Knowledge Centre > Jewellery History > History

How to Clean Antique Jewellery

padparadscha ceylon sapphire and diamond ring. hatton garden.
Padparadscha Ceylon sapphire and diamond ring.
Ref: 28496

Finding the perfect piece of antique jewellery is a special experience. To retain the magic and history of your exquisite jewellery, each antique ring, earring or vintage necklace must be regularly cleaned and done so with the level of care an item of such excellent craftsmanship demands. 

Cleaning vintage jewellery requires a delicate touch, the use of non-abrasive cleaning products and some expert guidance. Our jewellery experts share their knowledge to help you with the necessary cleaning of your antique pieces here...

Should Vintage Jewellery be Cleaned?

All jewellery - whether an antique engagement ring or a set of vintage diamond earrings - require care to preserve them and maintain their exceptional quality. If a piece is vintage or even if you have ancient jewellery, you will still need to clean it - this will keep it at its very best. The age of your jewels doesn’t stop you from being able to wear them, and it shouldn’t stop you from cleaning them either. 

Medieval lion intaglio ring Circa 11th-12th century AD.

The exceptional craftsmanship that has gone into every item we acquire means your antique jewellery from Berganza is an investment. To maintain the beauty and lifespan of your pieces, all cleaning should be carried out with the right care and with an understanding of what should and shouldn’t be used to clean the gemstones your jewellery holds. 

The one type of jewellery we would not recommend cleaning is ancient silver. If you are in possession of ancient silver jewellery which requires an assessment or care, our experts can help

How to Clean Vintage Jewellery

Cleaning vintage jewellery doesn’t require strong cleaning solutions - mild washing-up liquid and warm water are enough to clean most. However, there are exceptions and certain tips to follow for gold and carefully crafted pieces to preserve them for generations to come. 

Most of our pieces are set with exquisite gemstones so cleaning your cherished item in line with the cleaning specifications of the stones it holds is also very important. 

Consider the Age and Material of Your Jewellery Before Cleaning

Our jewellery comes from historical periods and bygone eras, from ancient earrings to medieval rings or Victorian engagement rings. With each period comes different methods of craft and a rich historical lifespan attached to the jewellery.  

Roman gold cameo ring with the face of Zeus Circa 1st-2nd Century AD

This means jewellery from certain eras may require slightly different cleaning techniques. For example, Georgian-era jewellery typically uses closed-back settings - so Georgian rings should not be submerged in water. 

Whilst ancient rings are wearable, their rich history and their sheer age mean they will be considerably more delicate and require extra care during cleaning. 

If you are considering cleaning your historical jewellery, please take note of the below before you begin: 

  • The type of materials used - Gold and Platinum pieces can be cleaned with warm soapy water; ancient silver should only be cleaned professionally. 
  • The era it was made - Check the design niches of the period and consider the delicateness of older and ancient artefacts before cleaning. 
  • The gemstones used - ensure you follow the cleaning recommendations for the specific gemstones your piece includes. 

Each of these elements must be considered before cleaning to ensure your jewellery retains its pristine condition. 

If you are unsure of the details of your piece, take it to a professional for assessment and advice - if you have purchased from Berganza we are always happy to assist with cleaning and maintaining your jewellery. 

Using Antique Jewellery Cleaning Professionals

Antique jewellery can be extremely delicate and may require a specialist touch to restore it to its former brilliance. If you’re unsure of how to clean your antique heirloom, our expert jewellers can provide you with advice on pieces you have purchased from us.  

Victorian pearl five stone carved ring, circa 1890.

All items purchased from Berganza receive an annual clean and check by our antique jewellery experts. You can book your annual clean via your account. 

Cleaning Antique Gold Jewellery 

Gold has been used in jewellery since the ancient period and is what you will find most of our pieces are made from, along with platinum too. 

The purity of gold jewellery can differ from either pure gold or gold alloy, but each gold jewellery item still requires the utmost level of care. 

It’s important to note the highest carat of gold has no impurities and is, therefore, softer than lower carat jewellery, increasing the possibility of it being damaged during cleaning. 

How to Clean Vintage Gold Jewellery

To effectively clean your gold or platinum jewellery at home, simply soak the piece in warm soapy water and clean the inside to remove any build-up. 

For stubborn dirt, a soft toothbrush can be used to dislodge any embedded pieces. It can then be dried and polished with a soft cloth to restore its previous shine. 

When using cleaning liquids, ensure to thoroughly wipe and rinse any remaining residue off the item to avoid potential damage and tarnish to your antique jewellery. 

How to Clean Dependent on Gemstones 

Our pieces feature some of the world's most exceptional gemstones from rare emeralds to pristine diamonds. Gems of any calibre require specialist care - but with rare and especially exquisite gems it is integral you do not risk their quality by cleaning them incorrectly. 

Edwardian sapphire and diamond coronet cluster ring, French, circa 1910.

Before you clean any item set with gemstones you should perform the ‘Tap Test’ to check for any loose stones. Ensure you won’t risk a stone falling from your jewellery before cleaning by following these steps:

  1. Hold the piece to your ear using your thumb and middle finger.
  2. Tap the outside of the stone setting with your index finger whilst listening carefully. 
  3. If you do hear any rattling this could mean some of the stones are loose. 
  4. If you suspect a loose stone, place your jewellery somewhere safe and have it inspected by a professional to restore its condition.

If your stones are all secure though, you can proceed with cleaning…

For vintage diamond, ruby or sapphire pieces, warm soapy water, a soft-bristled toothbrush and a soft cloth for drying are all you need. 

