You have a beautiful piece of handmade jewelry that you love...but you aren't sure if it needs any special care...well the answer is YES!
Unlike mass produced jewelry, which is typically manufactured in a factory of some sorts, handmade jewelry is just that: made by hand, which means it is not indestructible...
I would like to share with you a few tips on how to care for that unique piece, that with the proper care, will last the test of time:
I use many different materials in my pieces and some require a little special attention, I will get to those in a moment, but here are the basics of handmade jewelry care; some may seem obvious, but we do tend to forget the simplest things sometimes!
Always adorn yourself with jewelry LAST. Which means after you have selected and dressed yourself in your outfit for the day/evening, after you have put on your make up, perfume, essential oils and hairspray (if you use any of those)
We don't realize how rough we can be when pulling that sweater over our heads and putting our arms through the sleeves...if you already have your jewelry on, you can snag your clothing on the jewelry...I think we have all done that at some point in our lives...and you could also damage a delicate piece of jewelry.
Hairsprays and perfumes contain alcohol, among other chemicals (and if you are an essential oil user you are not exempt from this!) lotions, oils, aerosols are of course meant for your skin and hair, but don't forget that your jewelry touches your skin and in some cases your hair! These can coat the jewelry, dulling the finish but more importantly they can "eat away" at the actual piece of jewelry; whether it is metal, beads, pearls, crystal or gemstones. What we forget is that most jewelry is made up of something natural (metal and gemstones come from the earth, pearls from the sea etc.) ...natural oils, essential oils and chemicals can break down and react with what your jewelry is made out of.
I will let you know that as a general rule: all jewelry should be kept away from perfumes, hairspray, lotions, soaps, long submersion in water, hand sanitizer etc. for the preservation of your piece. All jewelry should be removed before exercise, swimming or sleeping. I include this info on Care Tips cards that I send out with every piece of jewelry as a little reminder :)
Why? What's the worst that can happen if I wash my hands while wearing that ring? Or if I do one light spray of perfume? The worst thing is that you will eventually develop a HABIT of doing those things...and repeated exposure will most definitely damage your piece over time, so it truly is best to avoid doing it even once!
Also; most chemicals and surfactants (cleaning agents) are damaging to metals, gemstones, pearls etc, so you do run the risk of eroding and tarnishing chains/metals, damaging delicate gemstones and pearls, and even breaking down the composition of those beautiful glass beads!
I never recommend using the "solution dips" for cleaning your jewelry; they are wonderful for metal only pieces (brass, Sterling, copper, gold) but they can again damage the complimenting materials in your piece (crystal, gemstone, pearl, shell, glass beads)
I use copper quite a bit in my designs as I have fallen in love with its warmth, how it accents the gemstones, pearls and crystals beautifully, and how it gives that Bohemian touch to my pieces...but most metals, including copper, do patina (darken) over time...
There are a few things you can do to slow patina; although I personally love the rustic look it gives to the piece, that might not be your preference--pieces can be kept in an air-tight bag (those little clear zip-lock types are perfect) with an anti-tarnish strip, and can be brightened back up again with a soft polishing cloth. The yellow Sunshine cloths are my favorite.
When using polishing cloths, especially on wire wrapped pieces (like my Petal Hoop Earrings or wrap around rings for example) take care not to be too rough; you can loosen the beads that are attached and possibly snag the wire with the cloth causing unraveling.
My hand stamped pieces use 1100 aluminum, so they do NOT tarnish, but the black lettering may fade over time; water, soaps and hand sanitizer speed up this process-- if you feel comfortable doing so, you may fill in the lettering with a black Sharpie permanent marker, wait a few minutes for it to dry, then dab a paper towel with isopropyl alcohol and wipe off the excess a few times.
Glass beaded pieces (such as my Beaded Crochet ropes and Peyote Stitch cuff bracelets) are extremely durable and due to the quality of thread and techniques I use, they will last for many many years--if kept away from water exposure--I use glass beads and thread only; and water will eventually break down thread, regardless that I use very specific threads for my pieces, keep in mind they are still made with thread. I will mention here; I have Peyote Stitch cuffs that I made for myself over 20 years ago that are still intact!
I also love using luxurious silk thread in my designs; it adds a certain softness to the piece and that sheen is unmistakable! Silk thread does have the tendency to tangle; I recommend that silk necklaces be stored hanging when not being worn--this allows the silk to drape nicely, staying separated and avoids tangles. If tangles do occur, do not pull tightly, lay the necklace flat, slowly and gently undo the tangle.
Feathers are one of my favorite materials to incorporate into my designs! Bright, colorful, soft and definitely a Bohemian style that I have loved for many years--it is easy to forget that they are delicate and do need to be handled with care. Feathers may be flat ironed on a LOW setting to smooth out any kinks--but the best way to avoid this is to lay your feathers flat on a flat surface when you are not wearing them. The technique I use to secure my feather pieces is very specific, time consuming and most of all durable; ensuring your feathers will last you for many years. I have been wearing my feather earrings now for quite a few years, and though I do love to touch them to feel their softness, I am very gentle when I do...because I can't help touching them!
Leather pieces, whether they are made with round leather cord or deerskin flat lace, are maybe the most abused pieces out there! We think; it's leather, it's strong, I don't need to be careful! While this is true, it isn't entirely true...if you have ever "accidentally" gotten your leather piece wet or worn it while you were sweating quite a bit, you undoubtedly noticed it wasn't quite the same afterwards...and yes, it WILL stretch! As essential oils are being used more and more now, I have seen people advertise their leather jewelry for that purpose; yes you can do it, it holds the fragrance well, it can also cause some leathers to bleed color onto your skin, and if you do get it wet, it will be a bit slimy due to the oil. As long as you are aware of these things I don't see anything wrong with it--just be aware that your leather won't last quite as long as it would being kept away from moisture.
I do test the limits quite extensively with my jewelry when I wear it... please do not follow my example! I purposely do things (improperly) to see how my pieces will stand the test of time to ensure I am doing everything I can to create high quality handmade pieces for you!
I love creating unique handmade jewelry for you to express yourself with; it is my passion, it fills me with happiness and I hope that I have helped give you some insight on caring for those little works of art! If you have any questions please feel free to comment, I am here to help in any way that I can!
Have a fabulous day!