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How To

A Brooch for Every Occasion

Some people are under the impression that brooches belong with an antiquated set of ornaments that don’t fit with the glamour and pizzazz of modern society.  But if you’re of that mind set, you may want to think again!  It’s true brooches were a common component of Victorian dress, from which brooches get the then-common oval shape bearing the portrait silhouette of a woman.  While that particular style may no longer be in fashion, brooches have plenty more to offer — both in the past and present day.  Brooches came into vogue long before the eighteenth century.  In fact, since they have existed as far back as the Bronze Age and since their style changes in quick fads, brooches can be excellent clues in identifying historical time periods.

But brooches are more than just relics of history.  As jewelry styles have modernized, so have they: pieces like a Georg Jensen brooch designed by Henning Koppel in a biomorphic figure eight-like shape. For rougher options there is Giorgio Armani’s tarantula brooch, its body made of one perfectly round black gemstone with head and legs made of tiny studded diamonds.

Even how you choose to wear it can add some flair. Though traditionally worn on or near the lapel, a brooch can go anywhere!  Try it on the hip of your dress, as a scarf fastener, or to close a vest.  You can try clusters of smaller brooches that share a motif, rather than one single larger piece.  There’s no reason to cast off brooches as the fashions of the past, not when they are still unquestionably at the height of design.


Fashion Tips

Women’s fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar offers some basic tips and tricks for how best to accessorize:

First, keep it balanced.  Having too much at once can be visually overwhelming and may ultimately detract from the overall appearance. Don’t be afraid to suit up with an armful of bangles, but be sure to offset that with simpler jewelry everywhere else. The same goes for clothing; if you’re wearing a blouse with extra flair, like ruffles down the front, you’ll want to keep your necklace simple — a thinner chain — and forgo any ornate pendants.  And if you decide go with a wide choker or bib necklace instead, the best way to show it off is to make sure it’s your only piece.

For earrings, Harper’s explains a few simple ways to wear them, depending on your preferences. For many, earrings are casual ornaments worn day-to-day. If you plan not to change your earrings daily to match your outfit, you probably want small studs; worn on the lobe, these stones — often diamonds, but sometimes gold, silver, or pearls — add just a dash of shimmer to your outfit, and they go with anything.  The opposite alternative is a pair of chandelier earrings, long dangling earrings designed to draw attention. When you wear these, consider limiting the rest of your jewelry to give them the limelight they deserve. The middle ground between these two options is a couple of dainty drop earrings for a modest — but not overlooked — addition to your wardrobe.

One major tip for bracelet wearers is to show of your arms! Whether it’s a single elegant chain or stacks of bangles, you want to make sure your friends will see those accessories. Make sure to wear three-quarter or short sleeves, or roll up long ones so that your wrists are on display. The exception is a wide cuff, which at times can slide over long sleeves for a rather chic look.  You may think that a women’s magazine like Harper’s would extol the use of authentic gems and metals, but Harper’s is all for using costume jewelry to accent your look.

You’ll have plenty to work with, regardless of economic boundaries. Just beware of anything that appears too cheap (like a poorly made imitations) because that will cheapen your whole ensemble.


Cleaning Your Gold

All jewelry has its maintenance requirements. Tarnished silver, for example, can be cleaned by applying silver polish (also, see our previous post: While gold does not tarnish, it does lose its luster over time. Unlike silver tarnishing, which is caused by oxygen chemically reacting with the surface of the metal, requiring specially made abrasive materials to purify it, gold can be cleaned with everyday substances found in the home!  (But, please remember, this applies only to gold, not to costume jewelry or to jewelry with gemstones!)

The first method is the simplest: all it takes is a bit of soap. A few drops of dish detergent combined with a lukewarm liquid should do the trick.  The best liquid is sodium-free seltzer or club soda, but in their absence plain tap water will work just as well.  After soaking the jewelry for about fifteen minutes, a (very) gentle scrub will loosen the grit and dirt contributing to the dullness.  Make sure to avoid abrasive scrubbers, like a toothbrush and — ironically — even tissues, which may feel soft but in reality contain tiny wood fibers that will scratch your jewelry.  Instead, use cotton balls, cotton cloths, or better yet a soft scrubber tailor-made for this purpose.  Once scrubbed down, give everything a rinse through more lukewarm water. Keep in mind: if you do decide to wash gemstones, water that is too hot can cause cracks in some of the more delicate gems (e.g., opals or pearls) and can loosen pieces that have gemstones glued into their setting, so when using this technique keep a close eye on the temperature of your water.  (Also make sure to plug your drain so no mishaps occur!)

If you somehow find yourself in a place without dish washing detergent, don’t fret!  You can find an equally effective tool in your very own bathroom.  As a very mild abrasive, toothpaste acts as a great sterilizer not just for teeth and gums but for gold as well. Mix in a bit of water to create a runnier, paste-like consistency, then use your fingers or a cloth to rub it into the gold.  Then, using a damp cloth, gently dab the jewelry until its surface is clean.   These household items are some of the easiest to procure, so rest assured you can keep your gold glowing at all times!


Jewelry Cleaning Tips

One of the questions we are most often asked is, “How do I safely clean my fine jewelry?   The gems are smudged and the metal seems dull.”

Do not worry!  Here is our quick and simple (and it IS really easy) guide to jewelry cleaning:

First, a few warnings (that the lawyers are making me write): This applies to fine (i.e., solid silver or gold) jewelry only.  Costume jewelry is made differently, and you should consult the manufacturer for specific instructions on cleaning.  Also, this applies to cleaning metal (i.e., silver and gold) and natural gems.  Other material and stones may react differently.  Again, please consult the manufacturer for specific cleaning advice.

There are many ways to make jewelry look shiny and new again without using professional cleaners.  To restore your jewelry to the same nice, shiny look it had the first day you bought it, just follow these steps.

A warm solution of distilled water and a mild dish detergent will clean most surface dirt.  A gentle brush (such as a toothbrush or nail brush) will help to remove dirt and oils.  For more thorough cleaning of gold and gemstone jewelry, an old home “remedy” of white vinegar is an easy and quick solution.  Place the pieces into a bowl with an ounce of vinegar for about ten minutes, and use a toothbrush to remove the few stubborn spots.  Then rinse thoroughly with warm water.

To remove silver tarnish, you can try a home remedy using tin foil.  Simply place the silver jewelry on a sheet of tin foil and sprinkle baking soda on top.  Pour boiling water over the jewelry, then remove the jewelry and rinse it in water, and it will look completely transformed.