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How To Clean Vintage Costume Jewelry

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Vintage costume jewelry has become a hot trend. People love wearing these pieces because they look great and fit perfectly.

Vintage Jewelry laid out on a table

However, some of them come with a hefty price tag. If you want to wear vintage jewelry without spending too much, then it’s worth knowing how to spruce up your old costume jewelry.

We take a look at how to clean your vintage costume jewelry properly.

How To Clean Your Old Costume Jewelry

It takes only a few minutes to clean antique jewelry. The secret lies in using the right techniques. Vintage jewelry is extremely sensitive to scratches, so it’s important to be careful when you handle this jewelry.


Cleaning a ring using a soft toothbrush

The first step is to prepare your jewelry for cleaning. This includes removing any dirt or residue from the surface. You can use a soft toothbrush, cotton swabs, or a soft cloth.

Even the smallest particle of dust can scratch your jewelry, so be careful when you go over the jewelry with a brush.

We recommend using a small magnifying glass to make sure that you don’t scratch the sensitive rhinestone or metal surface.

Once you cleaned all the dust off your jewelry, you are ready for the proper cleaning process.

How To Clean Plated Metals

Jewelry soaking in vinegar for cleaning preparation

You may notice green or blue mold accumulating on your metal jewelry. This is called verdigris, which can spread over time across the entire surface of your metal jewelry.

Verdigris gets more challenging to remove over time, so you must clean your costume jewelry regularly.

One other important thing to know about verdigris is that it spreads to other jewelry.

The best way to clean your plated metals is by soaking them in white vinegar for a maximum of 30 minutes. Then take a clean, soft cloth to wipe it dry.

For the small corners, it’s best to use a soft toothbrush or a cotton swab. If you struggle to get into the tiny places, then try scraping off the verdigris with a toothpick.

Similar to rust, verdigris does corrode the metal jewelry. It will eventually leave bare spots if left untreated. So it’s best to clean your costume jewelry as soon as you see signs of corrosion.

It’s always better to remove the verdigris, instead of letting it corrode the metal. This is not always a bad thing. It can add more character to some vintage jewelry pieces.

How To Clean Rhinestones

Cleaning Rhinestones  using soft towel after soaking process

There are two main types of rhinestones: open back rhinestones and foil back rhinestones.

Open back rhinestones have no backing, while foil back rhinestones have a thin layer of aluminum foil.

Both types of rhinestones are very delicate and need special care.

When you look at the back of open-back rhinestones, you will notice that there is no foil. You can see the rhinestone. 

This makes it much easier to clean than foil-back rhinestones.

Cleaning Open-Back Rhinestones

  • To clean open-back rhinestones, just add a drop of dishwashing soap into some lukewarm water.
  • Make sure there are no bubbles. Then place your rhinestones in the water and clean them with a soft toothbrush.
  • Once they are clean, place them on a soft cloth and allow them to dry.

Cleaning Foil-Back Rhinestones

Foil-back rhinestones are a little more difficult to clean because you have to be careful not to damage the foil on the back.

If you scratch the foil on the back of the stone, it might change the stone’s color or shade. 

You should never put your foiled-back rhinestone in water or other liquids, so when you clean this type of jewelry, you must use very little water.

  • You can use a tiny drop of baby shampoo or rubbing alcohol. Add a drop onto a soft toothbrush, shake it a little to ensure there is as little moisture as possible.
  • Gently brush the rhinestone with the damp toothbrush and then buff it dry with a soft microfiber cloth.
  • Throughout the entire cleaning process, it’s important to keep the foil on the back of the rhinestone away from water.

How To Clean Semi-Precious Gemstones

Semi-precious gemstone jewelry includes pearls, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds. These gems are all beautiful, but they also require special attention.

vintage costume jewels laid out on a table
  1. To clean semi-precious stones, start by removing any dirt using a soft toothbrush. Make sure to avoid brushing too hard, which could cause scratches.
  2. Next, soak the piece in warm water with a few drops of mild detergent.
  3. Let the item soak for about 5 minutes. While the stone is soaking, gently scrub the surface with a soft toothbrush or washcloth.
  4. After the stone has soaked for 5 minutes, rinse it under running tap water.
  5. Then pat the stone dry with a soft cloth. If necessary, repeat these steps until the stone is completely clean.

There are so many different semi-precious gemstones that all need cleaning slightly differently. If you are not sure, you should use as little water as possible.

Alternatively, you can also check with your trusted jewel how to clean your particular jewelry rhinestone.

How To Clean Enamel

beautiful multi color enable bracelet

Enamel jewelry is made up of layers of enamel applied over metal. It is usually used for small pieces like earrings, rings, bracelets, necklaces, and pendants.

Enamel naturally attracts dust and skin oil. These particles dull your jewelry and it makes the color look faded over time.

  1. To clean your enamel jewelry, you need to put it in a nylon jewelry bag. Alternatively, you can also use old nylon stockings.
  2. Then place the nylon bag in warm, soapy water. Allow the jewelry to soak for 10 minutes and then remove each piece, placing them on a soft cloth.
  3. Then rinse your enamel jewelry carefully under some running water and place it back on the cloth to dry.

What To Avoid When Cleaning Vintage Costume Jewelry

When cleaning vintage costume jewelry, you want to make sure that you don’t do anything that will ruin the finish or cause harm to the jewelry.

man with dont forget postit on his forhead

Some common things to avoid include:

  • Do not use harsh chemicals such as ammonia, bleach, or turpentine. They may damage the finish.
  • Do not use abrasive cleaners such as steel wool, sandpaper, or wire brushes. They may scratch the finish.
  • Firm brushes. You should always use a cotton swab or soft brush so as not to scratch the surface of your jewelry.


Vintage costume jewelry is one of the most popular types of jewelry today. It comes in an array of styles and colors.

The best part about vintage costume jewelry is that it looks great no matter what type of outfit you wear.