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Common Myths About Washing Rhinestones

So often in vintage jewelry groups I hear people say that you should never get your rhinestone jewelry wet. 
This just isn't true. The card above from the company B. David recommends washing your jewelry regularly to keep it looking its best. Perfumes, hairspray and body oils can all contribute to your jewelry losing its sparkle. In fact, rhinestones are set into these pieces before they are plated, the plating process involves submerging in water. So how did the myth about not washing come to be? I think because we've all seen pieces with damaged foil (dark spots, yellowing, cloudiness) and assumed that water behind the setting must be the culprit. 
I set out to prove this was not the case, get ready for SCIENCE!
I chose 3 test mediums, glass cleaner with ammonia (which B. David warns against but many people recommend) water, and acetone. I chose these to compare the safety of each for foil backed stones. My test subjects were two types of rhinestones: Modern Chinese foiled stone (not appropriate for vintage settings) and  vintages rhinestone with slightly imperfect foil.
Glass cleaner vs. water. vs. acetoneModern chinese rhinestone and vintage rhinestone
I placed one of each stone into each jar of my test mediums and waited 2 hours. 
2 hour test with glass cleaner
As you can see, after 2 hours in the glass cleaner the foil is badly damaged on both stones.
2 hours in water rhinestone test
Water has had no effect.
2 hours in acetone rhinestone test
The acetone has opened a small hole on the Chinese stone, no effect on the vintage stone.

To be thorough I replaced the stones in the test mediums for a further 22 hours. 
24 hours glass celaner rhinestone test
The stones are now nearly completely clean of foil after 24 hours in glass cleaner.
24 hours in water rhinestone test
The water has had no effect on either stone.
24 hours in acetone rhinestone test
The Chinese stone has lost most of its foil while the vintage remains unchanged.

So what does this tell us?
1. Washing your jewelry with water is completely fine! As recommended, dry upside down and make sure it is completely dry before storing. This precaution is to avoid verdigris and rust, not damage to the foil.
2. Using acetone on vintage pieces to remove glue is safe for your foil.
3. NEVER use glass cleaner with ammonia on your rhinestone pieces.
4. Glass cleaner with ammonia is more effective for intentionally removing foil. My previous method was to soak in a solution of vinegar and salt, a process that took a full 48 hours. Only use vinegar and salt if you are removing foil from Aurora Borealis coated stones, as ammonia will remove the coating as well as the foil.

I will continue my experiments, next up I will be testing alcohol, hairspray, ammonia free glass cleaner, and perfume. Another test I have planned is to address why one should only use recommended glues on costume jewelry, or “watch how Superglue melts your jewelry”.

I hope this is helpful for anyone looking to properly care for their rhinestone jewelry!
Sparkle on!


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