How to Clean Vintage and Antique Jewelry

Grandma might have removed the polish and applied old fashioned elbow grease to make vintage silver shine. Today there are easier and faster ways, using less effort and time. They are as simple as 1,2,3.

Detailed article on “How to Clean Vintage and Antique Jewelry”.

Cleaning Sterling Silver Vintage Jewelry

There are some clever tricks you can use to clean sterling silver, that are quite effective. Grandma might have removed the polish, and applied old-fashioned elbow grease, to make vintage jewelry shine. Today, there are easier and faster ways, using less effort and time. They are as simple as 1,2,3.

I call it Grandma’s Jewelry 1,2,3 plan. Three simple steps to bring back the sparkle in vintage sterling silver jewelry. You can clean grandma’s jewelry in no time. You are going to spend most of the time soaking those vintage jewelry, necklaces, rings, bracelets, and brooches, using ordinary household items, you already have at home.

You can clean vintage jewelry, while talking on the phone. It’s that easy. Grandma couldn’t do that!

First, let Grandma know that she is old, and she cleaned jewelry the hard way, back in olden times, and she needs to listen to the modern way to make vintage silver, glisten, and shine.

Step 1.

Line a bowl with Aluminum foil, shiny side up. Vintage Silver tarnishes because silver contains sulfur, and sulfur turns black. The aluminum foil creates a reaction and helps pull the tarnish out. 

Step 2.

Add a couple tablespoons of baking soda, two tablespoons, of salt, a little dish washing liquid, and add  warm water.

Step 3.

Add vintage sterling silver bracelets, necklaces, and rings,  and soak for 15 minutes. Rinse the jewelry with cold water, and use a soft towel to dry.

Cleaning Grandmas Jewelry is as easy as 1,2,3. And that is all you need to do, to make your vintage sterling silver jewelry shine.

Ok, there is one more thing… If you want scientific expertise, to tell you why that method works, call Dr. Fauci, while waiting for those vintage silver jewelry pieces to soak and ask why aluminum foil, baking soda, and salt work when cleaning vintage jewelry. He is the expert and the Mr. Go To Clean guy .

Then let me know what he says.

If your vintage sterling silver jewelry is extra black with tarnish, repeat this process one more time. Use a new piece of aluminum foil. You will get shine!

Silver and silverplate jewelry clean the same way. Costume jewelry works the same way cleaning Gold Vintage Jewelry.

You might have inherited an old piece of Gold jewelry from Grandma, that needs to be cleaned. Vintage gold jewelry is delicate and precious. It’s an expensive metal to buy. You want to handle with care, when cleaning vintage gold jewelry.

Don’t use this method when cleaning vintage, gold jewelry with gemstones. It’s not that it doesn’t clean them, its that the stones may loosen while cleaning, and you risk loosing them. 

There are some gemstones that you don’t want to use dish washing soap to clean, so while most can be cleaned with ordinary household items, some cannot. Just apply this technique cleaning gold vintage jewelry without gemstones.

Cleaning 18K and 22K Gold  Vintage Jewelry

When cleaning 18K, or 22K Gold, use a mild dishwashing soap, and warm water. Don’t make the water so hot that you can’t handle the jewelry piece. You don’t want to drop and damage it, 18K and 22k gold is soft, and needs delicate hands, to remove dirt and grime. 

Add a couple drops of dishwashing soap first into a bowl, before adding water. Don’t do it the other way around. You want the dish washing soap to spread evenly.

Don’t put the jewelry into the sink without a covered drain. You don’t want to risk losing it, because the water was too hot for you to handle. Don’t let your gold, wedding ring slip down the drain! I know that there are days, but really don’t risk that. Use a bowl.

Apply a soft bristle toothbrush, to remove particles stuck in between links. You don’t want to scratch gold, while cleaning. Gold is soft. You can get creative and use an eyebrow brush to reach into crevices, so the vintage jewelry you are cleaning doesn’t scratch.

Jewelry stores sell soft bristle brushes, specifically made for cleaning jewelry.You may want to purchase one of them.

After, rinse with water. Then, dry the gold with a soft cloth, and rub it dry. Dry with a soft cloth, rather than a towel, so that you don’t get shreds of material from the towel into the vintage jewelry.

Cleaning 14K and 10K Gold Antique Jewelry

14k and 10k gold jewelry is not as soft as 18k and 22k gold. You are going to clean that vintage 14k gold bracelet, by making a paste. Take one quarter cup of baking soda, and some warm water.  Mix them together. Not too thick and not to thin, and as Goldilocks said, the “porridge needs to be just right”

Then using a soft bristle brush, either toothbrush, or eyebrow brush, spread the paste over the vintage gold, and remove particles of grease and grime.

