The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Your Handmade Jewelry

Stacks of thin cuff bracelets in solid gold and sterling silver with gemstones and diamonds on a white background

From the simplistic adornments of ancient civilizations to the one of a kind and high jewelry of today, jewelry is not just an accessory – it's an art form. For those who appreciate the unique touch of handmade jewelry, the craft's personal connection and attention to detail add immeasurable value beyond its aesthetic appearance. But just as every piece is crafted with care, it also requires your tender loving care to maintain its allure over time.

In this comprehensive guide, we explore the intricate world of handmade jewelry, unraveling the maintenance secrets that will keep your treasured pieces shining and strong for generations to come. Whether you're a seasoned collector or a novice enthusiast, these care techniques will ensure that your jewelry collection remains as vibrant as the day you discovered it.

The Craft Behind the Shine

Before we plunge into the delicate art of caring for your handmade treasures, it's essential to grasp the essence of what makes these jewels distinct.

Handmade jewelry stands apart with its unique artisanal quality and craftsmanship. Each piece tells a story, crafted with precision by skilled artisans who invest their time, technique, and spirit into every detail. The result is a work of art that resonates with its wearer on a profound level.

Materials of the Handmade Trade

Artisans typically work with a vast array of materials. Among the most common are:

  • Metals: Sterling silver, gold, and platinum often form the structural base of many fine jewelry handmade pieces due to their malleability and durability.
  • Gemstones: Precious and semi-precious stones offer complexity and color to designs, each with its own set of requirements for care.

Understanding the unique demands of these materials is fundamental to proper care.

Caring for Handmade Jewelry

Preserving the charm of your handmade jewelry requires dedication but is rewarding in maintaining intrinsic value and sentimental attachment.

The Art of Cleaning

Regular cleaning is the first line of defense against the tarnishing and dulling that can occur with basic wear over time. Here's how to clean different types of materials effectively:

Sterling Silver

    Polishing Cloths:

    A gentle polishing cloth designed for silver and any metal can often make tarnish disappear without any liquid.
    (My favorite is Sunshine brand Cloths and you can find them in jewelry shops online and Amazon)

    Liquid Cleaners: Silver cleaners can be very effective, but be sure to follow instructions carefully, and avoid any contact with gemstones, as these solutions are too harsh for delicate stones. 
    If your piece has been oxidized to provide contrast then most cleaners are a no no as they will strip the sterling of this special oxidization. Personally I always recommend a simple polishing cloth first and foremost

    Gold and Gold Filled Metals Only

      Mild Soap and Water: A diluted mixture of gentle soap and warm water is generally safe for gold, followed by a thorough rinse and dry. This does not apply to all gemstones.


          Soft Brush and Water: Use a soft bristle brush to gently clean around gemstones, taking care to avoid abrasive materials that could scratch or damage the stone. But NEVER use any liquids, oils or even water on or submerge opals and also avoid doing so on porous, very included, fissure filled or flawed stones as this can weaken the integrity of the stone

            Ultrasonic cleaners

              I never recommend ultrasonic cleaners as they can wreak havoc on porous stones and certain soft gemstones such as moonstone, opal and pearls don’t do well in ultrasonic cleaners. Heavily included or porous gemstones, including tourmaline, and emeralds (which is sometimes treated with oil and fillers to conceal internal flaws) should never be cleaned with an ultrasonic cleaner.
              In general, just avoid them!

              Storage Wisdom

              Proper storage is a jewelry care practice often overlooked but is crucial in preventing scratches and tangles.

                Separate Compartments: Store each piece in its fabric-lined compartment to prevent metal pieces from scratching or scraping against each other.
                Anti-Tarnish Strips: Incorporating anti-tarnish strips into your storage can help prolong intervals between cleanings.  You can find these in bulk on Amazon and they are super handy!

                Handling with Delicacy

                two wide cuff bracelets stacked one in solid gold with a bumble bee and one in sterling silver and solid gold with an owl

                How you handle your jewelry can make just as much of an impact as how you clean and store it.

                • Minimize Contact: Many jewelry pieces are fragile and can easily be damaged by rough handling or rubbing up against other gems and jewelry, so it’s best to wear them for special occasions only - this would include very high karat gold as it can scratch easily, opals and pearls.
                • Avoid Tugging: Always carefully remove your jewelry to prevent any undue stress on clasps or materials that could lead to breakages.
                • Avoid certain liquids and activities: Never swim in chlorine or salt water with ANY silver as it changes the surface color and it’s best to remove ALL jewelry prior to showering, swimming or cleaning around the house.
                • Avoid cleaning and household chores: I always recommend not wearing your jewelry for things like cleaning, scrubbing or gardening.

                Sustainable Practices for a green clean

                Many commercial jewelry-cleaning products contain chemicals that can be harmful to the environment. Here are some eco-friendly alternatives:

                • Baking Soda Paste: A paste made from baking soda and water is an effective cleaner that’s gentle on jewelry and the environment.
                • Vinegar Solution: A 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and water can be used to soak jewelry before rinsing and drying.

                The Upcycling Approach

                When your jeweled friend has reached the end of its wearable life, consider repurposing it rather than discarding it:

                • New Creations: Work with a jeweler to transform old pieces into a fresh work of art or incorporate elements into a new custom piece.
                • Household Decor: Old jewelry can find new life in household decor items, such as picture frames or vases.
                • Selling it: You can sell your gold to someone who will recycle and reuse it.

                Artisan’s Advice

                What better way to elevate your jewelry care than by learning from someone passionate about the craft itself.

                We've gathered insights and advice straight from the jewelry artisans and experts who create these treasured pieces every day. Their tips and tricks from the workbench are priceless and can offer a new perspective on your care routine.

                • Regular Inspections: Artisans recommend a routine inspection to ensure that stones are secure and settings are intact, catching any potential issues early, and if anything is found loose, discontinue wear until it can be assessed by a jewelry
                • Homemade Polishes: Some artisans advocate for creating gentle polishes at home, using natural ingredients that not only clean but also nourish and protect the jewelry.

                The Highlight Do’s and Dont’s

                • Don’t use ultrasonic cleaners
                • Don’t wear your jewelry in the pool, ocean, shower, doing household chores, cleaning or gardening. (personally I don’t even wear mine to bed!!)
                • NEVER submerge opals in any form of liquid or oils
                • Avoid harsh cleaners in general - a simple dry polishing cloth goes a long way
                • Check or have your frequently worn jewels checked by a jewelry for loose stones
                • Always recycle or repurpose your jewelry

                Reap The Rewards of Meticulous Care

                hand polishing a sterling and blue tourmaline ring

                In the world of handmade jewelry, caring for your pieces is a ritual that honors the connection between the artisan, the wearer, and the art. By investing time and effort in maintaining our jewelry’s beauty, we not only preserve its allure but also contribute to its legacy — a timeless testament to our commitment to craft and sustainability.

                As you continue to develop your own jewelry care practices, consider the impact they have on the environment and the world around you. Each precious piece, lovingly sustained, speaks volumes about your values and dedication to living a life of enduring elegance.

                Commit to the process. Treasure your pieces. Pass them on with pride. And watch as they continue to shimmer and share their enchanting tales for years to come. Remember, a well-cared-for jewel is a vessel of stories; your stories.

                Start implementing these strategies today and witness the lasting glow of your handmade jewelry. For high-end, one of a kind jewelry design that withstands the test of time, invest in the meticulous care it deserves. Your collection will thank you, and so will the planet.