Caring for your Silver and Gold Jewelry
In the spirit of starting the year fresh I like to give some attention to my jewelry collection. Silver normally shows more color from oxidation/tarnishing than gold but both metals benefit from regular cleaning.
The simple recipe I use is non-toxic and easy to make in your kitchen. This solution is excellent for silver and gold and the harder gems like Quartz, Sapphires and Diamonds. Do not clean jewelry with soft or organic gems like Turquoise, Opals, and Pearls with this solution. More about that later.
You will need a clean aluminum dish like a pie tin or
a glass or ceramic bowl with a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom, enough to cover the surface.
1 Tablespoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon mild dish soap
1 Cup hot water, not boiling
A soft tooth brush
Measure your salt, soda and soap and place in bowl. Place the jewelry to be cleaned in the bowl. Add the hot water, hot from the tap is ok. The mix will fizz a little, swirl the water around in the bowl with the jewelry then let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes. Check progress and use the soft tooth brush to loosen extra dark areas and around gem settings. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and dry. Your jewelry should be clean and bright.
When cleaning jewelry with an “antique” patina use only warm soapy water and a soft cloth if you want to keep the “antique” look.
Pearl jewelry should only be cleaned with a damp soft cloth used to gently wipe the pearl. Do not get your pearl stands wet because they will stretch and leave gaps between pearls and knots.
I met a Jeweler who also sold beautiful Opals in Los Cabos Mexico that told me it was Aztec tradition to revitalize the Opalos gems by placing them in water over night on a full moon. Maybe the stronger tides help? Maybe because the color in Opals comes from their water content? It is true that Opals should be stored away from heat and a little water soak is good for them too.
I often refer to my designs as “three dimensional drawings”. My process begins with the sketch of hard lines and pattern then I create the idea in wire models to refine curves and movement. The image of the drawing is always with me, an architectural plan, a graphic. I love the contrast of a dark line on paper. To express this in my jewelry I color my silver with a dark patina.
Sterling Silver is composed of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper. If you own Sterling Silver Jewelry or table ware you know that over time it tarnishes or oxidizes, the copper is the culprit. To achieve the graphite dark patina I like I artificially speed up oxidation by exposing the jewelry to the common chemical potassium sulfide, used in garden fertilizer to skin care treatments. Jewelers use it to create an “antique” finish. Mix a small amount in warm water then immerse the silver jewelry for a few minutes, rinse in cold water for a matte black finish like the Architectonic Bracelet pictured.
I love to push contrasts in my designs. Using 22k gold and sterling silver together with the more highly polished dark patina pictured here on my earrings is one of my favorite combinations. For this finish the same potassium sulfide water bath is used then the jewelry is tumble polished with stainless steel shot. The steel planishes the metal like hundreds of tiny hammers. I love the hard shine and reflection with the high carat gold.