Rinse off with white cooking vinegar, and then rinse away the vinegar, with tap water. Rub dry with a soft cloth, and ooh la la, watch your antique gold jewelry sparkle and shine.

Visit our one-of-its-kind Vintage Jewelry Store.

Cleaning Antique Pearl jewelry

Pearls are delicate. Each pearl has a layer of  “nacre”, that gives it, its luster. Pearls can be easily damaged if not cleaned or stored properly. Take extra care when caring for pearl jewelry.

Each time you wear that vintage, pearl necklace, you want to wipe it down after wear. This will remove any oils, perfumes, lotions that you might have worn with the pearls. You don’t want to wear pearls in sunshine. Don’t lay on the beach, soaking up the hot sun, wearing your pearl necklace.  

Barbara Bush was famous for wearing her vintage pearl necklace. I bet she knew better than to sun up at Kennebunkport wearing that necklace!

The sun will damage the “nacre” Don’t take a shower wearing pearls. They are too delicate for that.

You don’t want to soak vintage pearls in water to clean them. You want to use a damp cloth and wipe each pearl. If they have yellowed and need extra boost of cleaning, use a damp cloth with soap and water and wipe.Don’t soak vintage pearls!

Apply,  the wipe and swipe method when cleaning vintage pearl jewelry.

Do not steam clean pearls. Do not soak them in water. Wipe and swipe. Easy does it.

How to Clean Vintage and Antique Jewelry

Cleaning Vintage Gemstone and Vintage Rhinestone Jewelry

Many antique gemstones, and vintage rhinestones can be cleaned with soap and water, but some cannot. The first step in identifying what can be cleaned using soap and water is properly identifying the gemstone.

If you are unsure of the gemstone, take it to a gemologist, for evaluation, before attempting to clean it. You do not want to take the chance, that you might destroy it using improper cleaning methods or techniques.

According to the Gemology Institute of America, (GIA) some gemstones have different properties. This means they can react differently to chemicals, acids, heat, and light, and scratching. 

Although most gemstones can be cleaned with a mild dishwashing detergent and water, some cannot.

Properly Identify the Vintage Jewelry Gemstones

The gemstones with the greatest hardness on the Mohs scale are diamonds, rubies and emeralds, with diamonds being the hardest stones of them all. 

All this really means is that these are the gemstones with the greatest resistance to scratching. This is one reason diamonds are a great stone to wear every day.

These precious gemstones can be cleaned using a mild detergent and soap and water

Diamonds have inclusions, and dirt and grime can get into the cracks in the stone. A toothpick can help remove some of the grime from the inclusions. Be patient, when using a toothpick too clean in between prongs. You don’t want to damage the prongs, resulting in losing stones.

Some Jewelers have used oils to clean emeralds, to remove grease and grime, but this can add harm to the emerald, according to the Gemological Institute of America.

After you have cleaned diamonds and rubies, blow them dry to remove excess water. One tip that jewelers often use is to place the jewels in a bed of dry maple wood chips to dry. This can help you get rid of excess water spots, without leaving a film, on the gemstone.

Any gemstone that you clean at home, needs a soft bristle for cleaning. You don’t want to scratch antique gemstones or any gemstone.


Cleaning antique and vintage jewelry, that Grandma left behind is as easy as 1,2,3. You have all of the products that you need in the kitchen. Just take care with each precious vintage piece, as you restore those old antique jewelry treasures back to life. Give those old classic jewels some brilliance, and they will glimmer evermore.

Tammy Pinkerton

Based in the United States, grandmasjewelry123 has been an eBay member since Sep 30, 1997


I have been buying and selling vintage and antique jewelry for about 7 years. Mostly on ebay. I like unique and one of a kind pieces of jewelry and prefer old over new. Vintage jewelry is a little like me, not so easy to fit in a box.
I have a masters degree in social work and practiced for 15 years in an outpatient community mental health center. . I have innovated a couple of products. Own rental property and managed it for years. I have bought and sold a variety of products in my life time, and currently my focus is on vintage Jewelery. I suppose it's easier then sitting home knitting a sweater.

One reply on “How to Clean Vintage and Antique Jewelry”

[…] First thing you need to learn about when it comes to taking care of your vintage jewelry is to know the type of cleaning products to use. Obviously, jewelries come in various designs, materials, and gemstones. You should know that different materials (different types of metals) and gemstones (precious or semi-precious) require different types of cleaning products and cleaning procedures.  […]


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