by Rena Klingenberg.
Recently a jewelry artist asked me, “How can I keep the metal in my jewelry from turning color after a customer buys it?”
There are two main reasons why jewelry may turn color:
1.) The metal has tarnished.
This is most common with sterling silver, but other metals can dull and tarnish too.
Here are ways to prevent and remove tarnish on metals:
- You can sell each piece of jewelry in a zip-close baggie, and encourage your customers to store their jewelry back in the sealed baggie between wearings. Enclosing the piece this way will go a long way toward slowing the tarnishing process.
- You can also provide your customers with jewelry polishing cloths (such as Sunshine Cloths, available at most jewelry suppliers). You can either sell the cloths as an add-on, or cut the cloths into smaller pieces and include them as a complimentary gift with each piece of jewelry. Polishing cloths do a good job of removing a light to medium layer of tarnish. However, for heavy tarnish your customers will need to have the piece professionally cleaned (by you or at a jewelry store), or try this home method for removing tarnish.
- Copper jewelry is a bit different, and can be quickly restored to a bright shine with one of these methods:
- Lemon Juice and Salt – Dip half of a lemon in salt and rub it on the copper. Wash and dry jewelry.
- Ketchup – See my video tutorial, Cleaning Copper with Ketchup. Cover copper jewelry with ketchup in a bowl. When tarnish is gone (which may take only a few moments), wash and dry the jewelry.
2.) The outer layer of metal has worn off.
This is common with plated metals.
If the jewelry is made with silverplated or goldplated components, it’s very likely that the plating will wear off sooner or later.
Plating is usually a very thin layer and doesn’t last forever – especially on jewelry that’s worn a lot.
There isn’t anything you can do to restore the jewelry to its original appearance if the plating has worn off – but you can remake the piece with components made of sterling silver or 14k goldfill, which won’t wear off.