How to clean tarnished jewelry

Have you ever reached into your jewelry box only to find pieces covered in a black film? I recently had a customer come to me concerned that her beautiful labradorite trillion stud earrings were ruined. They had become nearly black. Yes, black. Once gold, now not so much. 

Tragic, but all hope is not lost. These earrings are simply tarnished. If you have pieces of jewelry that look like this I'll show you my trick for restoring them to their beautiful gold or silver luster.

Let's talk about why this happens. With gold vermeil jewelry (sterling silver with gold plate) its the silver that's causing the reaction. Sterling silver isn't 100% silver, its 92.5% silver and 7.5% alloys. The other alloys, primarily copper, is responsible for the tarnishing reaction. Tarnish can be described as a chemical reaction that happens when silver is exposed to oxygen and sulfur. Tarnish will accelerate when exposed to water, in high humidity areas, and with people who have a high Ph in their skin. Skin lotions, sunscreen, perfume, hairspray can all also accelerate tarnishing. 

So how do you remove tarnish? With silver pieces, you can use a treated silver polishing cloth. Please do NOT use a treated cloth on gold plated items. For gold vermeil (plated pieces) my favorite product is Tarn-X. Its a liquid silver polish that works wonders on appropriate jewelry (more on that below). 

To use this product take a glass bowl and pour a very small amount of Tarn-X. Place the tarnished items in the bowl and swish it gently to make sure all surfaces are covered. I usually leave my pieces in the polish for about 30 seconds.

When you remove the piece, rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry. I also wash my hands thoroughly after contact. 

Your gold pieces are gold again and you can put them back into daily rotation. 

The best method for dealing with tarnish is to prevent it and then tackle it early. I recommend storing all jewelry, individually, in air tight plastic bags. This prevents the oxygen from reacting to the silver. Second, always clean your jewelry after each wear. A simple, microfiber cloth is great for this. Third, minimize contact with chemicals (perfume, lotions, sunscreen) and water. 

While the Tarn-X method is my favorite, it's not appropriate for all types of jewelry. You should avoid contact with soft stones like lapis, turquoise, and pearls. Brass jewelry should not be exposed to he Tarn-X method either. To ensure your jewelry is silver based, look for the "925" stamp on the piece. And please, keep children and pets away from Tarn-X or any jewelry cleaner or chemical as it is toxic if ingested. 

Maldives Inspiration

Sun-kissed skin, salt water hair, sand between your toes. A trip to the beautiful Maldives islands was the inspiration for my Spring and Summer collection of 2015. Stunning blue turquoise waters, white shells and the pink sand. You'll see colors of a tropical influence and a mix of elegant and edgy shapes. 


2014 Holiday Gift Guide

It's that special time of year where we seek out that perfect gift for our wives, sisters, mothers, and girlfriends. We'll be the first to say that one gift certainly doesn't fit all. So we're here to lend our expertise in this gift guide that details the winning gift for each personality type in your life. 



Romancing the Stone

Before my engagement, I knew exactly what I wanted in terms of a ring. Years earlier I discovered rose cut diamonds and never looked back. Of course, this particular cut is extremely hard to find and takes time and patience. Kind of like meeting the right person and deciding to spend your life with them...

The rose cut features a flat bottom with a dome shaped crown rising to a single apex. With anywhere from 3 to 24 facets, the shape resembles that of a rose bud. The rose cut is believed to date back to the 15th century and was widely used during the Georgian and Victorian eras. 

As you can see, the rose cut varieties don't have a pavilion, the triangular looking bottom. Therefore, the light refracts very differently off these stones. Rather than the brilliant sparkle a "conventional" diamond offers with its 58 facets, these diamonds give off a subtle, romantic glow. With rose cut diamonds missing the signature facets of the stones most of us know and love, any imperfection or flaw in the material will show greatly. 

Rose cuts come in all shapes with round being the most common. Here are a few other beautiful shapes I found along the way as well. 


After getting the diamond graded by the International Gemological Institute (IGI), FedEx swept our conflict-free oval rose cut stone across the world for us in 3 days. Kind of wild to think about.


Now, onto the setting. 

Computers and Jewelry Making

The early 2000's brought more than internet shopping into our hands, it also was the beginning of a wider adoption of computer aided design (CAD). Over the past 10 years, the jewelry industry has made a major shift from creating pieces with wax to modeling them out on a laptop. CAD is an exceptionally difficult program to learn, it literally takes a decade to master which is why most designers use specially trained CAD experts to take their sketches and turn them into CAD files. So how does this work and more importantly, how does a computer file transition into a piece of jewelry? It involves casting and 3D printing.  

Let's start with the sketch. This is a design that I introduced a few years ago, my bubblegum ring.


Originally this ring was created with a wax carving, but when I changed the stone size my caster and I decided we needed to use a new mold. So we took this sketch and created this:



The actual CAD has multiple measurements on all sides, but because this design is still in production, it's proprietary information and I've removed it to share. Once the CAD is created, the file is loaded into a 3D printer. The 3D printer prints out the design and that design is cast into metal. Once its cast into metal, we make a mold out of it. 


Once this mold is made, we can shoot wax into it as many times as we need to create exact copies of the ring. With the wax, we repeat the casting process and the end result is a metal ring. 

While this is a simplified version of what this process looks like, hopefully it gives you an idea of just how much work goes into once piece. For this ring alone, including the CAD, it was about 60 hours. This doesn't include the stone sourcing, cutting, shipping, setting or finishing the piece. 

Its all worth it to give my customers a beautiful piece of jewelry. The bubblegum rings are still available and start at $125 for sterling silver, $145 for gold vermeil. 

Do you have other questions about jewelry design or the creation process? Feel free to reach out and ask me at rachael@rachaelryen.com. 

