How to Clean and Polish Chain Jewelry!

Jane Dickerson mug shot7 Great Tips to Maintain your Chain!

When I wrote Chain Style: 50 Contemporary Jewelry Designs, I couldn't wait to share the 50 fabulous necklace and bracelet designs. So many designs using all kinds of chain! Later on, as my favorite brass chain began to tarnish, I thought how great it would be to have a follow-up blog about how to clean your chain jewelry. So, here are a few tips I've learned about cleaning and caring for chain jewelry.

1. Daily Care
When you remove your jewelry, wipe off the chain with a lint-free polishing cloth that has no abrasives. If you have been wearing perfume, rinse the chain with water, pat it dry, then follow with the polishing cloth. This is great for day-to-day maintenance: cleaning off fingerprints, skin oils, scents, and surface dirt.

2. Storage
Yvonne Padilla of Rio Grande recommends that you place your jewelry in an air-tight, ziploc bag along with an anti-tarnish strip. These strips are fantastic–completely safe and non-toxic. They absorb moisture and neutralize tarnish-producing gases in the air. They will last up to 6 months or longer if placed in a sealed environment. They work for silver, brass, copper, nickel, bronze, tin, and gold. Copper is the villain when it comes to tarnishing, so any metal that contains copper will tarnish. Clean your chains thoroughly, then store them with anti-tarnish strips and they'll be ready to wear for months.

3. Weekly Maintenance
Use an ultrasonic cleaner and a cleaning solution that is PH-balanced and ammonia-free. This will eliminate surface dirt, oil, lotion, and perfume. If you are cleaning a rope chain or snake chain where dirt might get into the crevices, use a soft toothbrush to get into those hard to reach areas.

4. Let It Soak
Soak your chains in a PH-balanced, ammonia free jewelry solution for stubborn tarnish. If you have chain with stones, make sure that the cleaning solution you are using is gentle enough to use on the particular gemstones or pearls. Don't use the ultrasonic cleaner as the vibration may harm the stones.

Anti-tarnish strips, polishing pads, polishing cloths, and cleaning solution.
5. Tarnish Be Gone
There are some wonderful polishing pads and cloths that are embedded with microabrasives that get rid of tarnish and dirt in a jiffy. Just rub the cloth over the piece and watch it polish to a clean, brilliant shine.  



Top: Brass chain cleaned with vinegar and salt solution. Bottom: Tarnished chain.

6. Go Eco
To clean silver, try Jean Campbell’s At-Home Tarnish Busting Remedy. For stubborn spots, use plain toothpaste (no gels or whitening) and a soft toothbrush, then rinse and dry with a soft cloth. I learned this trick from Kate Richbourg of Beaducation: For brass and copper pieces, use hot vinegar mixed with a few tablespoons of salt; let soak, then rinse and dry.

7. When in Doubt
If your jewelry has become really tarnished or you have concerns about any of the gemstones used in your design, take your jewelry to a professional jeweler and ask them to clean your pieces for you. What are your favorite ways to clean chain? 

Now that you know how to care for your silver chains, try checking out my new book Chain Style with 50 different stylish and affordable designs. While you’re waiting for your book to arrive, try this fun and fast chain necklace by one of the book’s featured designers, Step by Step Wire Jewelry editor Denise Peck.

Glass Whimsy

Glass Whimsy
Denise Peck

This vibrant necklace was created using hollow lampworked glass beads, disk beads, silver wire, and a beautiful silver chain. The piece is bold and dynamic, yet simple to make. It's a great project for beginners. Originally published in Creative Jewelry, 2009.

 Share your jewelry cleaning tips here or in the Beading Daily forums!

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