Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shell Cameo Vintage Jewelry Care and Cleaning Methods

Women have worn carved shell cameo jewelry as a means of adorning their bodies for many thousands of years. These lovely carved mementos with a feminine flair have cast a spell over the wearers for centuries and continue to be popular today.

There are many forms of cameos, but shell cameos, in particular, are very collectible and often a good investment. But how does one care for these lovely shell beauties, so that they continue to remain in wonderful condition?

All vintage jewelry needs regular cleaning and good storage, and cameos are no exception. For the general cleaning purpose, I use Sunshine polishing cloths, which have a special cleaning agent impregnated in them. These specially treated cloths are especially good for cameos set into sterling silver or genuine gold settings. The cloth will polish the metal, and make it bright and shiny.

The shell cameo itself needs a bit of extra attention to keep it looking in great shape. Since the surface of the cameo is carved and usually raised, it is a real attractor of dirt. To clean the surface of the design, a Q tip or baby toothbrush dipped into a mild detergent and rubbed over it will remove traces of grime. Be sure to use plain water on the Q tip to rinse off after cleaning. Never soak a shell cameo for longer than a few seconds if you decide to dip into a cleaning solution. I don't recommend commercial cleaners - they are much too harsh for a delicate shell cameo.

Cameos have special needs that other styles of vintage jewelry don't have, as well because of the shell material itself. Extreme dryness, general aging and the elements of nature can all discolor or crack a shell cameo. Cameo jewelry should be stored in a clean, dry (but not too dry) place. This will prevent damage and corrosion to the frame. Even gold frames can become tarnished because of the oxidation of the alloys in the metal. Careful storage also helps to prevent the shells from becoming chipped. Be sure to keep the cameo away from other pieces of jewelry which might have sharp edges which could harm the finish of the cameo itself.

Cameos are particularly prone to damage from heat. So, an additional step is needed for keeping your cameos in good condition. Once the cleaning is done, you should use a fine oil, such as a mineral oil or baby oil applied sparingly with a Q tip. Leave this solution on the cameo overnight and then wipe off any excess oil that remains the next day. This process should be performed once or twice a year for best results.

Cameos also love to "breathe." Try not to store them in plastic bags or closed containers. Just sitting normally in a jewelry box is the best place for them, as long as the other jewelry pieces nearby are not sharp. Finally, be very careful of dropping them, since they are delicate and might chip or break. As with all other forms of jewelry, be sure to put make up and perfume on before you add the jewelry, since these products are harmful to all types of jewelry.

Cameo jewelry items are very desirable heirlooms, and are often considered an investment. With a bit of care, you can insure that your cherished piece will be enjoyed for many generations to come. One of the specialties of my main website, Vintage Jewelry Lane, is cameo jewelry. I offer a wide range of cameos of all styles and materials at very affordable prices. Please drop by to have a look soon!

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