Cleaning your vintage costume jewelry periodically is important, but may seem like a daunting task. I personally like to clean my new items when I first receive them. Call me a clean freak, but anything worn and used by someone else needs cleaning! It will also give your jewelry a nice fresh sparkle.
The best way to clean your vintage rhinestone jewelry depends on the type of jewelry.
Vintage rhinestone jewelry can be tricky. If the stones are not prong set, they may be glued into place. You don't want to introduce water or chemicals in this instance, as this may cause degradation of the glue. Stones that are prong set are a bit hardier. However, if the stones are not in an open setting they are most likely foil backed. In this instance water seeping underneath the stones will cause damage to the foil, and will result in stones that change color or become dull. We don't want that!
A dry, soft toothbrush will dislodge dirt and grime that may be present. You can also use a slightly damp cloth to wipe down the item afterwards. This will remove surface dirt and oils safely.
A piece of jewelry that has rhinestones set with the backs open is less finicky and can tolerate some water when washing.
Always be mindful of other materials that may be present in your item before cleaning. Don't use water on anything that may be porous or delicate (examples would include pearls and enamel) as this may cause damage.
It is a good idea to wipe down your pieces with a soft cloth after wearing them. This will help to remove perfume residue and/or body oils from them.
Storage is also important. An old piece of costume jewelry stored properly will stay cleaner and weather the ravages of time better. Placing your items in a velvet lined jewelry box will help to keep them from oxidizing. Likewise, you can use little plastic bags to store your items.
If you're thoughtful and careful about cleaning, your vintage jewelry will be around for many more years to come.