Steps for cleaning your vintage costume jewelry followed with Resources
The tools I like to use to clean costume jewelry are: a baby toothbrush (these have very soft bristles), wooden toothpicks, cotton swabs, a hair-dryer, and towels. (See below for a more aggressive cleaning if the gentler method is not enough.)
The safest route is the driest method. Start with the dry baby toothbrush to brush the piece off. If the face of the rhinestones have fingerprints, or smudges, use a cotton-tip swab with a bit of solution on the tip.
I use a very mild solution of ivory liquid soap in water. Just gently work the top of the rhinestones or glass. The biggest enemy to foiled rhinestones is moisture. If you soak the rhinestones, the foiling may become damaged, leaving your rhinestones "dead" or, if they are glued it may dissolve the glue. I have also used rubbing alcohol around the tops of rhinestones and metals.
Be careful when cleaning around enameling – some older enameling may come off with too aggressive cleaning. And be aware that some colorful art-glass is actually a film coating over glass, that might come off with any soaking or aggressive cleaning.
Toothpicks are good for small areas where pockets of encrusted stuff may lodge. Wooden toothpicks will not scratch glass if you slip as you work the matter loose.
On the base metals of your pieces, work the baby toothbrush with a bit of solution in a gentle manner. When finished, lay your piece on the paper towel, and completely dry with the hair dryer on a cool setting.
Take your time, and work in a well-lit area.
If the above does not get your item clean enough- I use the non-acetone nail polish remover. Make sure it is the non-acetone. You can use this on lucite however, do not use this on any celluloid, though. It will disintegrate the celluloid. I use a cloth or q-tip with a bit on it and rub. Again, do not soak the item- use a q-tip. And be careful around any enamels and any backings of rhinestones.
Here is an Amazon product- a great polishing cloth for your costume jewelry as well as your sterling:
Simichrome is perfect for polishing plastics as well as testing for Bakelite. This set-up includes the polishing cloth, too:
And here is a mini-tool kit that works for general jewelry repairs:
Some other sites to check out:
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