If you've perused the Until Dawn online shop, or you've followed me on social media for a while, you'll know I'm pretty passionate about our beautiful brass jewellery range. The combination of it's rich, warm colour and it's inexpensive price point makes it a beautiful addition to our range, and we can't get enough, especially in our signature celestial styles.
Brass - what is it and why do we love it?
It's been used around the world since around 500BC, for decorative items such as jewellery, instruments and art, as well as practical household items. I love the idea that this simple, inexpensive material has such a rich and wonderful history in our civilisations.
Brass is a zinc and copper alloy, so it's worth much less than gold despite having a very similar appearance - infact, at the time of writing this, one gram of gold is worth £43.57, but brass is currently estimated at just £3.80 for an entire kilo!
Often, costume jewellery is made from silver, gold or brass plated nickel alloys. Not only do these often cause the wearers allergic reactions, but once the plating has worn off (which, with cheaper pieces can be within just a handful of wears) it doesn't look as good, can't be restored, and tends to turn skin black or green once it oxidises. Not cute, and a total waste of your cash.
This is why brass makes such a wonderful material for costume jewellery - it's a solid metal, so there's no coating or plating to wear off, and whilst it tarnishes, this tarnish, if desired, can be polished off time and time again!
As a lover of all things retro, vintage and antique, I'm personally a huge fan of brass once it's a little tarnished, which is why our jewellery collections are all made from raw, untreated brass. As it oxidises, brass tarnishes and takes on a darker, slightly more matte patina. I absolutely love this look as I think it gives a really beautiful, antique affect - which is why all of our pieces come raw and only cleaned rather than polished up to a full shine. Slowly, after a few wears, it can tarnish further, as far as almost taking on a slightly blackened appearance.
However, this look isn't for everyone, which is why I've not only included some care instructions here, but later on I've included 4 different ways to remove the tarnish and restore your brass jewellery's high shine finish.
Caring for your Brass Jewellery
The great thing is - caring for your brass jewellery is super easy, and there's only really 3 golden rules:
1. Water is your enemy.
This sounds a little ridiculous, but it really is true with your jewellery. Water and the oils from your skin can speed up the oxidisation, making your brass tarnish even faster. To keep it glossy, I recommend avoiding washing or swimming whilst wearing your jewellery and taking it off at night.
Brass tends to retain moisture, which can create white stains on the surface of your jewellery, so keeping it away from water and always drying it properly is a must.
2. Gently does it.
Brass is loved for it's strength and durability, but also for it's malleable properties - which is why brass wire is often used in decorative jewellery pieces. This is why you must always handle your jewellery with care and be very gentle with it. The larger, laser cut and moulded pieces are strong, but earring hooks, jump rings (the little wire loops which hold jewellery together) and chains are not only bendable, but they're stretchable and breakable.
We recommend being particularly careful when getting dressed to not catch necklaces in clothes, and being careful not to catch earrings in long hair or scarves. Sometimes even an innocent tug can cause jump rings to open and pieces to become lost or damaged.
3. Careful storage is key.
I'm terrible for this - I tend to take my jewellery off when I come in at the end of the day and leave it on the coffee table, bathroom window sill, or bedside table. This not only mean I lose earrings all the time, but it also increases the likelihood of accelerated tarnishing and - if you like 'em shiny, way more polishing.
The best way to store them is in a jewellery box or cloth bag (even a little plastic zip-lock baggie will work!), and make sure they're dry when you pop them in. I always recommend throwing a little silica gel bag in there too - I've been saving the ones from my lateral flow tests, but you also tend to find them in shoe boxes!
Cleaning Brass Jewellery - with what's already at home!
Whether you like the tarnished look or you love your brass polished up to a super high shine, it's important to clean it regularly - jewellery can be kinda mucky, rubbing against skin and going wherever you go all the time, so it's important to give it a good clean now and again.
Shop bought metal cleaners can be full of nasty, corrosive chemicals - plus, they're expensive and wasteful. So here's a handful of super easy ways to clean and polish your jewellery without having to spend out...
1. Good old Soap n Water
Not just for behind your ears, soap and water is great for cleaning your brass jewellery too - it won't remove the tarnish, but it's great for removing any dirt and grime and if you want to polish it up after, keep reading the following steps!
To clean your jewellery with soap and water, just get a bar of basic soap, a bowl of warm water, a towel and, if you have one, a soft brush (a childrens toothbrush is a great way to clean jewellery and perfect to have in your kit!). Using the soap and water, create a bubbly lather and spread over your jewellery. Give it a gentle scrub with the brush while it's all bubbly, and then dunk it back in the water to rinse off the bubbles.
Dry thoroughly with a towel and let it sit out in a warm spot to air dry completely before storing it safely.
2. Lemon Juice
Lemon Juice is super acidic and slightly abrasive, which makes it a wicked cleaner for all kinds of places in the home - but it's also great for removing some of the tarnish from your jewellery!
Simply pop some lemon juice in a small bowl and pop your jewellery in - leave for 15 minutes and then rub clean with a cloth - you can also use a brush or toothbrush (like we mentioned above) at this point to reach any awkward bits. Leave to dry thoroughly before storing.
3. Tequila slammer, hold the tequila.
Yep, lime n salt are an excellent way of cleaning and polishing, and if you're anything like me you'll have some left over from the weekend.
Just cut a slice of lime, and sprinkle a little salt right on it. Gently rub your jewellery onto the salt and lime, and the combination of thr acidity and physical abrasive of the salt will remove tarnish and help polish your jewellery up nice and bright.
Finish by drying thoroughly and using a dry cloth to polish up nice and bright.
4. Homemade "Pink Stuff" - but not pink...
One of the most shouted about kitchen cleaners is "The Pink Stuff" - a slightly abrasive paste which you can rub on and clean anything with. Well, this little recipe makes something akin to that, which is perfect for cleaning jewellery.
In a small bowl, mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 cup of vinegar, and then enough flour to make a smooth paste. Rub this into the jewellery and then leave to sit for around 15 minutes. Use a soft brush or cloth to work the mixture into the metal and remove any tarnish, and then rinse and dry thoroughly.
It's really worth remembering that these techniques are only for raw brass jewellery, and not gold plated or coated pieces - if in doubt, double check and maybe only use a polishing cloth to be on the safe side. You don't want to damage your favourite piece of jewellery!
Thank you so much for reading - I hope this helps you make your gorgeous brass jewellery last a lifetime, as it's certainly made to do. There's nothing more gorgeous than investing your cash in bohemian jewellery that makes you feel like a goddess, and no better self-care than investing your time into caring for it.