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Jewelry Care & Cleaning

Over the years we've seen a lot of jewelry here at 16 Hands.
We've met a lot of jewelry artists, and handled many different kinds of materials.
We've collected here some of the advice, wisdom and best practices
for your favorite pieces of jewelry to keep them looking their
best and lasting as long as possible.

Some things to keep in mind when buying jewelry at 16 Hands:
+ We offer a year warranty against breakage on jewelry.
+ We include rubber earwire backings, even if not provided by the artist.
+ You have 14 days for refund and 30 days for exchange of jewelry.
+ Special Orders for items not available in-store can often be done at no additional cost.
+ We work with many artists who do custom work.
+ Weather in-store or online, we are always happy to offer free gift wrapping - Just ask.


What do I need to know before cleaning my jewelry?

Always be sure you know which metals, stones and other materials are in your jewelry before cleaning. Although other tips are listed here, the safest cleaning method is to use a soft dry cloth. Please consult an expert before attempting to clean antique or damaged jewelry.

What is tarnish?

Tarnish is the discoloration of metal due to oxidation. Most metals change with exposure to air. For jewelry, silver is the metal that tarnishes most quickly. This is due to the presence of some nickel and copper in most silver. Fine silver, which contains fewer other metals, will show less tarnish over time. Sterling silver contains 92.5% or more pure silver.

How can I prevent tarnish?

Jewelry boxes are a great way to keep your jewelry organized and dust-free, but they don't protect against tarnish. To slow the appearance of tarnish, silver jewelry can be kept in sealed plastic bags. Keeping the air out will slow the process of oxidation. Try laying the plastic bag containing the jewelry piece on a flat surface. Press excess air from the bag before sealing.

Anti-tarnish paper strips can be helpful when placed where jewelry is stored to inhibit oxidation.

also see: what is tarnish?

Does it matter when I put on jewelry?

Many jewelry surfaces are affected by common skin and hair care products. Putting jewelry on last, after hair spray, fragrances, soaps, lotions and oils will help retain their original appearance.

Soaps and detergents are especially damaging to the elastic used in "stretchy" bracelets and rings. Take these off before washing to extend the life of the elastic.

Polished gold & silver

A jewelry polishing cloth, like the Sunshine Cloth can be used to clean and shine jewelry quickly and easily. These cloths contain a fine polishing compound that removes tarnish and grime, but can also smooth out matte or textured finishes. Be aware when using a polishing cloth that those brushed or textured surfaces can be come bright and shiny, even if that's not the original look of your jewelry.

Be careful: Most liquid tarnish removers contain strong chemicals to remove tarnish. They should not be used on jewelry with artificially oxidized metals, special finishes, pearls or porous stones. See product label for warnings and directions.

Liquid tarnish removers can be used by either dipping pieces, or by using small amount on a cotton swab. Be sure to rinse jewelry thoroughly, as any residual chemicals can continue to eat away at the metal.

Matte or textured surface gold & silver

The safest method is to use a soft, dry cloth or small brush, like an old toothbrush, with soapy water. Very fine steel wool can be rubbed to remove tarnish from matte finish silver. If you are unsure about the finish, test on a hidden part of the jewelry. You can also consult the artist or store where the piece was purchased for advice.

Be careful: Most liquid tarnish removers contain strong chemicals to remove tarnish. They should not be used on jewelry with artificially oxidized metals, special finishes, pearls or porous stones. See product label for warnings and directions.

See our selection of brushed silver jewelry by Philippa Roberts online.


Bronze patina is often considered desirable, becoming warmer and darker as the piece ages. To return the finish to polished bronze, use a polishing cloth, liquid tarnish remover, or soap & water with a soft brush.

Mixed metals

If your jewelry piece is comprised of many different metals and surfaces, you may be limited to using only the safest methods available. Dipping a piece that has burnished, oxidized or textured surfaces may change the appearance of the metal, and the piece overall.

A mild soap used with a soft cloth or brush, like an old toothbrush, is a much safer way to clean your mixed metal jewelry than with polishes or dips.

also see: matte or textured surface gold & silver


Softer and more porous than you might think, pearls can be damaged by liquid tarnish removers, abrasives and heat from soldering irons and torches used in jewelry repair. A soft cloth is all that's needed to polish up your pearl jewelry. If cleaning other parts of the jewelry piece is needed (such as settings or ring bands), use care to only apply treatment to these surfaces, avoiding the pearl itself.

See our selection of Pearl Jewelry online.


Although it will darken, pewter will not tarnish the way silver does. A soft cloth and mild soap will brighten up this soft metal.

See our selection of plated pewter jewelry by Patricia Locke online.

Precious & semi-precious stones

The safest way to clean any stone is to rub it gently with a soft cloth.

Be careful: Cleaning agents can damage some stones. Porous and brittle stones can dissolve in strong solutions, such as liquid tarnish remover.

Some examples of soft, porous or brittle stones are coral, lapis, opal, turquoise and pearl.

Other materials

Enamels (both glass and resin) can be cleaned with a soft, dry cloth. The surfaces of these materials, as well as the adhesives that sometimes hold them in place, can be damaged by polishing cloths and liquid tarnish remover.

As designers come up with more inventive materials and techniques, the need for proper care information becomes more important. If you are unsure of how to care for your jewelry, consult the artist or store where the piece was purchased.

A soft cloth is also the safest way to clean jewelry made with materials, such as: lucite, rubber, wood, fabric, polymer clay and bakelite.