How do I care for my jewelry?
- Keep jewelry away from household cleaners and chlorine.
- When not wearing your jewelry, store each piece in its own Ziploc® or soft fabric bag. Keep in a dark place. This reduces tarnish, keeps softer metals from being scratched, and preserves colored rings longer.
- Always handle your jewelry gently. Remember that most chainmaille links are not soldered closed, and can therefore be pulled open. Treat your chainmaille just as you would handle a delicate pearl necklace or crystal bracelet.
- Your jewelry can pick up dirt, oil, and even odors. To clean most metals (sterling silver, stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, niobium, and gold-fill), soak jewelry in soapy water (use non-lotion dishwashing soap) for several minutes. Then lather with soap and gently but briskly rub the jewelry between your palms. Rinse with warm water and let air dry, or use a blow dryer on lowest and coolest setting.
- You can polish most chainmaille in a tumbler. Use stainless steel shot, or simply add a bit of water and non-lotion dishsoap. If not using shot, make sure to tumble several pieces at once so that there is enough friction to shine the rings.
- Refer to the guidelines below for additional care and cleaning details for specific metals.
- Aluminum is a soft metal, so be extra gentle.
- Aluminum doesn't tarnish, but it will pick up oils and dirt, causing it to become dull. Follow cleaning instructions under General Care. Over time, aluminum will corrode slightly, losing a bit of shininess. It stops corroding once its surface layer has corroded.
- I use an alloy of aluminum known to maillers as Bright Aluminum. This alloy is shinier and stronger than regular aluminum. Some people may notice a black rub-off where the aluminum touches their skin. (How much of a rub-off may depend on the acid content of your skin; several people who have reactions to copper also react to aluminum.)
- It is widely accepted that aluminum is very poorly absorbed through the skin, so you do not need to worry about metal toxicity.
- Brass can tarnish quickly, and will corrode over time. Clean with any commercial jewelry cleaner safe for brass.
- Bronze can tarnish quickly. Like Brass, bronze may also be cleaned with any commercial jewelry cleaner safe for brass.
- Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, which is why aged bronze is nearly indistinguishable from copper. Bronze is, however, stronger than copper.
- To create the brilliant colors found in my pieces, regular rings are dipped into electrically charged solutions. The electricity causes the outer layer of the ring to change colors. By varying the voltage, literally a rainbow of colors can be achieved. Niobium (element 41) and titanium (element 22) are anodized in this manner. Aluminum is anodized to prepare the metal, and then dyed.
- Anodized rings may fade with time. For most jewelry pieces this won't happen for a very long time. However, with pieces that often encounter high-friction situations (ie, finger rings), the process will happen faster. Storing your jewelry in a Ziploc® or soft fabric bag helps minimize discoloration. Of the anodized metals, titanium holds its color best.
- NEVER use polishing crèmes or cloths because they may remove the color from anodized rings. Follow cleaning instructions under General Care.
- Copper quickly turns from a shiny orange-brown to a deep chocolate color. Exposure to air and light speed this process. Leave your piece out if you want it to tarnish quickly. Otherwise, store it in its own Ziploc® bag.
- To clean tarnish: Soak it in white vinegar for 10-20 seconds. After removing the bracelet from the vinegar, lather with non-lotion dishwashing soap and water, and rub the jewelry briskly but gently between your palms. Rinse thoroughly. Pat dry with a towel or use a blow dryer on lowest setting. Make sure the piece is fully dry before you return it to its ziploc® bag.
- It is worth noting that repeated vinegar cleaning can strip rings of their luster as the procees creates microscopic pitting in the surface of the rings. This can be buffed out via tumbling, however if you don't have access to a tumbler, it is recommended to limit the use of this process.
- Copper is very soft, so be extra gentle with copper jewelry.
- Gold and Gold-fill rings may develop a subtle patina with time. Follow general cleaning instructions under General Care.
- Gold-fill is a layer of 12k gold surrounding a base metal core. This layer is 20% the thickness of the wire—about 1000 times thicker than gold-plating—so the gold won't flake off.
- One of the toughest metals around, Stainless Steel makes for extremely durable jewelry. I often add a few links of Stainless to my aluminum pieces (especially near the clasp) to give those pieces some extra security. Stainless doesn't tarnish and isn't easily scratched.
- Steel reacts to temperature changes quickly. Take care when cooking over a stove, washing your hands with hot water, and using a hair dryer. Steel requires little maintenance, but if you'd like to clean your piece, follow instructions under General Care.
- Silver tarnishes quickly when exposed to light and air. If you want your jewelry to tarnish, then leave it out when you're not wearing it. (Otherwise, store each piece in its own Ziploc® bag with an anti-tarnish tab. Remove tarnish regularly following cleaning instructions under General Care.)
- Avoid resting sterling directly on wood surfaces, especially oak, as wood finishes usually contain acids that can mar the surface of sterling. Always store silver away from direct sunlight.
Multiple Metals & Other Components
We often receive questions about caring/cleaning jewelry that combines metals, particularly pieces that combine anodized aluminum with other metals. It is fine to tumble pieces that combine AA with other metals, in fact that is our preferred method of cleaning. If you do not have access to a tumbler, you can clean pieces by hand using blue dish soap.
You can use the white vinegar method for cleaning pieces that combine tarnishable metals (copper, jewelry brass, bronze) with anodized aluminum. It is worth noting that repeated vinegar cleaning can strip rings of their luster as the procees creates microscopic pitting in the surface of the rings. This can be buffed out via tumbling, however if you don't have access to a tumbler, it is recommended to limit the use of this process. First and foremost, we recommend storing your pieces in airtight, ziplock baggies with anti-tarnish tabs to minimize the need for cleaning.
For information about caring for jewelry that combines jump rings with delicate components such as glass rings or crystals, check out this blog post!