer. However, some large manufacturers use cheap metal supplies, and these costume jewellery pieces can leave your skin green. In those cases you could use a varnish / acrylic sealer on the side of the piece which touches the skin.
6. Clean your jewellery
Cleaning it dry regularly
While it might not be visible to the eye, your jewellery will get dirtier over time from wearing it. The oils and sodium of your skin for example might get on to it and cause discolouration over time. Directly after wearing it you can rub your jewellery with dry cloth, such as a microfibre cloth or a towel. If you notice any discoloured parts in the nooks of a pendant you can use a toothpick and carefully scratch it clean.
Cleaning it with water occasionally
To really get your jewellery clean you can use water and a basic soap (one with as little chemicals as possible such as baby soap or a ph neutral soap). Be very careful with picture tile jewellery and only clean the back of them with a wet cloth to prevent water from getting under the picture. More basic metal jewellery can be put under the water without a problem. You can even wash jewellery feathers, such as a peacock feather necklace (which you can also blow dry afterwards). In order to get into the nooks of pendants you could use an old toothbrush or a toothpick. Make sure to fully dry your jewellery with a towel afterwards.
Cleaning it from dust
With jewellery pieces which use fabric, such as velvet chokers, you can easily take off the dust using a lint roller (or perhaps some masking tape if you are more likely to have that at hand).
6. Make small repairs
When something breaks, it doesn’t always have to be the end! A great glue for doing jewellery repairs is E6000 or G S Hypo Cement, both are very strong and work well on metal, but in many cases a simple superglue could work as well. Another easy repair could be replacing a jump ring when you pulled a necklace, all you will need is some basic pliers and some new jump rings or metal wire. You might even end up getting into jewellery making yourself! Cheaper watches and pocket watches also often run out of their battery, but with a little battery replacing toolkit you can easily learn to replace batteries yourself.
7. Alternate between different pieces and know when to take it off
We often end up having a favourite piece of jewellery, but when you wear one piece of jewellery every day it will age quicker. When you alternate between different pieces it will feel as if they last longer. Next to that you can take jewellery off, clean it and store it when you are having a relaxing time at home (why wear it when you can’t see it / enjoy it).
My handmade costume jewellery
These are some of the most popular costume jewellery items I make and sell, made from an anti-tarnishing metal alloy which can last a lot longer than you might expect (especially when the above advice is followed).