Cleaning Turquoise and silver jewlery

There are many ways to clean your silver and turquoise on the internet but not all of them are safe. In cleaning turquoise jewelry several factors come into play.

1st is the type of piece you are working with. Is it a piece of history that the patina (aging or tarnish) is part of its character, history and value. If so use no chemicals, only a soft towel and water. In this case even a tooth brush could damage the patina and devalue the piece. If the patina is not important to your piece then a silver cleaner like Tarn-X works great but be careful it will dissolve shell, turquoise and coral or other calcium based material.

2nd the type of stone is to be considered. Here we are talking about things found in “NA” (Native American) style jewelry. Claws, bone, wood, coral, turquoise, shell, jasper and malachite. I’m sure I missed a few. Lets tackle the organics first. Claw, wood and bone swell when soaked in water so that’s never a good idea. This can actually expand the “bezel’s” ( the metal wrapped around the item) setting and loosen it’s grip on the item. Chemicals are a no-no because the item will absorb the smell or stain or dissolve depending on what you use.

Stone are similar and different at the same time. While they will not expand they can stain or dissolve with chemicals. Most agates and jaspers are water resistant however some jaspers like Biggs Jasper will absorb liguids. Turquoise and malachite will absorb liguids if the turquoise is not “stablilzed” (Impregnated with plastic resins) and can be damaged by cleaners. For these stones it is best to use a soft toothbrush and warm water to clean and dry immediately. The same goes for shell material. Soaps will discolor it and chemicals can etch the surfaces very easily.

3rd. The condition and setting matter also. If you have cracked or loose stones be careful and do not clean your piece over the gaping jaws of a sink’s drain hole. You may loose an important stone. Often times turquoise stones were “cushioned” By putting sawdust in the setting under the stone. If soaked this will expand (organics/wood) your bezel and loosening your stone when it dries out.

Bottom line: The best way to baby your piece is to wipe it clean with a warm damp rag or use a soft toothbrush when necessary, never soak organics and stay away from chemical cleaners unless you are sure of the outcome. Hope this helps, Kyle

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I rarely clean any vintage jewelry.
If a piece becomes extremely tarnished, I just use a dry, soft cloth to polish. A piece of well worn denim works great.
For cleaning stones (rarely), I use a soft, make up brush to dislodge dust or other things.

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I worked in a high end jewelry store in Portland, OR back in the day, and we absolutely did not recommend Tarn-X for use on jewelry or your silver serving pieces as it’s pretty harsh and can damage them beyond repair. Usually silver paste was recommended if need be.

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Yeah, Tarn-x is not for everything. I use it for intricate crevices like silver chains that a polish would gum up. I used it a lot when I did jewelry repairs for two jewelry stores in Va. It does a great job of brightening things up without a lot of work. The goal here is to clean at home where most people don’t have a steam cleaner, tumbler or vibrating cleaning tank like jewelry stores do. There are also methods on the internet for baking soda, aluminum foil and hot water. That work good too without tarn-x but again some things you don’t want to submerge in water. This is a great place where we can learn from each other’s experiences so thanks for the tarn-x caution ! Hey what do you think of you writing a blog here about the proper use of polishes and waxes for jewelry? Kyle

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I recently purchased an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. Have not used it yet.
It is the type that no chemicals are recommended. Maximum cleaning time is 15 minutes with only water.

Am still trying to determine what to put in first. I know certain pieces should not be put in it. Those that are soft or have natural cracks, like opals. Very porous stones, like some chrysocolla. Unstabalized turquoise.

In the past I have used white toothpaste with a soft toothbrush to clean silver portions of jewelry that had turned black. That worked great. After cleaning, I rinsed the piece in water. Then wiped with a soft cloth.

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You have to be careful about what toothpaste you use - some have some pretty aggressive abrasives in them. I’ve used a baby toothbrush and plain water to get the chunks out of crevices, but i have def accidentally overcleaned some pieces.

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I imagine when you know what you’re doing makes a huge difference. Application as opposed to soaking would be better.

