For all of the women out there, have you noticed that some of your jewelry changes color — and even in texture — over time? This is because certain metals found in jewelry are susceptible to corrosion, and deteriorate with normal everyday wear and tear. The most common type of corrosion found in jewelry is rust, which happens when the metal is frequently exposed to water and oxygen. Ladies, if you frequently do the dishes or go for a swim with jewelry on, this explains why many of your rings and bracelets get rusty over time!
To save your favorite rings and bracelets from the destruction of corrosion, you should regularly clean and treat them to extend the life of your pieces — and wardrobe. Here’s how to clean, treat, and care for everything in your jewelry box.
Treating Costume Jewelry
This type of jewelry can be frequently found in thrift stores, antique shops, consignment stores and flea markets. Although these jewelry pieces are cheap, they can still look fantastic and can often be mistaken for the real thing. But the cheaper price tag comes with the danger of corrosion. This can easily cause your jewelry lose its color, shine, and even durability, over time.
Treating your costume jewelry can be as easy as filling a bowl with warm water in liquid soap. Although water is the same liquid that can cause corrosion, it can actually prevent it when used in the correct manner.
This tried and true method is good enough for Monica McLaughlin, a jewelry writer and historian. “My standbys are soft, clean toothbrushes and makeup brushes, a soft cloth, and water,” she said in an interview with Racked, a retail and shopping website owned by Vox Media. “Only if something starts to look a little dull will I give it a light wash with a tiny bit of non-detergent soap and a lot of water.”
You definitely want to stay away from fancy jewelry cleaners that contain alcohol, acid, vinegar or ammonia. These strong chemicals are more likely to trigger corrosion because common metals found in costume jewelry — like copper, iron, nickel, lead, and zinc — do not chemically mix well with alcohol, acid, vinegar, or ammonia.
Storing your jewelry properly is the best defense against corrosion. Keep your pieces in a dry and protected place, like a jewelry box. These are often lined with special fabric made with anti-tarnish properties to help keep your jewelry in its best shape and free of corrosion.
Know Which Jewelry Won’t Corrode at All
Gold, silver, platinum, tantalum, and rhodium are highly resistant to corrosion and are frequently used in fine jewelry. If you’re looking for pieces that will stand the test of time, visit your local jeweler or department store counter for corrosion-resistant jewelry.
Do you have more corrosion questions? Ask me anything in the comments section below.
Robert “Bob” Heidersbach is the author of Metallurgy and Corrosion Control in Oil and Gas Production. The book is based on Robert’s experience teaching new engineers that need to understand metallurgy and corrosion control in the oil industry. He is currently in the process of rewriting and updating the publication, and welcomes any suggestions about how to improve the book. In his spare time, Bob enjoys kayaking, biking and traveling.