For New Collectors
Clean Verdigris From Vintage Costume Jewelry
Verdigris is similar to a disease, and is common to many costume jewelry metals, resulting in a
green build-up that causes severe corrosion of if not caught in time. The color
can range from dark green to bluish green. It can spread from one infected piece to your good pieces if they are stored
together. When you buy jewelry, examine it carefully under magnification, especially where chains knot together, near clasps, inside clasps, underneath clips and near the openings of pearls or beads attached by metal chainage. Brass and copper are notorious but can be cleaned easily, especially if they are unfinished.
The best way to clean verdigris is by soaking the piece in white vinegar for 15-30 minutes and then wipe the metal.
Use a Q-tip to get into nooks & crannies. If it doesn't wipe off, scrub the metal with a soft to medium toothbrush. If the verdigris is severe, the finish may have become corroded. But its better for your jewels to have small bare places in the finish than to have ever-growing areas of verdigris.
Please don't use ketchup-- it's messy, can stain hideously, and doesn't work as well as vinegar.
With some jewels, getting rid of verdigris can be a time consuming problem. If metal with the greenish growth is near or inside the entrance of beads or faux pearls, you must be very careful of damaging the bead finishes, paint, or enamel. Toothpicks are useful for scraping off the verdigris near individual beads.
Certain gemstones, sterling silver or silver plated pieces should not be soaked in vinegar. If in doubt, ask your jeweler. Sterling doesn't catch verdigris, but other metals used with sterling jewelry do. Foil-backed rhinestone jewelry is another problem, since foiled rhinestones shouldn't be soaked in any liquid.
If the verdigris is only on the back of the piece, you may be able to use the following method: fold one or two
absorbent paper towels into a ceramic (not silver) dinner or serving dish. Pour in vinegar, so the paper towel is soaked but not swimming. Lay the piece on the towel and leave for at least an hour or two. You may have to check back, wipe and add more vinegar as it dries.
Another method is to dab small pellets of cotton with vinegar and lay them over effected areas. Then wipe or scrub with toothbrush as necessary.
Moisture from perspiration or humidity attracts verdigris, so make sure jewelry is dry and stored in a dry, dust free environment, such as a good jewelry box. Always leave jewelry you've just worn next to the skin, or freshly cleaned jewelry to dry on paper towels for a day or so, to make sure it is thoroughly dry before storage.
Be careful of buying jewelry mixed together in a box lot, or jumbled together in a single box at an auction or thrift store. Inspect each piece carefully to sort out any with verdigris. It may be wise to wipe the unaffected pieces with paper towel sprayed with vinegar/water solution.
You may have to be persistent in some cases, but success is worth it! Enjoy your sparkling, verdigris-free
jewels now and in years to come.