Something Old

How to make your treasured items look their best for your wedding day

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This week, I sat down with two amazing ladies: Barbara Moore of The Gilded Roost in Altoona and Nancy Lach of The Embellished Nest in Altoona. Both women's businesses work to provide expertise design services in their gorgeous store that offers a mix of vintage items paired with modern pieces in themed rooms like The Farmhouse or The Conservatory. Soon, these amazing women will be moving to a new location and will officially be one business!

Barbara loves to find vintage jewelry at Estate Sales to offer for sale in her store. She really has a strong sense of honor of the people who once used and wore those objects for their whole lives. She showed me a pair of earrings that had been hair-sprayed many times so that dust in their later years stuck to them. She expressed that it sometimes felt strange to take away all of that history from something that was obviously cherished. But, she also loves the history and the way we can give things new life in modern society.

Nancy, Barb, and I had fun going through the collections of bracelets, broaches, necklaces, and earrings to find pieces to photograph for this story. Our goal is to show you how you can clean, repair, and brush up the items you plan to incorporate into your wedding day, perhaps as the "something old" item to honor the adage, "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue." Read on to see examples of gorgeous vintage jewelry and learn how to care for it!

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Basic Jewelry Cleaning:

When cleaning antique jewelry or other items, are there DIY trends in self-cleaning that you advise for or against? What do you recommend to clean items?

Barbara gave this advice: 

Do not use denture tablets to clean pieces. This will actually remove glue from costume jewelry pieces. 

Instead, follow these steps for pieces like vintage costume jewelry:

1. Use canned air spray to clean out loose dust. 

2. Use a dry cloth that is non-lint, like a fine microfiber, to clean the piece. As you clean it, check to make sure any stones are in-tact.

3.  Do any repairs that are necessary. If you need to glue stones in place, Barbara feels that a Krazy Glue is a great option because you can pinpoint the exact spot without getting too much goopy glue out at once.

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More Intense Spot Cleaning Advice:

Barbara picks up a small dental kit from the Dollar Store. It comes with a toothbrush and a metal pick. She recommends carefully using the metal pick to spot clean out any problem areas. 

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Care for Metals:

You need to know what the metal is before you begin to try to clean it. If the piece appears to be brass, it is mostly likely another metal as a base (perhaps nickel) with just a thin overlay of brass on the top. This could even be true on a chandelier. 


Barb told a story about cleaning an old brass belt buckle that was military-issued. That sort of item was solid brass, so Brasso, a multi-purpose metal polisher, is safe to use. However, if you use something like that on vintage jewelry, it can actually ruin the finish because it is too harsh. 

Barb recommends using a cotton swab and testing just a tiny part of the metal. She recommends using ketchup or tomato sauce to polish brass-coated metals, like some lockets. This should make those items look their best!

Platinum or Gold Metal Cleaning:

Use a toothbrush and toothpaste (not the red kind of toothpaste) to clean and polish platinum or gold. 

Antique and Costume Jewelry:

Put hydrogen peroxide on a toothbrush. Don't let it soak or sit on it long. Scrub it on with the brush and then rinse it off. 

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I really wanted to wear my great-grandmother's pearls on my wedding day, but we discovered that the string was broken and the pearls strewn about the box. What can I do?

Barbara and Nancy recommend taking real pearls that need to be re-strung to a jeweler. They don't recommend just any jeweler. Find one that does their own work well. (Barbara said that one of the first connections she makes when she moves to a new town is to find a reputable jeweler.) 

Barbara told a story of being in church and holding her grandchild a few years ago while wearing her Mikimoto pearl necklace. Her grandbaby grabbed the necklace and pulled hard and quickly. The strand broke and the pearls flew all over church. Everyone helped her to find them, thankfully! She said that it was important to her to fix them correctly because they were  personally sentimental.  Barb recommends, if they are of a name brand like, Mikimoto, to send them directly to the company to be re-strung. 

In our area, in Central Pennsylvania, Barb recommends the jeweler Treasure Trove Coins and Jewelry. The owners are a husband and wife team that do all of their own work on the jewelry pieces. 

What if my pearls are just dirty and not broken?

In this instance, Barb and Nancy recommend cleaning the pearls in warm soapy (Use some Dawn) running water. She warns not to soak them in the soapy water. Dawn dish soap is able to remove the oils gathered from our skin from years of wear and makes them look great!

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Handkerchiefs and Doilies:

I inherited a few really pretty handkerchiefs after Brady's grandmother passed away. The edges are hand-crocheted and they are just really special. However, they were used and in their age, they have yellowed stains on them. I asked Barb and Nancy about cleaning organic items like these.

Barb and Nancy recommend soaking these sorts of items in hydrogen peroxide and Dawn dish soap. Barb noted that you should check on them often, roughly every 10-30 minutes, depending on the size of the item and the amount of staining. She said once she soaked a crocheted tablecloth and that took hours. But something like a handkerchief should clean up quickly. Rinse it well afterwards before washing by hand or on gentle cycle in a laundry bag.

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More Info:

If you're interested in a slightly more in-depth of "why" for some of these cleaning steps, I found this helpful Racked article called The Best Ways to Clean Your Jewelry, From Cheap Stuff to the Real Deal. This talks about understanding the difference between hard gems versus soft stones and more. 

If you enjoyed this post, you might like another advice story I wrote called, "A First Look Story."

If you are interested in my wedding photography, check out the gallery and information HERE.

If you're planning a wedding, congratulations and best wishes!


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