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How to Clean Estate Sale Jewelry

You love estate sales because you know that the most valuable things live a lifetime with someone. The baubles, beads, and gems tell a story that comes to life again with you. 

Finding estate sale jewelry is a two-part process: discovering the precious, retro, or vintage finds and then returning them to perfect condition. 

We are here to help you find and clean your estate sale finds. Here are a few tips for identifying fixes and cleaning jewelry. 

Step 1: Find Nearby Estate Sale Jewelry

Finding the best deal on estate sale jewelry is as easy as setting up local alerts on MaxSold. For example, Bay Area jewelry hunters can set up an account and stay alert for estate sales in San Francisco. Choose any distance they are willing to go from 30 to 150 miles. Instead of driving around in circles or circling listings in crowded, early-morning estate sale postings everything is done from the comfort of your home.

Once you have created an account on MaxSold, bidding on local auctions is easy. All bidding is transparent and your privacy is ensured. There's no trading emails and phone numbers with estate managers or owners. No cash means no haggling. You can even automate your bidding so that you never miss a great deal by last-minute bidders. Set your max bid and MaxSold. If others bid, it will incrementally increase your bid until it wins or meets your max. 

Follow your auctions with alerts. It's as easy to find, browse, and bid in your local area as picking up a tablet or getting online. Fabulous finds are easy to acquire. 

Step 2: Jewelry Cleaning Tips

The way you give jewelry a fresh new take on life depends on the type of jewelry. There are easy ways to reinvigorate gold, silver, and vintage pieces. Be careful and always take care if you aren't certain. A gentle hand is a strong help. 

More than likely, you have everything you need in your kitchen, laundry, or bathroom. When in doubt, a mild laundry or dish soap, lemon juice, or baking soda diluted in water make a safe soak and clean. Use a toothbrush or simply soak and buff. 

Things to put in a jewelry-cleaning kit:

  • Soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Toothpicks
  • Micro-fiber cloth
  • Drain-stop
  • Ammonia
  • Baking soda
  • Aluminum foil
  • Strainer or fine-holed colander

Put these items in a kit and you'll have everything you need handy. Be sure to use the right combination with the right pieces. 

Gold

It's as easy as brushing your teeth--only with ammonia. If using ammonia to clean gold jewelry, be sure the piece has no soft gems or minerals (like opals). If you have a gold item that has hard stones, such as diamonds or emeralds, the ammonia will not hurt them.

  1. For diamonds, straight ammonia will work but has a strong smell. You can dilute the ammonia with water with between 4 to 6 parts water to 1 part ammonia. Put ammonia solution in a bowl.
    For a softer touch, use liquid dish detergent and warm water. 
  2. Get a soft toothbrush ready. A baby toothbrush can work perfectly. 
  3. Plug the sink or use a counter area with a towel to prevent any bouncing jewelry. Cleaning can be slippery. 
  4. Soak jewelry in your solution for 30 minutes to several hours. 
  5. Remove jewelry and polish with the toothbrush and solution. 
  6. Dry and polish with a micro-fiber clother

A toothpick is great for removing muck from bigger holes or areas.

You can use the same solution multiple times if you use a jar instead of a bowl. Keep the solution until it's obviously dirty.

Silver

Silver tarnishes over time--teapots, silverware, or jewelry. Antique jewelry is especially prone to tarnish given the time it's been around. Luckily, it's super easy to restore its luster without keeping heavy toxins or high-price cleaners around. 

  1. Line a pot with aluminum foil (or throw in a big wad). 
  2. Fill pot with water. 
  3. Bring to a boil. 
  4. Mix a few tablespoons of baking soda into water. It may seem agitated. (Some people also add salt, but it's likely unnecessary.)
  5. Carefully submerge jewelry in boiling or highly-heated water either in a colander or with a slotted spoon or strainer. 
  6. Let the silver soak for up to 30 minutes before removing. (Always beware of burns and keep hot water and jewelry away from kids.)
  7. Wait a few minutes for the jewelry to cool and buff with a micro-fiber cloth. 

It's that simple. You'll even see the water get a bit cloudy as it takes off the tarnish.

Plastic, Cameos, Opals, and Glass Beads

Anything that may be painted or easily scratched should only be cleaned with minimal soaking and the most delicate cleaning instruments. Use a baby toothbrush or simply a buffing cloth. Plastic may seem durable, but the designs on it can have a hard time staying put. Cameos are frequently made from coral, which can easily corrode. Opals can disintegrate. 

  1. Dilute mild soap or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in about 1 1/2 cups water. 
  2. Be sure the drains are closed, a colander is handy, and/or there is a towel on the counter below the bowl
  3. Allow pieces to soak for 1 to 10 minutes, watching continuously. 
  4. Remove each piece from its bath. 
  5. Gently clean with a baby toothbrush (optional). 
  6. Buff dry with a soft micro-fiber cloth.

Cleaning Pearl Jewelry

You would think that something that comes from the sea would love a good soak. But, you would be mistaken. Never soak your pearls. 

To clean pearls: 

  1. Mix a mild solution of dish soap (or other mild soap) and warm water. If you are like us, the baubles, beads, and gems tell a story that comes to life again with you. 
  2. Dip a washcloth or soft cloth in the water. 
  3. Clean the pearls gently with the rag. 
  4. Do not use a brush. 
  5. Buff dry with a fresh, dry cloth.

The above tips make it simple to return your online finds to their heyday allure. Stay on top of treasures with a MaxSold account. Collecting and restoring antique jewelry, furniture, and decor can be as easy as it is fun. 

Read our blog to stay on top of the best, weirdest, and most valuable finds from our national auctions. We also have tips on how to get the most from your online bidding and selling experience.

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