Vintage Costume Jewelry Care

Posted on: 17 April 2015

Collecting vintage costume jewelry is a fun and rewarding hobby. You can easily find pieces at estate sales, flea markets, garage sales and antique stores at very attractive prices. Jewelry made of non-precious metals and stones have been around since the Egyptian times, but Coco Chanel really gave costume jewelry the designer stamp of approval in the 1920s, when she and other designers used their creativity to design affordable expressions of style with jewelry. Since then, costume jewelry has remained a strong influence on modern accessories and has become an irresistible collectible.

These pieces deserve special care, so read on for tips on preserving these adornments.

Verdigris

This green moldy coating is very unglamorous, but is frequently found on metal parts of vintage jewelry. Luckily, there are several methods to remedy verdigris.

  • Before trying to clean the verdigris, separate the jewelry from other pieces (verdigris is contagious) and carefully inspect the metal for damage.
  • Verdigris can cause metal to weaken, so you definitely want to be gentle when handling these pieces.
  • Use a q-tip, toothpick or very soft tooth brush to clean as much as possible.
  • Any acid based liquid such as vinegar, ketchup or lemon juice should remove the remainder of the verdigris. Just apply a little, wait 30 minutes and gently wipe off.
  • Be prepared for some metal coating to go away with the verdigris, but this is unavoidable since the verdigris must be removed to protect the metal from further damage.

Plastic and Bakelite

Bakelite will sometimes darken over time, so try to keep these pieces in a dark box when not being worn. Cleaning is easy; just wipe with a soft cloth and use a little beeswax to polish it if the finish begins looking dull.

Metals

Avoid jewelry cleaners with harsh chemicals and just soak them in a little mild dish soap for a few minutes. Rinse well with warm (not hot!) water and dry with a soft cloth. Dry well to prevent verdigris from forming.

All Jewelry

  • Your vintage pieces do not play well with hairspray or cologne, so add them last to your dressing routine.
  • Keep jewelry in a dry, dark fabric lined box.
  • A piece of chalk will help prevent tarnishing.
  • Never store your vintage pieces in plastic since moisture could form inside.
  • Keep your pieces separated to prevent tangling and scratches.

Vintage costume jewelry and estate jewelry collecting can be a very addictive activity, one which you will find yourself pleasantly surprised at the variety and affordability of the pieces. Just follow the care tips above and your new old treasures will keep you happy for years to come. 

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