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For silver without stones, I have had success with aluminum foil, hot water, baking soda and vinegar. Gets all the gunk out of the hard to reach places. Line a bowl with the foil, add baking soda, the tarnished silver, cover with hot water and add vinegar. Much fizzing will occur. Kind of fun. I like the Fabulustre polishing cloths for items that get polished. If I want to keep the patina and have stones, to remove dirt or stains/odors from smoking perfume etc …I just wipe (not rub) using isopropyl 70% alcohol and a bounty towel. If you’ve removed patina or got a piece that someone has removed the patina, you can oxidize by using sulfur. Sulfur is in egg yolks - slow but works. I like XL Gel Liver of Sulphur. It does a good job though the tone can be a little blue. The advantage of the gel is that I can use a paint brush to apply it in crevices if I don’t want to do all over oxidation.

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So i guess it goes without saying that most rings should be removed before washing your hands? i had never thought about this before!! Recently i had a piece of spiny oyster fall out of a ring and of course it had sawdust underneath the stone. It would make total sense that the sawdust got damp causing the stone to fall out. ps, what do yall suggest i use to glue the stone back in? some of the sawdust is missing. or do i leave this up to an professional?

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Hey texas can you send a photo of the repair you need?

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Maas is a good polish that my cousin, who cleans antique silver professionally for a museum, recommends.

I found that the cleanest I can get stuff is usually with a silver cream applied with a soft sponge…the cleaning comes with the rubbing perhaps more than anything.

So how do you balance wanting to keep a patina on an old object versus keeping silver rot spots from developing? I’ve had a couple of pieces that I’ve had to completely clean because they were starting develop circular spots of rot, which starts to eat through the silver if left long enough, or at the very least leaves a dark mark that you cannot remove.

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Right. I use plain, paste style.
My fiancé was in the hospital a lot. He would always receive a small tube of basic toothpaste while there.
All of these came home with him.

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Hi Xtina, Hope you are enjoying getting ready for Christmas. Maas is a good cleaner. I use it here in Spain and didn’t realize you had it in the states. A good museum grade preservative for metal is Renaissance Wax. Best used after a good cleaning. It’s a little expensive but works good to keep fingerprints off. It’s good to remember you are not fighting the silver but the copper content in the silver. Pure silver doesn’t tarnish but the copper that is added to the mix does. If you are dealing with a copper based silver plated items you will normally get more tarnish where the plating is thinnest or if it is sterling ( silver and copper mixed) then there may have been too much heat or work done or even chemicals at some point in some areas that has brought the copper to the surface to tarnish.
Some purists would hate me for saying this but you can reapply a patina with chemicals if you want to. Clorox bleach will turn silver gray like a normal aged patina. Liver of sulfur will turn it black and is often used to darken crevices before the final buffing of the highlights. With both the longer it stays wet the darker it gets and with both this is an oxidation process that is damaging the surface of your metal. But hey, so is the long process of waiting for it to tarnish to your liking. :laughing: Hope this helps, Kyle

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I have attached the photos. Let me know if you need any other views

OK simple fix ! Scrape all the sawdust out, drop you stone back in. if it sits too low, as I suspect it will, you can back fill with more sawdust of simply cut a piece of paper card stock to back fill under your stone. To make it the same shape place your stone on the card and trace around it. Cut the paper just a little smaller. Make several layers if you need more height.

If your stone gets stuck during the fitting you can pull it out using bee’s wax or poster tack clay. Just warm it in your hand, shape it into a thick stick, press it to the top of your stone and then snatch it out. The wax should stick to the stone and give you a grip on it to lift by.

Once your stone is set to its original height you can tighten the bezel following the instructions found in our “repairs made simple” “tighten a loose stone” section. Hope this helps, Kyle

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All of this talk about cleaning silver and I’m trying to avoid unintentional polishing when just handling my silver. :grin:

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@Greatrocks123 thank you for the education you provide on this site! I did not know that it was the copper that caused the silver to tarnish. Great tips as usual…thanks.

You can buy Maas in the States, but it’s hard to find, at least where I am. I’ll have to look for the wax you mentioned.

Merry Christmas!

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One thing to note when washing your hands somewhere other than your home (rodeos for instance), put your rings in your pocket, wash your hands, then put your rings back on. Don’t leave them on the counter or edge of sink. More rings have been left behind or worse (stolen) because someone forgot to put them back on and walked out :cry:

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so no glue is necessary if you use this method? is gluing not recommended?
Thanks, Teresa

Right, the bezel will hold the shell in place. If you wish to glue you can but you will need to find a way to raise the shell to the original level and tighten the bezel.