Congratulations, you have great taste. Now you just need to know how to take care of your new purchase. (Unless, of course, you like the look of rusty metal and old, falling-apart leather). Follow our tried and tested tips below to keep your jewelry in top condition, so it will always look as good as you do.
CLEANING PROCESS: KNOW YOUR MATERIALS
What is your jewelry made of? Consult the list below to find specific care instructions for your materials.
The ceramic used for jewelry is also known as titanium carbide. It is a strong and durable material that will retain its high-shine finish without much effort on your part. All you need to do is wipe it with a damp cloth if it gets dirty, and then dry it off with a soft clean cloth. The surface of your ceramic jewelry item will stay smooth, shiny, and scratch-free without any special cleaners or polishing products. But remember, ceramic jewelry can get chipped, so avoid dropping it or having it jostle around next to harder materials. If you're traveling with your item, keep it in a separate pouch in your carry-on bag so it doesn't get damaged. Shop Ceramic Bracelets here!
Natural crystals include amethyst, citrine, rose quartz, and tourmaline. Crystals are generally durable, but can still break or get worn away by harsh soap and scrubbing, so make sure you treat them gently. Start by wiping your crystal with a soft cloth dipped in warm water. If that doesn't restore its shininess, you can use a more thorough cleaning method. But before you do, please check whether your crystal is porous or non-porous (for examples of porous and non-porous stones, see the Semi-Precious Stones entry below). Assuming your crystal is non-porous, start by mixing 1/2 cup warm water, 1 teaspoon rubbing alcohol, and 1/2 teaspoon detergent-free dish washing liquid. Dip your crystal in the liquid and let it soak for 30 seconds to one minute, then rinse it off briefly under lukewarm running water. Dry your crystal with a clean cloth, and it should be good as new!
Bronze is a metal alloy made out of copper and tin. As such, it is hard and shiny like gold, but also sturdy and inexpensive. One thing you do need to watch out for with bronze is oxidation, which occurs when the oils from your skin rub off onto the jewelry and react with the copper which produces greenish discoloration. Luckily, you can easily wash it off with plain soap and water. Distilled water is best used for this due to it being completely chlorine-free, since chlorine damages bronze. Remember not to scrub your jewelry too hard when cleaning, especially if your item is plated bronze, for you could scratch the surface or even rub off some of the plating. Oxidation is most likely to occur in bronze jewelry that is tightly fitted, such as rings, as opposed to loose-fitting jewelry like bracelets and necklaces. You can prevent oxidation from taking place by coating the inside of your bronze ring with clear nail polish, or by applying metal wax to the entire surface of the item. Both of these coatings will wear off over time, so you'll have to reapply them. Finally, it is very important to keep your bronze away from chloride chemicals, such as chlorinated pool water and the saltwater of the ocean. These substances will cause a corrosion process to start, and the only way to stop it is to take your jewelry to an expert for repair.
Solid, pure 24-karat gold is one of the easiest metals to look after because it won't rust, oxidize, or corrode. You don't have to worry about exposure to air, and you can even swim without concerns (well, aside from the concern of losing your jewelry if it comes off in the water). However, if you've purchased plated gold or anything less than 24-karat, you'll have to be more careful. Lower-karat gold is mixed with other metals, which makes the jewelry more affordable and durable (since 24-karat gold is soft and easily bent out of shape). But the mixed metals in lower-karat gold will also be more susceptible to chemical reactions, so make sure to keep your jewelry away from chlorine, saltwater, and household chemical products. Your gold jewelry shouldn't need cleaning too often; better to just wipe it off gently with a clean damp cloth so you don't damage the plating. If it does start to look a little dull, however, you can wipe your jewelry with a damp cloth dipped in soapy water, then "rinse" it with another damp cloth dipped in clean water. Since gold doesn't oxidize when exposed to air, you have several options for storing your gold jewelry: in separate ziplock bags, small boxes, compartments of a jewelry container, pouches, or wrapped in tissue. The most important thing is to keep the pieces separate from each other, so they don't get scratched.
Material: Lava Stone
Lava stone is typically matte and porous, although it can be polished to a smooth sheen. If it is smooth and shiny, you can keep it that way by occasionally wiping it down with a soft damp cloth. With porous lava stone jewelry, you should avoid having it come into contact with liquids since it will retain the scent of the liquid for several days. Some people see this as a benefit and drop essential oils onto their lava stone beads, so they'll smell like their favorite aromatherapy scent. However, we don't recommend doing this if your lava stone jewelry is also made of metal because the essential oils will damage the metal finish (especially plated metal). If you want your lava stone jewelry to last as long as possible, treat it the same way you would treat your fine gold jewelry: clean it occasionally, avoid exposure to pools, the ocean, household chemicals, and store it in a safe place where it won't get scratched.
