How To Care For Your Cremation Jewelry

by Maggie Thompson

Urn Jewelry

A heartfelt decision, such as choosing a piece of cremation jewelry, is often made with considerable thought. With a portion of ashes secured in a pendant or bracelet of significance and beauty, cremation jewelry offers a way to hold a loved one close at all times. All bracelets and pendants for ashes require special handling, beginning with adding the ashes to cremation jewelry. It's also important not to submerge the piece in water to prevent any damage to the ashes. Properly caring for the jewelry can also prolong its beauty and ensure that you can enjoy it for years to come.

A piece of sterling silver or gold jewelry requires detailed treatment in its care and polishing. At OneWorld Memorials, we're the experts when it comes to cremation jewelry and we want to help you get the most use out of your most meaningful pieces by offering a free care guide for a variety of jewelry types.

Caring for Sterling Silver Cremation Jewelry

Preventive care

  • Wear it! Oils in the skin can keep silver shining and help prevent tarnish. The more you wear your sterling silver cremation jewelry, the longer it will maintain its luster.
  • A little forethought is the key to reducing tarnish. Avoid exposure to chlorinated water, harsh chemicals, rubber, perspiration or sulfur-containing substances such as mayonnaise, eggs, mustard, onions, wool or latex. Direct sunlight can also tarnish silver. Consider taking off your silver jewelry if it could come in contact with household cleaning substances. Hair products, lotions and cosmetics can encourage tarnishing, as well. Remove jewelry before cleaning and swimming to help protect it.
  • Storage that limits exposure to air is ideal. Consider an airtight plastic bag, with anti-tarnish strips, a piece of chalk, a packet of activated charcoal or silica gel, which will minimize tarnish. Some people consider using a glass pendant dome to both protect the jewelry and display it as well. 
Silver heart charm under a glass display dome with a polished silver base.

Polishing

Since cremation jewelry cannot be immersed in liquid without risking permanent damage to the ashes, a special flannel jewelry cloth, available from jewelers or on the internet, is the easiest and safest option to polish your jewelry and to restore its shine. There are also paste polishing products available that are specifically designed for use with silver jewelry in cases of extreme tarnish.

If a polishing cloth does not produce the desired cleaning and shine and you don't wish to purchase a commercial polish, here are a few homemade silver cleaners to try. Always take care to avoid direct contact with the sealed opening for the ashes.

  • Soap and water: Dip a soft microfiber cloth in a mixture of water and a mild (phosphate and ammonia-free) dishwashing soap and gently rub the damp cloth over the jewelry, then blot dry with a cloth.
  • Baking soda and water: Make a paste and, with a clean cloth, apply a small amount and rub gently. Remove the paste carefully with a damp cloth, and dry.
  • Olive oil and lemon juice: Mix one-quarter cup lemon juice with one-half teaspoon olive oil. Dip a soft cloth into the mixture so it is damp, not dripping. Rub gently over the jewelry. Then wipe with a clean damp cloth, then a dry cloth. Q-tips are useful for reaching tiny crevices.

When trying a homemade silver cleaner, be sure to spot-test your item in an inconspicuous place before proceeding with cleaning the entire surface. Make sure your cleaner does not remove the finish from the item and doesn't leave scratches before proceeding.

Caring for Gold Jewelry for Ashes

Gold is a soft metal and not as susceptible to tarnish as sterling, but there are still some preventive measures to maintain its radiance. Proper preventative care can keep your gold jewelry shining and looking like new.

Preventive care

  • Gold cremation jewelry should never be immersed in water or other liquids. This not only protects the ashes, but the jewelry too.
  • Chlorine or harsh soaps should be avoided as they can permanently discolor gold jewelry. Remove jewelry before cleaning, swimming or coming in contact with chemicals.

Polishing

A soft jewelry polishing cloth works well on gold jewelry. If further cleaning is needed, try the following steps at home:

  • Mix water and a mild detergent, such as a dishwashing liquid.
  • Rub gently with a soft, damp cloth.
  • If needed, brush very carefully with a new, child-size soft toothbrush.
  • Wipe with the damp cloth several times.
  • Blot dry with a clean cloth, or air dry.

What About Pendants for Ashes with Gemstones?

Many bracelets or pendants include gemstone features. Gently rubbing the pendant and gemstone with a polishing cloth is recommended as a first step. If additional cleaning is needed, the soap and water methods above for silver and gold are safe for most colored or clear gemstones. No additional cleaning steps should be required.

  • Opaque gemstones such as pearls, opals, turquoise, carnelian and onyx can be cleaned with a polishing cloth or a brief wiping with a damp cloth, but should not be subjected to stronger cleaning mixtures, as these softer stones are more susceptible to damage.
  • Clear or translucent gemstones such as diamonds, amethyst, topaz, garnet, crystal or rhinestones can be gently cleaned with a damp cloth or soft toothbrush. Take care to avoid cleaning mixtures getting lodged under gemstone settings, which could loosen any glue.

Professional Cleaning

Our recommendation is to care for your gold or sterling silver cremation jewelry at home with the above methods. However, if professional cleaning is deemed necessary, be sure the jeweler understands the delicate and intimate nature of the piece, and takes appropriate care to not disturb the ashes inside. Before allowing a professional to clean your piece, ask if they have experience handling cremation jewelry. If they don't, you might want to try a different jeweler.

Wear Your Cremation Jewelry with Love

A necklace for ashes is more than a fashion accessory. It is a priceless symbol of a shared love. Keep a polishing cloth handy to care for it and make sure you perform regular maintenance to prevent tarnish or other signs of wear. Before fastening the clasp around the neck, use the cloth. This daily step can become a welcome habit or ritual - a way to honor the heartfelt function of an urn necklace for ashes. With thoughtful care, your remembrance jewelry will shine for a very long time.

Maggie Shopen Thompson, MFA, is a freelance writer and writing workshop facilitator in Montpelier, Vermont. She has had experience as a caregiver for her mother many years ago, and for her husband and daughter during their recent cancer treatments and recoveries. She is a contributing author/artist in Healing Art & Writing – using creativity to meet illness, curated and edited by Patricia Fontaine, published in August 2016.

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