How to Clean Your Vintage Costume Jewelry

How to Clean Your Vintage Costume Jewelry

Posted by Michelle on Nov 7th 2021

Tips for Cleaning your Jewelry

The tools I like to use to clean costume jewelry are several: a baby toothbrush (these have very soft bristles), wooden toothpicks, wood cuticle stick, cotton swabs, a hair-dryer, towels, and polishing cloth. (See below for a more aggressive cleaning if the gentler method is not enough.) I also use isopropyl alcohol and non-acetone (sparingly).

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. Do not soak the rhinestones, try to keep as dry as possible.

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. And the larger wooden cuticle sticks can work well around prongs and help lift or tighten prongs.

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. We keep both a silver polishing cloth as well as a rouge polishing cloth to polish the jewelry items. And we have an extra fine fiberglass brush to use especially in the tight spaces of some items.

Take your time, and work in a well-lit area. I use my jeweler's loupe to spot check the progress as I work on the pieces.

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. 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 backing.

Many of the things we use for cleaning can be picked up at your local general merchandise store. I have also purchased polishing cloths from local jewelers.

Thank you for reading and please check out our large vintage jewelry inventory