Everyday Jewelry Maintenance

Regularly assessing the state of our jewels and protecting them from harmful elements are necessary steps for keeping pieces in good condition. To help ensure that our gems are properly cleaned and cared for, we asked the experts behind Birmingham-based jewelry line Ex Voto Vintage, which produces versatile pieces using a variety of materials, for advice on jewelry maintenance; here are their recommendations:

14k gold and sterling silver: Since they are made of pure metals, 14k gold and sterling silver pieces can be worn for long periods of time without removal. Pure gold never tarnishes, but it can need cleaning; sterling silver tarnishes from prolonged exposure to air. When cleaning is necessary, use a soft cloth and polish, such as Maas Metal Polish (which can be used on almost any metal). Store sterling jewelry in a cloth dust bag after wearing to reduce tarnishing.

Pearls: Because pearls are porous, it’s important to keep them clean. Exposure to perspiration or chlorinated water can etch their top layer, causing them to lose their luster. After wearing, wipe your pearls gently with a dry or slightly damp soft cloth and allow them to air dry. Never put jewelry with pearls into jewelry cleaner.

Gold-plated: Chlorinated water, salt water, perspiration, soap, perfume, make-up, lotions, and hairspray are all potentially damaging to gold-plated jewelry, so always remove your gold-plated pieces before swimming, exercising, or applying the products mentioned. After wearing, wipe the jewelry lightly with a soft cotton cloth to remove makeup or skin oils. If needed, use a tiny drop of mild liquid soap, but never any type of cleaner. Store pieces in a cloth dust bag.

Brass: When brass begins to tarnish, clean it with water and soap to remove ordinary dirt acquired from frequent use. If additional cleaning is necessary, use a brass cleaner such as Brasso or Bar Keepers Friend.

Leather and cloth: Keep these pieces away from water, and store them in a cloth dust bag.

Expert tip and featured jewelry from Ex Voto Vintage in Birmingham, AL.