Leather is typically quite durable and develops a nice worn-in look as it ages. Just make sure to keep it away from household chemical products, and never immerse it in liquid. This means you should avoid wearing your leather jewelry to the beach or the gym and be careful when washing your hands. For extra peace of mind, you can apply a leather protector spray that will help prevent liquids from leaving a stain. If your jewelry starts to look a little dirty or worn, a leather cleaning cream should work nicely. They’re usually sold for cleaning leather bags and shoes. Just make sure you don’t accidentally use shoe polish instead – a sticky black rope is probably not the jewelry look you’re going for.
Material: Mother of Pearl
This gorgeous iridescent gem is delicate and needs special care in order to stay lustrous. Mother of pearl needs just the right amount of moisture - not too much and not too little. You should never soak your mother of pearl jewelry in water or a cleaning solution, and you should also avoid letting it dry out too much (such as by leaving it in direct sunlight), because that can lead to cracking. The best way to take care of your mother of pearl jewelry is to store it somewhere safe, in a separate pouch so it doesn't get scratched. If your area is particularly dry, the bathroom or somewhere with a humidifier can be good places to store your mother of pearl jewelry. Don't worry about wiping down your jewelry after daily wear - the oils from your skin are good for mother of pearl! Just use a soft damp cloth occasionally, and only if your jewelry seems to really need cleaning.
Material: Semi-Precious Stones
First, check if your stones are porous or non-porous. Non-porous stones include aquamarine, cubic zirconia, garnet, and topaz, all of which can safely be soaked in a mixture of warm water and mild detergent, then rinsed off under a running tap. Porous stones include jasper, lapis lazuli, onyx, and tiger's eye. Porous stones absorb any liquid they come into contact with, so never soak them in water, and avoid household chemicals because they will cause stains and discoloration. Simply wipe them with a clean damp cloth when they need it, then dry them off thoroughly with a lint-free cloth. Be careful not to loosen the stones' settings when you clean them. Check the settings often, and take your item to a jeweler for repair if they start to seem loose.
Stainless steel is easy to look after because it doesn't corrode or oxidize, and it won't break if you drop it. However, it can get scratched, so make sure you always store your jewelry in separate containers or pouches. If your stainless steel jewelry needs cleaning, you can often just rinse it under running water. Make sure you plug the sink (so you don't lose your item down the drain) and dry it completely with a cloth to prevent water spots. More thorough cleaning can be done with a soft toothbrush dipped in a mixture of warm water and gentle detergent. Lastly, you can polish your stainless steel to make it shine, but don't just use silver polish - make sure the label of the polish you use says it is safe for stainless steel.
Material: Sterling Silver
Silver oxidizes upon contact with air, so it will inevitably tarnish over time. You can slow down the process by keeping your silver jewelry in an airtight bag or container. A ziplock bag will do nicely. If your jewelry starts to look a little dull, wipe it down with a damp cloth. If your item is really dirty, you can also use a soft toothbrush dipped in a mixture of mild dish soap and warm water. Be careful not to scrub too hard, or you could wear off the plating. You can also purchase a special silver polishing cloth online or from a jeweler. Keep in mind that the cloth won't get rid of any scratches on the jewelry's surface - you'll have to see a jeweler for that. Also, the plating on silver-plated jewelry will inevitably wear off over time, so you will have to get it re-plated once a year or so to keep it looking its best.
Plain titanium pieces are some of the simplest jewelry items you'll ever have to look after. Titanium jewelry that is inlaid with other metals, set with precious stones, or artificially colored will require a bit more work, but definitely worth it in keep your jewelry looking great. For plain titanium, you can apply liquid dishwashing soap with a damp cloth and then rinse the item under running water. Polish your jewelry by spraying it with a glass cleaner, such as Windex, and then rinse it again in water and dry it off with a soft towel. Make sure whatever glass cleaner you use is chlorine- and bleach-free. For decorated titanium (whether inlaid, stone-set, or colored) you can follow the same procedure, but instead of scrubbing the metal you'll just leave it to soak and air-dry on its own. So soak your jewelry in a bowl filled with a mixture of warm water and a few drops of dish-washing soap. Then dunk the item and swish it around in another bowl filled with clean water to rinse it off. Spray your item with a glass cleaner and leave it to soak for a minute, then use the dunking method again to rinse and place it on a paper towel to air-dry. You can repeat the process as many times as necessary, just be as gentle as possible, and remember: no scrubbing!
