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Jewelry Preservation: Tips For Antique & Vintage Jewelry Care

Tanzy Ward


Antique & vintage jewelry are limited collectibles that were often constructed with excellent craftsmanship, and a part of cherished memories. Unfortunately, there are countless antique & vintage accessories that are no longer in good wearable condition due to improper care or mishandling. The responsibility of preserving vintage & antique jewelry is ultimately up to the owner and keeping the jewelry in great condition can allow us to cherish the collectibles for decades to come. One does not have to fret and be overwhelmed with how to take care of heirlooms, but there are certain tips to keep in mind if we want to keep stunning vintage jewelry in great wearable condition. Here are some suggested tips for preserving vintage & antique jewelry and keeping them timeless throughout decades to come.

  • Please do not store antique and vintage  jewelry in crowded jewelry boxes without the right protective covering/storage method. Over time this will cause the jewelry's materials to rust, scratch, become dull looking, and collect dust that may change it's aesthetic over time. Not to mention, necklaces & bracelets can become tangled and knotted if we carelessly place them in crowded jewelry boxes with other accessories. Keep your jewelry collections neatly stored in cotton lined jewelry gift boxes. If you have it, the original jewelry box is even better. Try to keep jewelry items individually stored in one box each without putting one on top of the other in the same storage box. Use jewelry non-tarnish plastic bags if cotton-lined boxes are not available. The room temperature should be moderate & not in an un-air conditioned storage room.
  • Perfumes, make up, and facial creams can harm certain types of vintage jewelry if there is direct contact. Vintage jewelry directly exposed to chemicals/oils can become discolored, tarnish, or darken. Examples of natural stones/objects that can change over time when exposed to perfumes/oils are pearls, turquoise, and coral. Rhinestones and crystals can also darken or become dull over time if exposed to perfume/chemicals constantly. If you wear perfumes and use chemicals such as hair spray, please try to avoid spraying the chemicals on the jewelry. Water can also damage vintage jewelry, so please remove jewelry before bathing or swimming. It is best to not wear your vintage & antique jewelry when exercising, gardening, or when involved in any activities that expose you to chemicals. When washing hands, it is best to remove the vintage & antique jewelry for precaution. 
  • Cleaning antique  jewelry involves different types of methods and it is not ''one size fits all''. Different metals and materials can react differently depending on each solution used. Water and regular soap (liquid form or solid) are often not good cleaning solutions because this can tarnish and damage the original aesthetic of the jewelry item. Ultrasonic cleaners (''jewelry baths'') should be avoided as well because the pulsation may damage vintage & antique jewelry's enamel, create a looser setting, and damage delicate designs. Avoid store bought dip cleaning solutions because they can also damage vintage & antique jewelry.  A gentle jewelry polishing cloth can help clear vintage & antique jewelry of dust, and help maintain a metal's shine. It is best to see a professional that specializes in cleaning vintage & antique jewelry if you are uncertain of the best methods for your particular pieces. 
  • I know the previous tips may have left you unsure about what method is best for cleaning your antique and vintage jewelry. I find it is best to do light research and background information on the materials your jewelry was crafted with, or ask a professional that specializes in cleaning vintage/antique jewelry. Knowing background information about the jewelry's materials & what can damage them are very helpful in relation to preserving our collectibles. 
  • If we store our antique  jewelry properly from the beginning, then this can help our timeless treasures remain in great condition. The key to preserving jewelry is gently wearing the pieces, and protecting/storing the heirlooms appropriately. If we handle our vintage & antique jewelry with love, then this will show aesthetically & that is a vital factor for keeping unique treasures timeless.   

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