More than just a cause


October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month which is a cause near and dear to my heart. Earlier this year my future mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. I guess its not terribly startling from a statistics perspective as 1 in 8 women will receive a diagnosis. However, when someone so close to you hears the words "you have cancer" the term "awareness" takes on a whole new meaning. From surgery to chemo to experimental drugs, thankfully more and more women are winning their battle with this all to common disease, but the truth is that awareness is only part of the solution. Awareness is meaningless without action. 

To the women in my life, yearly mammograms aren't optional. Please, be kind to yourself and put your health first. As a jewelry designer, I wanted to give people another chance to give back so I created the "Think Pink" collection. All the net proceeds from the sales of these pieces will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) which is a non-profit focused on solely on funding clinical and genetic research related to breast cancer. 

My sincerest wishes to all who have fought, are fighting or know someone impacted by any cancer. 

Otherwise Engaged

One of my favorite things about being a jewelry designer is working with brides. It's such an honor to be asked to share in such a special day by way of creating a piece for the bride or her maids. Choosing the right color, picking a design that fits with theme, no detail is forgotten. I have to be honest, it's always been a little lost on me just how much detail goes into a wedding, from the jewelry to the many other facets of planning...until now.

A little over a week ago I got engaged. We've only begun thinking about the wedding and already I'm overwhelmed (this seriously seems like a full time job in itself!). Thank goodness I have a wonderful partner, who often knows me better than I know myself, to share the planning with. I definitely won't bore you with the details (seriously, I don't even care about the color of my napkins), but there will be one piece of this journey I will be sharing...the jewelry. My engagement ring to be precise. My fiancé is a wise man and knew I've always dreamed of designing my ring as well as his. Therefore, he proposed with a simple, elegant diamond ring which will become my wedding band. 

If you've ever asked yourself "why in the world does an engagement ring cost so much" you'll definitely want to follow this blog. From sourcing the diamond, to sketching the design, CAD's, revisions, and more, you'll experience the process that all jeweler's go through before that symbolic circle lands on your hand. Yes, it's a lot of work, but after all...its the one thing you'll wear everyday for the rest of your life.  

What is the difference between Gold Vermeil and Gold-Filled Jewelry?

Here at Rachael Ryen we strive to offer our customers as much information as possible about the jewelry you're purchasing. One of the most common questions we hear is "what is the difference between gold-filled and gold vermeil jewelry?" So today we're passing along our knowledge about this topic with the hope we can help make your buying decision a little easier.


First, Gold-Filled jewelry is not the same as Gold Vermeil. We've seen jewelry designers interchange the terms "Gold-Filled" and "Gold Vermeil" and want to stress that these are two very different processes in the world of jewelry manufacturing. They also result in two different products of different price points and durability.

The easiest way to define what gold-filled jewelry is would be to first address what it is not. Gold-Filled jewelry is not plated. Making gold-filled requires heat and solid sheets of gold. The manufacturer starts with a sheet of base metal, most often jeweler’s brass. Then they add a layer of solid gold sheet over the brass, heat and press together to both layers fuse to one another. If the material is double clad, this process will be repeated on the other side of the brass so the entire sheet has an external layer of gold bonded to it. The final products are sold in sheets or wire.

In the US, the Federal Trade Commission requires items sold as “gold-filled” contain a minimum of 5% gold. Most gold-filled material is 12 karat or 14 karat gold-filled and will be stamped 1/20 12kt GF or 1/20 14kt GF respectively. Gold-filled is not to be marketed or called "gold" as its not solid. 

Since gold-filled material has an actual layer of solid gold on its exterior, the material can hold up for years even if worn daily. To keep your gold-filled jewelry looking new, simply wipe with jewelry polishing cloth. Ammonia is also helpful in keeping a brilliant shine.

What do we use that is gold filled? Components found in all Rachael Ryen fashion jewelry pieces are made with 14k gold including our chains, jump rings, claps and ear wires.



Gold Vermeil (pronounced ver-MAY) has a base of sterling silver, often seen stamped as “925”. This base metal is then coated with at least 2.5 microns of gold that is 10 karat purity or more. All of our gold vermeil pieces are 14 karat or greater. While vermeil is a plated metal, its much thicker and more durable than items labeled “gold plated” or “gold dipped” which have, on average, 75% less gold in terms of thickness.

With any gold plated items, special care should be used to keep your pieces looking new longer. Always remove your jewelry before showering, swimming, exercising or any activity which will expose it to water. To clean your vermeil jewelry, we recommend a mild liquid silver polish Simply follow the directions on the bottle, but never submerge gemstones in the solution (its best to apply with a cotton swap or ball).

Many of our pendants are bezel set in gold vermeil as are our popular gemstone stud earrings seen below.


We hope this information will make your buying decision a little easier. As always, if you have any questions about our items please email us.

Warm Wishes,


Summer Vacation

By: Rachael Byers
Next month we're off to the west coast for 10 days of business meetings, family, friends and two birthday celebrations. We're hitting 5 cities and have an array of activities planned so thoughtful packing is key (a little secret about me...I never pack more than a single carry-on. True story). Being that my other half and I are "wine enthusiasts" (I was, however, not enthusiastic about having to move our said wine across the country last July, but that's for another post all together) wine country was a perfect destination to spend my upcoming birthday. 
Here are a few of the pieces that made it into my "must have" pile for this adventure.
1.                                     2.
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8.           9.
Of course I had to include two new arrivals. The lariat necklace and open bangle will be up on the site in a week or so for purchase. Please inquire in the meantime if you have questions. Another item of note is the brown leather tote. This is by a designer I found on Etsy. Rather than purchasing from a known brand, I love supporting small businesses and other designers especially since the best form of marketing is someone else wearing your product. 
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