Care of Antique Jewellery

We are always being asked for tips regarding care of jewellery, and there is one very simple thing everyone can do which would drastically lessen the chance of your jewellery being damaged – antique or otherwise:


I must admit this was one fatal error I made every night until I awoke one morning with a two stone engagement ring which had been a three stone the night before. Not for the first time I had to hunt for hours under the bed (not a pleasant experience) before paying to have all three stones reset. It is so easy to catch and weaken claws during the night and you should never underestimate the long term effects of nightly wear and tear.

You can effectively double the life of your shank and setting by removing rings at night, and bracelets and necklaces are under worse pressure! For a while I forgot to put my jewellery back on in the morning, but I soon managed to get into a routine and my jewellery is better for it.

As for cleaning there are many different theories, from vinegar to dishwasher powder – none of which are endorsed by Bonner’s I hasten to add! There are a variety of jewellery cleaning liquids on the market, and we stock specific jewellery cleaners in the shop but for cheap and effective results the safest bet is warm water, a drop of washing up liquid and a soft toothbrush. It is an urban myth (and an incorrect one at that) that gems should not be immersed in water, providing that it is clean. Be sure to check all claws/settings before and after cleaning to ensure that none of the stones have become loose and take extra care with antique jewellery not to rub too hard.

If you’re worried you can always pop it into the shop for a free check over while you wait! Or we can clean it onsite for you!

Other tips you may find useful are:

1. Remove rings before using soap as it clogs up the setting leaving your pride and joy dull and lifeless – it’s also a nightmare to remove!

2. Don’t do the gardening or in your jewellery. Sounds silly but I know there are a lot of guilty parties out there… Nichola! I had a hard time finding a Diamond under the bed – imagine trying to find one in a rockery…

3. The same applies to housework. Again, it’s pure common sense but changing duvets can increase the risk of ripped claws and many household products contain chemicals which simply won’t do either your gold/plat/silver or gems any good at all.

4. Regularly check all jewellery to make sure the claws are covering the stones and none have become loose. Particularly if you are of a heavy handed disposition like my mother who regularly bashes her claws beyond all recognition…. If you are in the slightest unsure bring them in for a free “health check!” Better to be safe than sorry…

5. Woolly jumpers lead to more broken necklaces and bracelets than is believable, so take extra care during the winter months. This is also true of many antique rings which feature incredibly slender claws as was the fashion of the day. These are VERY easily pulled, or even torn away from the setting and can result in the loss of a stone which can be costly to replace.

6. NEVER clean pearls, opals, emeralds, turquoise or any other porous or polished stones with jewellery cleaner unless you are 100% certain it is for delicate gems. Many are far too abrasive and can remove the sheen on your stone leaving it looking pitted and dead.

7. Regularly feed Emeralds with oil. Sunflower or cooking oil is ideal. They are incredibly porous and will easily chip and crack if left to dry out. Leave the oil to soak in overnight for best results. NB: This is not the same as “oiling,” a practice Bonner’s strongly opposes which involves drilling into the stone and filling inclusions with oil to lessen their visibility. This technique is not purely reserved for emeralds as unscrupulous dealers often fill poor quality diamonds with glass to try to hide the inclusions.

8. Opals should be regularly left to soak in an eggcup of water. We have heard many people advised against putting opals near water for a variety of reasons – none of which are true. Opals always contain water, and over time can lose water, diminish in colour and even crack and break. This aging process is best avoided by storing opals in moist cotton wool or soaking in water (or oil as above.)

9. Antique jewellery really should not be worn everyday, in part due to it’s rarity and also due to its fragility. Once damaged or lost, many antique gems can be costly (and sometimes impossible) to replace and wear to settings devalues the piece immediately, so if you cannot bear to be without your prized antique item try to be extra vigilant for any signs of erosion or wear. Also bear in mind that rings worn alongside each other will wear each other down and can distort the setting and underbezels not to mention thinning the shank. If possible try to rest your jewellery, or alter the way it is worn to minimise the damage caused by constant wear.

10. Take extra care with Antique pearls which are prone to “skinning.”

11. Try to store your items in the individual presentation boxes in which they are received. This prevents necklaces becoming tangled and claws catching in a larger jewel box. Some jewel boxes do have separate compartments for items and these are infinitely better for your jewels than a simple square box where everything can become jumbled.

12. Last but not least treat all Antique Jewellery with the respect it deserves. It didn’t survive all those years immersed in washing up water, clogged with soil, pulled by heavy shopping bags, smothered in moisturiser, and tangled in the duvet so make sure you give it all the care and attention you would like to have when you reach the grand old age of 100.