Many of us at HQ – boys included – were lucky enough to receive a special new piece of jewellery for Christmas, and we figured it was high time we learnt a thing or two about taking proper care of our precious metals. Lucky for us, there’s a huge range of beautiful and hand-crafted jewellery on our site, made and sold by hundreds of very talented independent jewellers. Who better to take a few tips from – read on for their super solutions.
It’s natural for tarnish to build up over time and, of course, the more you wear your favourite piece, the grubbier it’s going to get – but there are plenty of easy, clever tricks to minimise the effects. It’s widely recommended we avoid our jewellery coming into contact with hair products, lotions, make-up, perfumes, salt, chlorine, humidity and prolonged direct sunlight; easy enough to remember but trickier to guarantee every day, which is why we’ve included some top cleaning tips later on in this post.
Tarnish is caused by oxidisation (don’t worry, that’s about as scientific as we’re going to get), but can easily be prevented by keeping unworn jewellery in separate airtight containers – for example, Tupperware boxes or resealable plastic bags. They’re not too expensive, easy to get your hands on and will even keep your jewellery box tidy, too. You can also add a couple of small silica gel bags to your jewellery box – the kind you’ll find inside your new handbag or pair of shoes – to absorb any humidity and stop unwanted chemicals reaching your precious things.
Brightening up your jewels – clever cleaning tips
Our jewellery sellers shared a wealth of brilliant cleaning solutions, and one thing most seem to agree on is the order in which you should try them. To avoid excessive or abrasive cleaning, which could shorten the lifetime of your shiny treasures, it’s always best to start with the most basic (and easiest) measure to clean your jewellery first; if that doesn’t work, you crank things up a notch.
To start with, invest in a cotton polishing cloth – they’re non-toxic, non-abrasive, inexpensive and can be reused over and over again. Plus, many come impregnated with an anti-tarnishing silver cleaning compound. The key with these cloths is to be very gentle: you can rub one softly along the length of chains, or use your index finger and thumb to softly massage more substantial areas like gems and stones. Tales from the Earth – started in 1991 by jewellery designers, Jo Culf and John Decosta – create high-quality silver jewellery and keepsakes by hand, many designed with bespoke messages or stories. They also sell a great polishing cloth, which they recommend you store in an airtight plastic bag to keep it extra fresh.
If the polishing cloth is not enough to get off those stubborn marks, here’s a clever guide from Rachel Lucie Jewellery Designs. Rachel creates vintage-inspired earrings, necklaces and bracelets by hand using sterling silver, semi-precious stones and freshwater pearls, and was kind enough to share her tried-and-tested method for cleaning silver jewellery using everyday household products.
You will need:
- Tin foil (about 20cm square)
- A dish or tray (plastic or china, not metal)
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- Pinch of sodium bicarbonate (aka baking powder)
- Drop of washing up liquid
- Boiling water from the kettle.
- Lay the foil in the dish, dull side up, and add all the other ingredients.
- Gently place any tarnished silver rings, chains, bracelets and earrings into the dish, making sure that each piece touches the foil in at least one place.You should see some results within a few seconds, and notice a rather stinky eggy smell too – this is the sulphur dioxide that caused the tarnish being released back into the air.
- Leave for a few minutes, giving the bowl a gentle jiggle every now and again.
- Remove your jewellery from the bowl, gently rinse in clean water, then lay out to dry.
Once completely dry, you can use a silver cloth or a clean, soft dusting cloth to buff your pieces to perfection.
Caroline Cowen designs and makes quirky, contemporary silver jewellery, inspired by illustration and her love of the natural world (see her bird and branch necklace above), using traditional metal-working techniques and often adding colour with semi-precious gemstones and gold. Caroline shared an invaluable trick for calculating your ring size from home.
It’s incredibly easy – all you need is a ruler and string or paper. Wrap the string or strip of paper around the widest part of your finger (usually the knuckle), then make a mark where they meet. You then simply unravel and check the measurements against your ruler.
All that’s left to do is use the chart below to convert the measurement to your ring size:
It’s best to measure your ring size when your hands are at a normal temperature, as they can change swell or change shape and size slightly if they’re hot or cold. If you’re buying a wide-band ring, bear in mind that it may be more comfortable to buy a slightly larger size than you would a narrower ring – it’ll also be much easier to put on and take off. If you want to make life even simpler, you can purchase your own handy ring sizer from one of our sellers, Alison Moore.
Huge thanks to all our lovely sellers who contributed their ideas, tips and advice, including Caroline Cowen Designs, Finest Imaginary, Anthony Blakeney, Tales from The Earth, Alison Moore Designs and Rachel Lucie Designs. We’d love to hear your own tried-and-tested methods for cleaning and storing your jewellery – comment below to share.