Before really launching my own jewelry business I worked and tried to learn as much as I could from within the jewelry industry. I come from a background of working in a high end jewelry store on an illustrious street in Santa Monica, California where price tags ranged upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. Needless to say, all of the jewelry there was gold & platinum with occasional silver. While I love gold & platinum jewelry, I try to offer my regular collections in a more affordable price range for the (not-so) average working woman without sacrificing quality. There are sooooo many kinds of metals out there to choose from when it comes to buying jewelry. Materials range from cheap base metal to things with a heftier price tag like gold & platinum. For this post I want to focus on a metal rich in color, versatility and history but is sometimes overlooked as a great option for heirloom jewelry....Brass.
We all have our favorite colors of metal we like to wear. Primarily your options are going to be White/Silver, Yellow Gold and Rose Gold. While there are other kinds of gold and ways to color metal, these three colors: white, yellow and rose are the popular options and many of us have a preference based on taste, sentimentality or its appearance against our unique skin tones and hair.
For those who like gold color but don't want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on solid gold pieces we have alternative materials that will give us the look without doing too much damage to our pocket books. This brings me to Brass. Here's the thing about Brass: When it's newly polished it gives off a beautiful shine that looks like Yellow Gold. You can wear the sh*t out of it, get it wet in the pool or shower (just pat it dry after) and you don't have to worry about causing long term damage to your jewelry where you would have to be more careful when wearing jewelry with gold overlay. Some even prefer the tone of brass to the bright yellow color of gold as it is a little less "Bling-y" (yes, that is a word I think). It also has a long and fascinating history reaching back thousands of years. I'm not a historian but I would refer you to googling "History of Brass" if you care to know more.
The downside (or upside, depending on your tastes) is that with exposure to light and moisture, your brass jewelry can begin to turn a green-gold that deepens over time when left exposed and not maintained. Some people like the natural patina while many do not. This reason is why I think brass gets a little bit snubbed. People don't realize that this color change is just something you have to do a little bit of work to maintain. It only takes about as long as watering your plants. And its just like caring for them too. If you are one who loves your brass pieces but loves them most in their bright & shiny state read on!
Your first line of defense is prevention. You can swim & shower in your pieces (which I find a huge plus). But keep keep it looking great by always drying it thoroughly afterwards. Do this by just patting it with a towel after it gets wet. You should also keep it in a dark pouch or ziplock bag in your jewelry box when not in use to prevent prolonged exposure to the elements that can also cause it to patina. But if you aren't able to maintain that kind of a regimen for your brass jewelry (and admittedly it can be hard for me....) there is still a quick and easy fix: clean it. Yep, just like all things that get messed up, just clean it up. This can be done entirely with ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen. So here is a ridiculously simple option: Ketchup. Yep. I said that! Or I'll call it tomato sauce if you prefer but you should know that submerging your brass in ketchup will help bring the shiny back. Just rinse it off with water and be sure to it pat dry afterwards with a paper towel. You dont want to create watermarks and have to do it all over again....not that its very difficult! I swear it works, I tried. There are many DIY Brass Cleaning Recipes online that also work. But this is the one we like to use:
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- flour- slowly stir it in until you get a paste-like consistency.
- Soak jewelry for 3-5 min at a time then wash off with water, pat dry and repeat until it gets pretty enough to feel brand new....and voila!
- *One word of caution....Don't leave it in this mixture for prolonged periods of time or the copper content in the brass will rise to the surface and then you will have to get a cloth and add in some elbow grease to polish away the uneven color. It will come off but who wants to create more problems? Just 3-5 minute intervals on repeat until it get back to shiny!
Shiny Shiny Shiny! Now your jewelry is looking brand new and you are back in business!
There are a ton of jewelry polishing cloths that work with both Brass & Silver. So you can also just buy some of these and polish your pieces by hand. I think where the vinegar recipe above comes in handy is if you A.) don't have a polishing cloth or B.) when your piece has a lot of details and recesses that are going to be hard to get into with a cloth. I'll add a link to these at the end of the article :)
For some people, brass can react with their skin chemistry and turn their skin around the metal to green- this happens most in the case of rings (for earrings really this never is a problem as usually the ear wires or posts are either silver or surgical steel). While this is an absolutely harmless reaction, if you are one who experiences this reaction then you just might want to limit the wearing of your brass pieces to when you go out for a few hours at a time. You will figure out what your limits are. Just give your jewelry a break when sleeping or hanging out at home. For me personally, I do have that reaction. But usually only when I wear a ring or bracelet while working long days...sweating in the heat at outdoor jewelry shows. But on normal outings when I'm not working so hard, it doesn't seem to happen at all. Everyone is different and there is no harm in it regardless. Some people like to paint on clear nail polish on the inside of rings if they get this reaction. There are better products out there for this that last longer and are specifically made for this purpose if you really want to try doing that.
If you have any questions please feel free to reach out! Im always up for talking shop!