How To Clean A Squash Blossom Necklace
A guide to cleaning your Squash Blossom by Erick Begay
How to clean a Squash Blossom Necklace
Do you have a dirty old Squash Blossom necklace that needs cleaning? Follow this step-by-step cleaning guide and get that necklace out of the drawer and around your neck.
This cleaning guide is used to clean dirt and some tarnished areas. We clean all our jewelry using this method, even "old pawn" jewelry. If done correctly, this cleaning technique will get out the dirt, grime, and some tarnish, but it keeps the patina (the fine scratches in the surface that show wear). In my opinion, it does not affect the value of "old pawn" jewelry. If you are concerned with affecting the value of your piece, stop and get a second opinion.
Do not use any chlorine or bleach products with silver. This will turn silver black. Research your stones. This guide is intended for genuine natural turquoise. Be sure to do test areas.
Brush (medium/soft toothbrush)
Hagerty's Silversmith Spray Polish
Soft Cotton Cloth (for polishing cloth)
Inspect the necklace for any weakness in the stringing.Can the piece withstand rubbing and cleaning with a brush, or does it look like it is going to break? If you see any area where it might break, STOP. The piece will probably need to be professionally restrung. The necklace should be able to handle semi-rough handling.
Inspect the stones, check for loose stones and look closely at the bezels to make sure the stone are tightly set.
Inspect areas that have dirt or old silver cleaner stuck on it. Typically, this is in recessed areas and inbetween stones, or embellishments.(photo 3a). Some areas are supposed to be darker than others, specifically between the stones.
MIX A BOWL
Mix a bowl of very hot water with Amonia (1/4 cup) and dishwashing liquid (2-3 TBSP). NO CHLORINE. NO BLEACH. I recommend that you test the end of necklace and brush it a few times and rinse. Pat dry. It should look noticeably cleaner.
Put the necklace in the soapy water. Using a soft brush, gently scrub each and every area lightly and quickly. Do not spend too much time in one area. DO NOT over brush/clean, as you might remove the black antiquing between the stones, it should be quick and light (about the pace one would brush their teeth). The total time brushing should be 5-8 minutes
In heavy soiled areas, I will apply a drop or two of dishwashing soap and lather it up to break apart the soiled areas.
When cleaning Squash Blossoms necklaces, I typically will do all the front-facing pieces first, then brush the back.
After the front of the necklace is cleaned, brush the beads and the back of each piece.
Once the brushing is complete, rinse off in warm water and final rinse in very hot water.
Pat dry with paper towels or cotton cloth. Shake the necklace to remove water from inside the beads. The necklace should be 95% free of water drops.
At this point, your necklace should be noticeably cleaner.
Proper drying is crucial to cleaning a squash blossom necklace. Once the piece is dried with paper towels, there is still moisture inside the bead and around the stone.
Using a hairdryer on high, I quickly move around the necklace to dry all the beads. Shake out the necklace in the air while moving the hairdryer helps. It is okay to heat the necklace up a little (about the temperature of a park car in summer).
I like to "box" the heated air in a container to heat it more quickly and evenly. This should take about 3-5 minutes.
DO NOT spray the piece directly, as the silver polish is a pink liquid that will get trapped in between the stones and you will have to rinse/brush it out.
Once dried with a hair dryer, I use Hagerty's Silversmith Spray Polish, which has a tarnish preventative to keep silver from tarnishing. It is important when using this type of polish to spray it on a cotton cloth first and let is dry. This "charges" the cloth with the polish. Then rub the piece with the cloth. Rub each and every bead. and each silver area. You don't have to spend much time with the front (stone area) of the necklace, a quick once over will suffice.
Hang to dry overnight. Avoid a humid place. The inside of the beads and behind the stones will still have moisture in them and it is important the ALL the moisture is out of the piece.
Once completely dry, I recommend storing the piece in Ziplock bags, this will keep moisture in the air away. Also, there are anti-tarnish strips (paper tabs) that you can put in the bag to keep from tarnishing.
Once completed, you will notice that the residue of dried "stuff" between the stones is gone and the piece is much brighter, less tarnished and cleaner.
BEFORE & AFTER CLEANING
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If you would like a quote on repairing your Squash Blossom necklace.
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- Erick Begay
Erick Begay is an award-winning Navajo silversmith with over 29 years of experience in the art of jewelry making, which includes a vast array of traditional Navajo techniques and conventional techniques. He owns and operates his own studio/gallery in Boulder City, Nevada and participates in many arts shows across the country.
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