While sterling silver is not a chemically reactive metals itself, it can easily aggravated by common environmental factors. In a some of cases, it will tarnish quicker and darker than gold filled would. However - it is also easier to clean. If your sterling silver begins to look dull, or starts to turn yellowish or black, its time for a quick polish!
What is 14k Gold Filled? How does it compare to gold plated or solid gold jewelry?
14k Gold Filled jewelry has a solid layer of 14k gold that has been pressure bonded around a base of quality jewelers brass. In order to be considered Gold Filled it must contain at minimum 5% solid gold, which is significantly more (easily 100x more) than gold plated items which only have a VERY thin layer of gold over a base metal and has been electroplated - a far less durable process resulting in a low quality product that is likely to irritate the wearers skin.
The amount of solid gold on gold plated items is practically worthless and over time is almost guaranteed to rub, flake, and fade away, fairly quickly after you start wearing it leaving you with with a lackluster piece of jewelry - how crappy!
Gold filled, on the other hand, is durable and will never rub or flake off. If gold filled ever develops a tarnish, it will be a surface tarnish which can be cleaned or polished off. It has a thick layer of solid 14k gold that offers a wonderful, quality piece without paying the solid 14k gold price. It is the next best thing, in terms of quality and durability, to solid gold jewelry. It is also a much more economical choice! Basically you get all the benefits of a solid gold piece without the price tag of solid gold - heck yes!
Gold Filled jewelry is also another great hypoallergenic option!
Things that cause tarnish - what your jewlery comes into contact with
1. Pools/hot tubs/chlorine: This one is very possibly one of the worst offenders. Gold filled jewelry can be ruined after just a couple dips in heavily chlorinated water, and sterling silver can tarnish almost immediately in a chemically saturated pool/hot tub. I personally wouldn’t even wear my jewelry in a hot tub or chlorinated pool. If there's one thing you just don't do to your jewelry, it's this.
2. Body chemistry: Hormones obviously vary from person to person, we are all unique. While it may be an issue for one person, it may not really make a difference for another. This can be a hard one because there really is no way to know if it will effect you or not until it does, but for the most part, this is really only an issue with a pretty small percentage of people.
3. Sweat: Consistent exposure to all the salt and being damp from your sweat can really be rough on your jewelry. It’s best to try to remember to remove your jewelry before working out.
4. Hair products, lotions, sunscreen, etc: This can vary from product to product, but in general, the less mild a product is, the harsher it will be to your jewelry. A rule of thumb is to simply try to remember to put on your jewelry after you’ve applied any products such as lotions, perfumes, makeup, etc. and if you are sunbathing with sunscreen on, it’s best to simply remove your jewelry for the duration of your activity. Sunscreen is probably one of the worst culprits in this category due to its zinc oxide content. Sunscreen and jewelry are simply just not good together.
Personal experience: I’ve been wearing some of my jewelry for over YEARS now and they are still in pretty much new condition. I’m not super diligent about taking care of my jewelry, I’ll be honest. I rarely take them off before I sleep, and almost never take them off before I shower. I do however make sure to dry them thoroughly before afterwards.
This is one of those do as I say, not as I do moments. However if you are going to wear it all the time, I would just make sure you're diligent about removing it when you will be in contact with heavily chlorinated water like pools and hot tubs, when you work out and when wearing sun screen as these are sure ways to fast-track the tarnish on your jewelry.
Cleaning your jewelry - how and how often
Daily maintenance is important. While I do apply a protective coating to each piece of jewelry before its shipped out, with time any jewelry piece that is exposed to air and our daily lives can cause tarnish. To keep your piece in the best shape, simply wiping the piece down with a soft cloth daily is honestly one of the best things you can do. If you know that it has been exposed more than normal in a day (ex: skincare/hair products, sweat, etc), rinse it off with some warm water and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth. Be careful to avoid your stone when doing this. I prefer to wet a cloth and then wipe my jewelry.
If you know that your piece has been exposed to even more than normal (ex: sunscreen, extra humidity, chlorinated pools, salt water, etc.) or it's just been a while since you’ve last cleaned it, I'd recommend doing a deeper clean by following the steps below:
1. Prepare a bowl of warm water with just a tiny squeeze of a mild, clear dish soap (I have personally used Palmolive, Ivory or Blue Dawn. But anything similar should work just fine).
2. Using a soft damp cloth, gently wipe down your jewelry with the warm water/soap solution.
3. Gently brush off your piece with a very soft toothbrush (I use a baby toothbrush) and pay extra attention to the areas where the dirt builds up such as chain loops, under bezels, etc. A soft cloth would also work on less detailed pieces if you don't have a tooth brush handy.
4. Rinse thoroughly to make sure all of the soap is off.
5. Dry the piece off completely before wearing or storing your jewelry.
Polishing your jewelry - the do's and do not's
I'll start off by saying tarnish is normal! Our day to day lives can at times take a bit of a toll on our jewelry.
If you find your piece has developed a darker tarnish or needs a little more love than the above routine can provide, you can clean your piece chemically in a couple different ways. Don't fret! There are several ways you can clean your jewelry using natural ingredients. Commercial polishes are not recommended as they could potentially damage your breast milk stone.
