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How to Clean Vintage Costume Jewelry

Suppose you are like me and love high-quality vintage costume jewelry as much as fine jewelry. This guide on how to clean vintage costume jewelry is for you. I like my vintage costume jewelry sparkling like this:

As Salvador Dali put it, it’s not the material that creates value. Design and workmanship are just as important. It’s not difficult to care for your precious impostors.

So you hit the jackpot and have tons of new goodies, or your precious faux gems have spent some time in the jewelry box and don’t look their best. Do not fret! Here is a how to bring those beauties to the most sparkly state.

How do you clean Vintage Costume Jewelry?
Very carefully!

This is what we do to every piece of vintage jewelry (costume or fine) that we sell:

The cleaning process depends on which type of jewelry you have, how it is made, and even how the stones are attached. Never dip sterling, and never soak rhinestones.

Inspect the jewelry with a loupe or magnifying glass and determine the stone type and setting style. Is it glued, prong, or bezel set?

  • How to clean vintage costume jewelry that is set with rhinestones:

When cleaning vintage costume jewelry with rhinestones, use a soft nail brush or toothbrush and Windex. Spray the brush very lightly. It has to be almost dry. Pat onto a towel or paper towel to remove the excess liquid. Gently brush the piece. Use a magnifier to ensure it’s clean, and inspect the jewelry as you work.

I prefer glass cleaners with ammonia. It does a great job and removes grime. Get the name brand. It will be cheaper in the long run as it is concentrated and does a better job. Be sure to have lots of ventilation, and don’t breathe that stuff.

Be prepared to re-glue some stones as they may fall out in the process. They were going to fall out anyway, this speeds the process, and you don’t lose them. Clean over a box lid or place a small towel on the table so if they come off, they will be safe. The glue to be used should not be the crazy-glue type. This glue eats the rhinestone’s foil, making it dull. The best glue is Hypo Cement. You can find it at hobby shops, craft stores, and online.

The glue to be used should not be the crazy-glue type. This glue eats the rhinestone’s foil, making it dull. The best glue is Hypo Cement. You can find it at hobby shops, craft stores, and online.

  • How to clean vintage costume jewelry that does not have rhinestone or glued parts:

I place them in a plastic bowl, spray with Windex (the blue one), swish a few times, and rinse. We have hard water here, so the final rinse is filtered. Shake them gently by holding the whole piece in your cupped hands or a colander to remove the excess water. Lay them on a big plastic tray (also from the dollar store) over an old towel and air dry. You could use paper towels too, but we are all for green living, so an old towel or t-shirt is best.

  • Do not soak, wash or brush faux pearls. It could ruin them. Spray a soft rag or paper towel (an old t-shirt is great and reusable), dab and not rub, and ensure the fabric is not soaked but rather slightly damp.

If you are unsure about the type of thread used on a beaded necklace, it is best not to soak it. Spray a cloth with the cleaner and wipe the necklace clean instead.

All our vintage costume jewelry has been cleaned this way. As you can see, much work and love go into bringing this jewelry to you. I love jewelry but hate dirt!

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