When storing jewelry pieces in damp and humid environments, you risk the jewelry being affected by verdigris.
Verdigris is a green patina that develops due to the oxidation of copper, silver, or brass that can damage jewelry.
Let’s say you have inherited some beautiful antique jewelry from your relatives. Exciting and sentimental right? But then you notice that the metal on your newly acquired vintage pieces has green gunk all over.
A ghastly sight to behold and frankly a bit unsettling for a person with OCD. The gunk looks moldy and clings onto the metal part of the jewelry.
This green gunk is called verdigris, usually caused by corrosion due to exposure to moisture and other contaminants.
As a collector of vintage jewelry, I know how disappointing that can be, especially if the acquired piece is a family heirloom. But you do not have to worry as this does not mean that your jewelry is ruined.
Yes, it can be salvaged. First, you need to understand that verdigris occurs when jewelry has been stored for too long or comes into contact with moisture and other contaminants.
Also, verdigris can be transferred from one piece of jewelry to another if they come into contact for longer periods. This shouldn’t worry you at all.
Why? Because you can soak your jewelry piece in lukewarm water mixed with mild detergent for at least 15 minutes.
But what if this treatment isn’t working? Below are some recommendations to remove verdigris to salvage your precious jewelry pieces.
What is verdigris on jewelry? Why?
Verdigris every jewelry collector and seller’s worst nightmare. Not only is it a pain to clean off antique jewelry, but also toxic for you. In case you are wondering what verdigris is, let me explain.
Verdigris is a green film that coats jewelry when exposed to moisture, make-up, and other contaminants such as body fluids for longer periods. Usually, it happens due to the oxidization of copper, brass, gold, silver, or bronze.
Verdigris can also spread when jewelry pieces are stored with contaminated jewelry for longer periods. What’s even worse is verdigris is corrosive.
Granted, if left for a long time, the green gunk will eat away at the metal of your precious jewelry and cause significant damage.
Thankfully, this is not an issue that cannot be sorted in the comfort of your home if you do not wish to go to a jewelry collector. Once you spot verdigris on your jewelry, it is best to get rid of it immediately.
Why? If left untreated, verdigris can get messy quickly with various blemishes of blue-green hues which can be unsightly. There are a variety of ways to remove verdigris from your precious vintage jewelry.
How to clean verdigris off jewelry
When a piece of vintage jewelry is exposed to moisture, pollutants, and other contaminants for long, it develops a green film that coats the jewelry.
This green gunk is referred to as verdigris caused by the oxidation of metals when exposed to contaminants. Verdigris is usually in the form of copper carbonate or copper chloride.
Prevention is better than cure. It is safe to assume that if you place your vintage custom jewelry with contaminated pieces of jewelry, or when it is wet, you are effectively creating the right atmosphere for verdigris.
Therefore, you need to ensure that your jewelry is not wet before storing or avoiding wearing your jewelry pieces at the beach.
Unfortunately, this isn’t practical because who would remember to take off their ring when having fun at the beach? Fortunately, even though getting rid of verdigris can be tenacious, there are a variety of tips to clean off your precious pieces.
1. Try using a toothbrush
Use a soft toothbrush and lukewarm water. Dampen your soft toothbrush with warm soapy water.
Use the toothbrush to brush out the gunk off your jewelry. Ensure you remove as much verdigris as you can. Rinse off and pat dry with a paper towel.
2. Use a toothpick
You know that wooden stick from your kitchen that you pick your teeth with– toothpicks. You can use a toothpick to help you get rid of verdigris.
If you notice some green gunk on your jewelry, you can use a toothpick and lightly scrape off the verdigris. Sometimes, this is all you need to clean your jewelry.
Since most vintage jewelry pieces have intricate designs with clusters of different-sized gemstones, use a toothpick to reach the nooks and crevices.
Make sure you do this gently to avoid damaging the integrity of your jewelry. Remember, verdigris is corrosive so the settings on your accessory can become brittle.
3. Try some ketchup
I learned this trick from a friend. Ketchup does not scratch your jewelry; it can get rid of verdigris. Ketchup is also acidic.
To use it, lay your jewelry on a flat surface preferably a paper towel, squirt the ketchup on the affected part and wait for half an hour.
Rinse and pat dry. This process can sometimes work if the verdigris is not too severe.
4. Use Vinegar or lemon juice
Depending on what you have, you can choose to use vinegar or lemon juice to scrape off verdigris from your antique jewelry. Dip a cotton swab in vinegar or lemon juice and gently rub the metal part of your jewelry.
You need to make sure that your cotton swab is not completely drenched in vinegar or lemon juice so that it does not drip onto your jewelry. To avoid dripping, you can dab the cotton swab on a clean piece of cloth or paper towel.
Alternatively, if the verdigris has spread out to most parts of the jewelry, you can soak it in white vinegar for about 20 minutes, brush it gently, rinse off the vinegar, and pat the jewelry dry.
5. A good metal polish
Silver jewelry requires polishing at least twice a year to avoid tarnishing. Always remember that silver jewelry and precious gemstones should never be submerged in liquid.
Caution: Do not use the above methods to clean verdigris off your soft gemstones, pearls, or rhinestones. This is because the methods listed are acidic and can permanently damage your jewelry. We don’t want that to happen.
Tips for storing your jewelry to avoid verdigris again
1. Keep your custom jewelry dry
When it comes to storing your vintage custom jewelry, ensure you keep it dry at all times. Do not store your jewelry in hot and humid areas to avoid verdigris again. You should avoid storing your jewelry in the bathroom at all costs.
2. Separate all your jewelry
It’s no secret that storing your newly polished jewelry with contaminated jewelry can cause verdigris to develop again. Also, store all your jewelry depending on the metals they are made from and type.
To do this, you can purchase a jewelry organizer with compartments to keep all your pieces well-organized. Always keep your vintage custom jewelry separate from other jewelry to avoid tarnish.
3. Store in an open setting
To avoid verdigris, you need to store your jewelry in an open setting with consistent temperatures. Avoid areas that are humid as this can encourage the development of verdigris.
You can select a specific place in your home to store your custom jewelry away from any humidity. You can also designate a place for your grab-and-go jewelry pieces that you wear on a daily. Just make sure to keep the precious jewelry separate from your everyday semi-fine jewelry.
4. Dark and dry location
Choose a suitable location for different types of jewelry. You should store fine jewelry in a secure place and away from direct sunlight as the UV can damage the precious stones.
When storing silver jewelry, use a jewelry box lined with felt. Felt absorbs excess moisture to prevent verdigris from developing. You will need to regularly polish your silver jewelry to remove tarnish. Be cautious not to over-polish your silver jewelry.
When it comes to storing precious jewelry, you need to be careful. Storing jewelry when wet or next to contaminants and pollutants can cause verdigris to develop on your vintage custom jewelry.
If you notice unsightly green gunk growing on your precious vintage jewelry, it doesn’t mean that you need to throw it away.
Get rid of the verdigris once you notice it. This is because verdigris is corrosive and failure to get rid of it sooner could mean the risk of losing your precious jewelry.
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.