When it comes to items featuring Emeralds, Amethysts, Aquamarines, Pearls or Opals, the same approach shouldn’t be followed. For these vintage gemstones, soaking in hot water is not advised, harsh chemicals should be avoided, and you shouldn’t scrub the stones. So to clean these stones whilst avoiding abrasion, we recommend just using a soft cloth to gently wipe the piece clean. 

Our Expert Tips for Caring for Antique Jewellery

By caring for your antique jewellery pieces, and avoiding any damage to them, you shouldn’t have to clean them all that often. Our expert care tips will help ensure your vintage pieces maintain their excellence in between cleans…

  • Avoid wearing your antique rings for swimming in the sea, gardening and for heavy lifting activities such as moving house or weight exercises. 
  • Never submerge gem or stone-set jewellery in water during daily activities or when cleaning them - a simple polish with a soft cloth will suffice. 
  • Never use harsh chemicals such as bleach or chlorine whilst wearing gold jewellery. 
  • When in doubt, take your jewellery to a professional jewellery cleaner. 

The considered care that goes into cleaning a piece of antique jewellery is worth it to maintain its excellence and history. Remember, if you have purchased from Berganza, you can have it cleaned by our experts annually. 

We have an exceptional array of antique and ancient jewellery from expertly crafted antique rings to delicate vintage bracelets. Own a part of history from bygone eras with a free annual expert antique jewellery clean included, when you choose a piece from us.

Emerald and diamond three stone ring, circa 1920 hatton garden
Emerald and diamond three stone ring, circa 1920.
Ref: 28570
Old cut diamond pendant, circa 1970 hatton garden
Old cut diamond pendant, circa 1970.
Ref: 27848
Ceylon sapphire diamond cluster ring hatton garden berganza
Antique Ceylon sapphire and diamond cluster ring, circa 1890.
Ref: 20721
Victorian old mine diamond ring, English, 1878.
Victorian old mine diamond ring, English, 1878.
Ref: 28509
Edwardian Burmese ruby diamond earrings berganza hatton garden
Edwardian Burmese ruby and diamond drop earrings, circa 1910.
Ref: 24401
old mine diamond flanked solitaire ring. hatton garden.
Old mine diamond flanked solitaire ring, circa 1915.
Ref: 28347
Cartier diamond bombe ring, French, circa 1980's. hatton garden.
Cartier diamond bombe ring, French, circa 1980's
Ref: 28591
Art Deco diamond and jade earrings, circa 1925.
Art Deco diamond and jade earrings, circa 1925.
Ref: 28445
Sapphire and diamond cluster ring circa 1920 hatton garden
Sapphire and diamond cluster ring, French, circa 1920.
Ref: 28562
antique Cartier Diamond bow brooch hatton garden berganza
Cartier diamond bow brooch, circa 1910.
Ref: 25502
antique diamond ruby ring berganza hatton garden
Antique diamond and ruby cluster ring, English, circa 1850.
Ref: 23338
Colombian emerald and diamond ring, circa 1920 hatton garden
Colombian emerald and diamond ring, circa 1920.
Ref: 28514
Antique sapphire, ruby and diamond ring, circa 1900 hatton garden
Antique sapphire, ruby and diamond ring, circa 1900.
Ref: 28558
edwardian sapphire and diamond cluster ring.  hatton garden.
Edwardian sapphire and diamond cluster ring, circa 1905.
Ref: 28374
yellow ceylon sapphire and diamond pendant. hatton garden
Yellow Ceylon sapphire and diamond pendant, circa 1915.
Ref: 28134
edwardian diamond flanked solitaire ring. hatton garden.
Edwardian diamond flanked solitaire ring, circa 1915.
Ref: 28544
Old mine diamond drop earrings berganza hatton garden
Old mine diamond drop earrings, circa 1915.
Ref: 26700
Sapphire and diamond cluster ring, circa 1935 hatton gardenSapphire and diamond cluster ring, circa 1935 hatton garden
Sapphire and diamond cluster ring, circa 1935.
Ref: 27265
Victorian diamond flower earrings, circa 1880 hatton garden
Victorian diamond flower earrings, circa 1880.
Ref: 27853
Belle Époque ruby and diamond bow brooch hatton garden
Belle Époque ruby and diamond bow brooch, circa 1910.
Ref: 27387
Victorian old mine diamond pendant, circa 1890 hatton garden
Victorian old mine diamond pendant, circa 1890.
Ref: 28233
Aquamarine long guard chain necklace circa 1880 hatton garden
Antique aquamarine necklace, Russian, circa 1880
Ref: 28486
Boucheron cabochon emerald cufflinks hatton garden
Boucheron cabochon emerald cufflinks, French, circa 1895.
Ref: 28453
Medieval turquoise stirrup ring, circa 15th century hatton garden
Medieval turquoise stirrup ring, circa 15th century.
Ref: 28385
Diamond cross pendant / brooch, circa 1860 hatton garden
Diamond cross pendant / brooch, circa 1860.
Ref: 28355
Post medieval sapphire fleur de lis ring, circa 16th century. Hatton Garden
Post medieval sapphire fleur-de-lis ring, circa 16th century.
Ref: 26446
Ancient Roman charioteer silver ring hatton garden
Ancient Roman charioteer silver ring, circa 3rd century AD.
Ref: 27544
Medieval sapphire love ring berganza hatton garden
Medieval sapphire love ring, English, circa 1350-1550.
Ref: 26715
Berganza on Facebook Berganza on Instagram

Email: | Opening hours: Monday-Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 11am-5pm | All Stripe currencies supported

Connect with us

Berganza on Facebook Berganza on Instagram Berganza on Pinterest Berganza on youtube Berganza on linkedin

Signs up for regular emails on our new acquisitions, news and features:
Updated 19/05/2024 at 1:34PM

© Berganza Ltd 2024