Material: Tungsten Carbide
Tungsten carbide is a tough metal - harder than silver and gold, doesn't get scratched easily, and stays shiny with just a bit of routine maintenance. Clean your tungsten carbide jewelry by wiping it with a cloth dipped in a mixture of warm water and mild dish soap. Don't use any cleansers with harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia, as they could damage your jewelry. You can leave the jewelry to soak if it's really dirty, and don't be afraid to scrub it with the cloth or a soft toothbrush. Finally, rinse it under running water and dry it with another soft cloth. Storing your tungsten carbide jewelry requires little to no effort because it doesn't tarnish or oxidize when exposed to air. However, while it is generally scratch-resistant, certain hard materials like diamonds can still damage your tungsten carbide jewelry, so make sure to store these items separately.
Wood jewelry is beautiful but delicate and must be treated carefully. Never clean your jewelry by immersing it in water, and avoid getting it wet for the reason that wood can warp and lose its original shape if it gets soaked. If your wood jewelry needs cleaning, try wiping with a dry cloth first, then use a damp cloth if that doesn't work. You can polish it with a special wood-polishing cloth (often sold for use on musical instruments) and a non-plant-based wax. Beeswax is a good idea; don't use plant-based waxes like coconut oil, though, because they will turn rancid over time. After cleaning and polishing, store your wood jewelry in an air-tight container like a ziplock bag.
Storage: Know your Jewelry Type
Now that you know how to take care of your jewelry based on its materials, it's time to find out how to look after each type of jewelry. After all, what’s the point of all that cleaning if you’re just going to let your jewelry get jumbled up in a dusty corner of your closet when you get home? Knowing how to store your necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings properly will let you enjoy wearing them for years to come.
Bracelets are often lighter than necklaces, so they won't stretch or get bent as easily. Still, it is best to store them flat to avoid this risk, and you should always keep them separate from each other (such as in pouches while traveling) so your precious stones and metals don't get scratched.
Those hanging necklace-holders may look pretty, but they can cause your necklace to stretch out or develop bends in weird places. But don't just shove your necklaces in a drawer either, or they could get scratched and tangled. Instead, lay your necklaces flat for storage; a wardrobe drawer will do nicely.
It is easiest to store your earrings in an earrings-holder so they stay in pairs. If you don't want to buy one though, you can stick your earrings through a length of ribbon, or place them in ice cube trays, egg cartons, or pill organizers. Clear plastic pill organizers are great for storing earrings and rings while traveling. When cleaning your earrings, be careful not to lose one of them (or one of their backings). If you're rinsing the soapy water off your earrings, remember to always plug the sink. Even better: fill a glass with clean water and swirl your earrings around in there to clean them off. Lastly, here’s a good tip for if you drop one earring on a deeply carpeted floor: use a vacuum cleaner with an old pair of pantyhose around the end to find your earring without sucking it up.
Wearing your Jewelry: General Advice
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Maybe you’ve heard this saying from your grandma, but it bears repeating: preventing your jewelry from getting damaged is the easiest way to take care of it in the long run.
Stay away from water, especially chlorinated pools
As you may have noticed from the care instructions for different jewelry materials, almost all of them get damaged if they're immersed in salt- or chlorinated water. So next time you’re at the pool and your friends are trying to push you into the water, tell them, “Stop right there, bro! I need to take off my bracelet first!” They may think you’re a bit odd, but that’s the price you pay for being well dressed.
Avoid contact with household chemical products
Your jewelry will last much longer if you keep it away from any substance that’s not pH-neutral. So apply your makeup, hairspray, lotion, sunscreen, and perfume first (hopefully not all at once or it’ll smell awful) and let the products sink in, then put on your jewelry for the day. As any jeweler will tell you, your jewelry should be the last thing you put on in the morning, and the first thing you take off at night. Remember to take off your jewelry before using any cleaning products, too, like when scrubbing the floors or washing the windows (which, let’s be real, happens like once a year, but it’s worth keeping in mind when you do eventually get around to it). If your jewelry does come into contact with household chemicals, chlorinated water, or the ocean for any reason, try to rinse it off as soon as possible, wash with gentle hand soap and water, and rinse again.
Avoid contact with perspiration
They say “men sweat, ladies glow.” Just don’t let your “glow” get on your jewelry, ladies. Wearing your jewelry while exercising may cause the finish to tarnish, and worse yet lead to scratches or other damage. If you're the type of person who sweats while doing anything other than sitting in an air-conditioned room, you might also want to wipe off your jewelry with a soft cloth every day before bed.
ENJOYING YOUR NEW JEWELRY
There you have it: cleaning, proper storage, and preventing damage are the keys to success when it comes to keeping your jewelry in peak condition. But in between all that cleaning and storage, don't forget to actually wear it.