Here are a few gentle homemade cleaning solutions you can use to clean your jewelry:
Polishing Cloths: These are very soft cloths that have a polishing compound already in them. There would have been one provided with your jewelry when it was shipped to you. If you find yourself shopping for a new polishing cloth in the future just remember ,the less abrasive the better. When polishing your jewelry, be gentle, you shouldn’t have to buff aggressively. Harsh and/or excessive polishing can be damaging over time. Be firm, but gentle making sure to only polish the metal and not your stone. You will notice the polishing cloth will begin to turn black - this is a good indication that its working! (The black on the polish cloth is not all dirt/tarnish from the jewelry, it is simply the cloth being activated and doing its job.)
Baking soda and water: Make a paste of baking soda and water and use a clean cloth to apply a pea-sized amount to the silver and polish. For etched, stamped or detailed items, thin the paste with more water and use a clean, soft-bristled toothbrush to get the cracks and crevices. Run the silver piece or pieces under running warm water, and dry with a clean cloth. This is my personal preferred method. Be sure to avoid contact with your stone.
Olive oil and lemon juice: Mix 1/2 cup lemon juice with 1 tsp. olive oil in a bowl large enough to hold the cleaning solution and a small microfiber cloth. Dip the cloth in the solution and wring it out so that it doesn’t drip, then polish the jewelry, rinse, and dry. Be sure to avoid contact with your stone.
White vinegar and baking soda: Use this gentle cleaner to remove heavy tarnish that’s preventing you from polishing your jewelry. Soak the tarnished piece in a solution of 1/2 cup white vinegar and 2 tbsp. baking soda (be prepared for the fizzing!) for two to three hours, then rinse and dry. Be sure to avoid contact with your stone.
I would use a polishing solution only as a last resort as they can potentially damage your breastmilk stone. Make sure to choose one that is meant for the type of jewelry you will be cleaning (ex: gold cleaner for gold jewelry, sterling silver cleaner for sterling silver jewelry). Do your best to avoid contacting your stone with these types of cleaners. I have yet to find myself needing to use these types of cleaners. If proper maintenance is regularly done, I find a polishing cloth to be sufficient.
Storing your jewelry
Store your clean and dry jewelry in a dry airtight container. Small Ziploc bags or tupperware work well. A dry piece of jewelry is key here. Storing wet jewelry will cause it to tarnish rapidly.
It is better to store pieces individually if possible in order to decrease the risk pieces scratching off each other as silver and gold are soft metals.
If you will be storing a piece for a significant period of time, adding an anti-tarnish strip (these can easily be found on Amazon) with the silver jewelry in a Ziploc bag or airtight container can slow down the process even further.
Note: This does become much more important if you live in a high humidity area. Excessive humidity can cause accelerated tarnish, so storing it in a airtight, low humid space becomes considerably more vital. I live in a very dry area and regularly leave my jewelry out without any immediate issues, but people living in humid areas should take this extra.
For short-term storage, store your piece in a clean, dry container (a Ziploc bag is fine) and away from a moist environment.
**Your breast milk stone can absorb colors from dyed cloth if left exposed to bare cloth over time, so please also keep this in mind when storing your jewelry. It's best to store your piece as described above to avoid this from happening.
I know remembering to put your jewelry in little containers every night is asking a lot, however if you really want to maximize the life of your piece, this is a great step to take.
Caring for your breast milk stone
You will want to treat your breast milk stone as if it were a precious pearl or treasured family heirloom passed down from your great grandmother. It's perfectly fine to wear it and show it off, but I wouldn't suggest wearing it during that next tough mudder challenge or while digging in your garden.
Just like any piece of jewelry, you will want to be gentle with it to avoid scratching and breakage. Your breast milk stone will be scratch resistant however not scratch proof so its important to be mindful of this. If you are finding yourself doing even semi-intensive tasks with your hands, I would absolutely remove your rings in order to protect your precious breast milk stone.
Be sure to keep your stone away from sources of high heat (saunas, storing in a hot vehicle, hot showers) as this can also damage your stone. Also be sure to avoid wearing your breastmilk jewelry on hot summer days as the stones are heat sensitive. Prolonged exposure to heat can cause your stone to change colour.
Harsh chemicals and vigorous activities (gardening, sports etc) should all also be avoided in order to protect the integrity of your breast milk stone. Be sure to remove your jewelry when applying lotions, sunscreens and makeup.
Avoid wearing your jewelry when it will be exposed to high levels of humidity and be sure to avoid water exposure. Always remove your jewelry when there is potential for it to come into contact with water. Showers/baths, washing dishes, pools and hot tubs all all times when your jewelry should be removed. Exposure to high levels of humidity and water can damage your stone and cause it to change colour.
Remember: heat, water/humidity and chemicals are not your stones friend and can cause your stone to discolour. Avoid these things to ensure your stone maintains it's beauty!
**The Milky Fern cannot be held liable for damages due to improper care and use. For questions about our warranty, please read our warranty policy.
**Because 14k gold and 925 sterling silver are not pure metals, there is always a small risk they can contain nickel. The Milky Fern does its best to source high quality materials free from nickel, however cannot be held liable for any allergic reactions that may arise. If you are truly highly allergic to nickel (a very small percentage of people are) you would need to wear a metal like titanium or niobium which are truly hypoallergenic materials. I hope to offer these options in the future, however they are very difficult to source and are very expensive.