Decorating & Design - Green Living

Eco-friendly ways to clean your jewellery

Danny Seo

Don't throw away your favourite vintage pieces! Make them look good as new with minimal effort and a few handy tricks.

A visit to almost any flea market, thrift shop or junk store will usually result in boxes or drawers jam-packed with a variety of vintage jewellery. While the more expensive diamond and precious stone pieces get passed down generation-to-generation or sold in pricey antique shops, you can usually find all types of older costume charms, pins, rings, earrings, and bracelets for next to nothing. Vintage also means age, but that's no reason to pass on jewellery simply because of dirt or tarnish. Try these Simply Green ways to revive vintage jewellery.


Silver-plated jewellery
This tip is like magic: You can magnetize the tarnish away. Simply line the bottom of a bowl with a sheet of aluminum foil and fill the bowl with warm water. Add a generous amount of salt -- about 4 tablespoons -- and a squirt of liquid dish soap. Place the tarnished jewellery on top, and voila! You'll see the tarnish begin to disappear -- a natural chemical reaction that actually magnetizes the tarnish right off. No buffing or rubbing needed. Wipe clean and dry with a terry towel. This also works wonders on tarnished flatware and silver-plated home accessories.


If that cubic zirconia gemstone ring is beginning to look more faux than fierce, give it a good cleaning. Fill a bowl with warm water and add liquid dish soap. Let the jewellery soak for a bit and use an old toothbrush (the older and more worn, the better; newer brushes will be a bit too abrasive) to loosen dust and dirt away. If you need a bit more help getting them clean, add a tiny bit of ammonia to the water and soak and brush again.

Over time, wristwatches with metal bands can collect dead skin, dust, and dirt in between the links, hinges, and mechanical parts. If you have a waterproof watch, a quick way to keep it clean is to soak it in the bathroom sink with sudsy water, rinse clean, and then use a Q-tip to pick up dirt in between each link. If you have an espresso maker with a steam nozzle, you can use that to steam away the dirt, too. Just be sure to use something to protect your hands from the hot steam, like miniature tongs or extra-strong tweezers.

Gourmet cooks have used salt and lemon juice to keep their copper pots gleaming; the citric acid from the lemon helps neutralize the tarnish away, and the salt acts as an abrasive. You can try the same technique when cleaning large copper pieces like a chunky bracelet. Just cut a lemon in half and squeeze lemon juice all over the copper piece. Sprinkle with salt (the juice will help the salt adhere) and use the lemon wedge to rub the salt all over the piece. Rinse clean under warm water in the sink. For smaller copper pieces, try the magnetizing trick used on silver-plated pieces; you'll get similar results.


Excerpted from Simply Green Giving: Create Beautiful and Organic Wrappings, Tags, and Gifts from Everyday Materials by Danny Seo. Copyright 2006 by Danny Seo. Excerpted with permission by HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without permission in writing from the publisher.


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