5 Tips For Cleaning Your Vintage & Antique Jewelry

Author Lynelle Schmidt
Date Feb 15, 2021


How to clean antique gold jewelry at home using a cleaning cloth.Finding a beautiful antique jewelry piece can be quite the thrill! And you knew the second you saw it that it just had to be yours. But, once you bring that sparkly piece back home with you to wear around, you won't want to neglect it.

Cleaning vintage jewelry every few weeks is an important step to keeping it looking beautiful. Without regular cleaning, the pieces could start to lose their sparkle and shine. And because these pieces are decades old, you want to keep them in pristine condition so that they'll last even longer and you can pass them down to your family.

We've come up with five simple steps that you can follow when cleaning antique jewelry:

1. Check for dust or other residue & clean with a soft brush

Your first step is the prep! Before applying any cleaning solution, make sure to dust off the piece and clean out any particles with a soft brush. It's important that you do this very gently, because you don't want these tiny particles to scratch any of the surfaces when starting an antique jewelry cleaning. Sometimes the dust or debris cannot be seen by the naked eye, so it might be helpful to use a loupe or magnifying glass. If you notice anything, just clean it out with a soft brush or toothbrush. This will get the piece ready for any solution or liquid to be applied.

2. Choose the right cleaning product based on the metal and stone type

Not all antique jewelry should be treated equally when it comes to cleaning. There are different procedures you should follow based on the metal type in your jewelry and the type of stones. The chemical composition of different metals varies, so the effect of certain solutions on different metals will vary as well.

How to Clean Antique Gold Jewelry

Gold jewelry often darkens over time. To remedy this, we recommend cleaning it with a solution containing ammonia and lots of water. It's very important to note that ammonia is incredibly strong and could permanently damage the metal if left on too long, so we recommend professional cleaning solutions that are made specifically for gold or platinum jewelry. Something even as simple as dish detergent can be used to clean gold and platinum jewelry if there are no gemstones or anything with a setting on the piece. Every cleaning solution alternative should be carefully considered, however - we wouldn’t recommend using dish detergent if your pieces have gemstones as the soap can loosen the stones or water could become trapped under or around the setting.

How to Clean Platinum Jewelry

The same methods can be used to clean platinum jewelry as are used for gold.

How to Clean Antique Silver Jewelry

When it comes to cleaning antique jewelry, pieces made of silver can be cleaned with a diluted baking soda solution that is applied more gently because the metal does not have the same strength as gold or platinum.

How to Clean Antique Jewelry with Gemstones

When it comes to gemstones, diamonds, sapphires, and rubies are the only ones that can take heat and can be cleaned using more powerful solutions like diluted ammonia (keeping in mind the risks). Other gemstones will vary, so it's best to look up your specific stones to see which product is the best to clean them.

How to Clean Antique Pearls

If your piece contains any pearls, the best cleaning solution is actually just to wear them! The natural oils from your skin will help maintain their luster. You can also wipe the pearls with a soft cloth with drops of olive oil, but stay away from anything harsher.

For sturdier metals and stones, you can use a jewelry cleaner at home, but make sure if you decide to go with a professional cleaning solution that you buy a reputable brand. You will also want to inspect the bottle and the instructions thoroughly so that you can make sure it is the right choice to clean your piece. Depending on the solution, you may also decide to soak the piece. If you end up using dish detergent, for instance, you can leave it soaking in a bowl for longer.

Before polishing jewelry at home, make sure you are choosing a cleaning product that makes sense for the metal and stone type on your antique piece. And, if you want a second opinion, call your local jeweler or the store where you bought the piece to confirm. Jewelers will always know the relative risks and benefits to using different cleaning solutions.

3. Use jewelry cleaner on a soft cloth

Once you have decided on the correct solution to clean the antique piece and have cleared it of any dust or debris, it's time to use the cleaner. It’s so satisfying to clean old jewelry at home and make it look new again. Apply some of the solution onto a soft cloth and gently rub to clean. Make sure the cloth is not too wet. You want it to be just damp enough to clean the surface. If the piece has little crevices that are hard to reach with a cloth, use a soft Q tip.

Depending on the solution, you may also decide to soak the piece. If you end up using dish detergent, for instance, you can leave it soaking in a bowl for longer.

4. Make sure to dry your pieces

This is one of the most important steps of cleaning antique jewelry. After dusting and cleaning your piece, you'll want to make sure it's completely dry. If any liquid is left, it could be quite damaging to the jewelry. Moisture is just about the worst thing that could happen to your pieces, so when it comes to learning how to clean antique jewelry, this point cannot be overstated.

A good way to dry the piece after it has been washed is to flip it upside down for 15 minutes so that any leftover moisture will flow away from jewelry with gravity. You would not want it to get into the setting of the jewelry where it could become stuck and wreak havoc on the piece.

5. Polish the jewelry

One last step that you can take to finish the cleaning process is to polish the piece with a special cloth. You can buy special polishing clothes online or in a jewelry store. They are inexpensive and can help to add back some shine and sparkle to your antique piece.

How to Clean Antique Jewelry

Vintage and estate pieces are truly treasures, but to maintain their sparkle, they’ll need some special care over the years. Whether you read this post because you were wondering how to polish gold jewelry at home, or how to clean an antique diamond ring, the care instructions will be specific to the metal and stones you possess. Maintaining your jewelry will help preserve it for years to come.

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