Jewelry, the Gift of Love

How to Care for Your Vintage Costume Jewelry

Vintage costume jewelry pieces can be found in abundance at estate sales, flea markets, and antique stores, often at surprisingly low prices. This availability and affordability make collecting vintage costume jewelry fun and rewarding. It was the fabulous Coco Chanel who really helped put costume jewelry on the map, and ever since the 1920s people have been mad for it. These pieces need special care to keep them looking sparkling and bright, so read below to find out how to care for your special adornments.


Verdigris is a common problem with vintage costume jewelry. It appears as a greenish, moldy growth on the metal areas of jewelry. Verdigris can be cleaned if you are careful:

  1. First of all, it's important to know that verdigris can spread to your other pieces, so as soon as you see it, separate that piece from your other pieces.
  2. Verdigris is not just unsightly, but can weaken the metal, causing breakage and loss of stones. Use an especially gentle hand when cleaning pieces affected by verdigris to prevent further damage.
  3. Use an acid-based liquid, like ketchup, lemon juice, or vinegar and a q-tip or toothpick to clean the piece. A very soft brush (such as an old soft toothbrush) may also be used.
  4. Apply the acid-based liquid to the piece and let sit for about a half an hour, then wipe off gently.

Since the presence of verdigris means that the metal underneath may be damaged, don't be alarmed if some of the metal coating comes off with the cleaning process. Removing the verdigris, and keeping it cleaned off, will help preserve the metal from even more damage.

Bakelite and Plastic

Keep jewelry made of plastic and Bakelite in a dark jewelry box when you aren't wearing it, since exposure to light can cause it to darken. These pieces are easily cleaned by simply wiping them off with a soft cloth. You can also polish dull Bakelite and plastic with a little beeswax.


Soak pieces that don't have stones in a mild dish soap for a few minutes. Make sure to rinse well with slightly warm water, dry carefully and thoroughly to prevent verdigris, and put away in a dark box. Strong chemical cleaners may do more harm than good for vintage pieces.

General Care of Vintage Costume Pieces

  • Make adding your jewelry the very last part of your dressing routine; cologne and hairspray can harm these vintage pieces.
  • For safe storage of vintage pieces, use a dark box lined with soft fabric.
  • To help with silver tarnishing, keep a small piece of white chalk in the box.
  • Plastic should never be used to store your vintage pieces; moisture could form, causing damage to the metal.
  • Use a box with separated compartments; jewelry has an amazing ability to tangle itself while being stored.

Collecting vintage costume jewelry can be both fun and addicting as you eventually focus in on certain styles or brands by looking in stores such as Rhonda's Jewelry. Make sure to follow the tips above to keep your jewelry looking beautiful and, most importantly of all, bring it out of those dark boxes and show off your unique style by wearing it often.