Jewelry Metals and Care

Care of Metals used in Pebbles at my Feet Artisan Jewelry

Silver

Almost every piece of my artisan jewelry that has grey or silver metal in it is solid sterling silver. Sterling silver contains 92.5% silver. I sometimes use fine silver (99.9%) and argentium silver (92.5%). These will be noted. I typically polish and apply a light film of wax to silver. The wax will eventually wear off but will do so in a more “natural” way than lacquer or other plastic films used to keep silver from tarnishing.  To keep your sterling silver piece bright, polish it from time to time using a silver polishing cloth. As long as the piece does not contain pearls, pyrite, or turquoise you can clean your jewelry with Windex (or Glass Plus). Shoot some Windex into the palm of your hand, add the jewelry and rub gently like you’re washing your hands. Rinse thoroughly in fresh water and DRY with a soft cloth or microfiber cloth. Always allow your jewelry to dry thoroughly before storing.

Antiqued Sterling Silver

If your piece is antiqued sterling silver, it should never be polished with a jewelry cloth or the patina will be removed. For these pieces and for antique silver-plated items use only a soft cloth and plain water to clean if needed.

          

Copper and Brass

If your jewelry is bright copper or brass, I have polished the metal and applied a thin film of jewelry wax. It is expected to age to a rich brown color. I find that if you wear bright copper pieces often, they stay brighter (they seem to lose their shine in storage). To keep it shiny, store your copper jewelry in a sealed bag. Anti-tarnish tabs in the bag will extend the time between cleanings. Your bright finished copper and brass jewelry can be polished with a jewelry cloth intended for silver. It can also be gently cleaned and brightened by using something acidic like lemon juice, white vinegar or even tomato ketchup applied with a Q-tip and allowed to work for a few minutes. After treating this way, brush the metal with a soft toothbrush while rinsing with plenty of fresh water and dry with a soft cloth. Try to keep the acids off of the gemstones, but as long as you don’t leave the whole piece soaking, you should be able to brighten the copper without harming the stones in your piece.

Copper or Brass with Antiqued Patina

I treat both solid copper and brass wire and sheet metal to achieve a dark antique look. I also use commercially treated copper and brass or plated metal findings with an antique finish in my jewelry. Antiqued finishes, whether developed on solid metals or on commercially plated components require some special care.

  • Never use a silver cloth or other polish compounds on antiqued brass or copper: You will remove the antique finish.
     
  • Clean only with a soft cloth – like a microfiber lens cloth. Mild dish soap and a soft toothbrush are about as aggressive a treatment as one should ever need.
     
  • Don’t wear your oxidized brass/copper or antique brass or copper plated jewelry while bathing, swimming, or at the beach or pool.
     
  • Thoroughly dry your jewelry after cleaning and before storing.
     
  • Store your jewelry in a plastic bag or cloth pouch to help keep it clean and protect it from rubbing against other items in your jewelry box.

     

Gold-filled

When I want to design with gold and create a piece that will keep its rich luster, I use gold-filled jewelry wire. Gold-filled wire has a core of jeweler’s brass and a thick clad coating of karat gold bonded to it. I typically use 14 karat gold-filled designated 14/20 K  to indicate that the wire or finding has 1/20th the gold of 14 karat gold of the same size. Gold-filled wire and components contain much more (typically 100 times more) gold than gold-plate or electroplate that is commonly found in costume jewelry and your piece will be durable over time. 14/20 gold fill can be polished if needed or cleaned with mild soap and water and buffed dry with a soft cloth.

 

Vermeil

Vermeil is gold plated over sterling silver. The gold plating is usually “heavy” or at least heavier than typical gold plate over base metal.  Clean only with mild soap and water and gently buff dry with a soft cloth.