In our modern world, with so many technological advancements, it’s interesting to ponder how things used to be done. Rather than spending cold, hard cash, most of the time people use a debit or credit card or even a payment app on their phone. No one uses the card catalog at the library; you can Google anything (and Google is even a verb). And when was the last time anyone you know used a typewriter?
We are always finding new and better ways to do things, and jewelry cleaning is no exception. When you read about how people cleaned jewelry in the early 1900s, you will be very glad that safe, at-home jewelry cleaning options are available!
In a publication from 1913 called The Boy Mechanic, people were encouraged to clean silver, gold, bronze and brass using a saturated solution of cyanide of potassium. Whether dipping the piece into the solution or rubbing the metal with a saturated cloth, individuals were warned that “cyanide of potassium is a deadly poison, [so] care must be taken not to have it touch any sore spot on the flesh.” Goodness, this does not sound like a safe plan at all. Imagine the warning labels that would have had to go on that product today!
The New York Tribune in 1918 shared a silver cleaning technique, designed to save women from “wasting [their] time and energy — and, incidentally, [their] silver plate — through a vigorous use of [their] polish and elbow grease?” As it happens, an offshoot of this technique still makes the rounds on the internet. The electrolytic process involves bringing water with baking soda and salt to a boil, then adding aluminum or zinc. The silver piece is introduced and must be in contact with the aluminum or zinc, which removes the tarnish. “It is best to base the silver entirely covered with the cleaning solution and to allow the solution to remain at the boiling temperature. In a very few seconds, the tarnish on the silver will disappear as by magic.”
While this technique may remove tarnish, it is dangerous to place your silver pieces in boiling water, as the heat can cause the metal to become misshapen. At-home tarnish removal products and polishing cloths offer a much safer alternative today.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, jewelry lovers could purchase a Jewelry Cleaning Casket, which contained a cloth, soap bar and brush, and a box or sawdust. Instructions indicated that jewelry should be cleaned with the brush, after wetting it and creating a lather with the soap. Once the jewelry was cleaned and rinsed with water, the user was to lay it in the sawdust for drying. This precursor to our Jewelry Care Systems was the start of a good idea, though it seems that drying the jewelry with sawdust rather than a soft cloth or polishing cloth was pretty much defeating the purpose. Wouldn’t the jewelry be covered in sawdust and need cleaning all over again?
Clearly people have always wanted their beautiful jewelry to be sparkling, and tried some pretty interesting tricks to keep it that way. Luckily, much safer and far more user-friendly options are available for routine jewelry care today. Visit our website for more information on how we can help you create a modern-day jewelry care line, exclusive to your store.
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