How to remove heavy tarnish from costume jewellery

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Well-designed costume jewellery can be as stylish as its silver and gold counterparts, but it tends to lose its lustre more quickly. This happens because the thin gold or silver coatings on fashion jewellery wear off more quickly and are more susceptible to airborne chemicals, such as sulphur. The natural salt found in human perspiration, combined with the chemicals in perfume and skin products can also accelerate the corrosion process and cause discolouration. You can remove discoloration with baking soda or a cleaning product designed for costume jewellery, but the only way to restore silver and gold plating after it has worn off is to have it re-plated by a jeweller.

Cleaning silver-plated jewellery

Shine silver-plated costume jewellery with baking soda. Cover the bottom of a small bowl with aluminium foil and add 14g (1 tbsp) of baking powder and 14g (1 tbsp of salt). Add enough hot, but not boiling, water to cover your jewellery and mix until the baking powder dissolves.

Place your jewellery on top of the aluminium foil and let it soak for 10 minutes. During that time, black and yellow flakes should float in the water; this means that the sulphur – a non-metallic airborne chemical component that causes tarnish – has separated from the jewellery.

Remove the jewellery from the bowl and rinse it under lukewarm water. Pat it dry with a soft cotton cloth.

Restore the sparkle to silver-plated jewelry containing gemstones. Costume jewellery that has gemstones shouldn’t be placed in hot water because this might dissolve the glue that holds the stones in place. Instead, mix 14g (1 tbsp) of baking powder and 14g (1 tbsp of salt) with just enough hot water to form a paste. Apply the paste with a soft cloth, making sure you mix the salt and soda solution into the jewellery’s crevices. Wipe the solution off thoroughly with a damp cloth and pat the jewellery dry with a dry cloth.

General costume jewellery cleaning

Restore faux gemstones to their former glory. Pour a few drops of mild dishwater detergent into a small bowl of club soda. Dip a cloth into the bubbling mix apply it to your gemstones, wiping off smudges and stubborn grime. Remove the mixture with a damp cloth, pat the jewellery dry with a soft cloth and lay it upside down to prevent any remaining moisture sinking into the stones’ crevices.

Polish your pearls with shampoo. Even faux pearls can regain their lustre with a little TLC. Lay your pearls on a soft cloth and add few drops of mild shampoo to a small cup or bowl of warm water. Dip a small cosmetic brush into the water and apply it to each pearl. Rinse off with a clean damp cloth and leave the string of pearls to dry flat, to prevent it stretching.

Treat copper jewelry to a 5-minute makeover. Pour 71 mL (4 tbsp) of Worcestershire sauce into a cup and dunk your tarnished copper necklace or bracelet in it. Leave the jewellery in the sauce for 10 seconds, or longer if the soap solution doesn’t remove the tarnish immediately. Rinse the jewellery with tap water and dry with a soft cloth. The whole process shouldn’t take any longer than 5 minutes. This method should not be used to clean copper jewellery with gemstones or pearls because the acid in the Worcestershire sauce might damage them.

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