Cleaning African Brass Beads and Pendants

Discouloured Brass Beads

Brass items change colour over time and in this brief article I share how I get them looking good again.  When first made they are normally of colours in the photos below.

Types of Discolouration:

  1. Dust, with bits of the dried charcoal and mud mixture (used in coating them prior to firing) on some parts of it.  See the black patches in the gecko photo below.

 

 

 

Using a toothbrush (an old one), simply brush away the particles then polish with a dry cotton cloth. I am fairly pleased with the result:

 

But if I wasn’t completely happy, I would clean them in soapy water (see item 3 below).

Sometimes you find some of that coating mixture in a bead hole or crevices the surface of the beads. If you find any of it in the spiral tube beads below, a pointy object such as cocktail stick can be used to dislodge it.

 

Recently, before selling these next ones I brushed off the residue in the crevices, rinsed them in warm water and dried them with a lint-free cotton cloth (microfibre cloths are fantastic). I have sometimes used a hair dryer.

 

2. Dull gold.  Polish with soft cloth cotton until you see shiny gold again.

3.  Tarnish, with greenish, brown/black patches.   They may look fit only for the bin, but they can be brought back to life very easily!

 

I have had the above beads for many years and this is how you can clean them:

  1. Over a bowl of water, wet your hands
  2. Rub mild soap in both palms
  3. Rub the beads between your soapy palms till you start to see some of the original colour return
  4. Rinse in warm water
  5. Dry thoroughly with cloth

Initial wash of tarnished beads with soap and water results in some improvement but still far from results I would like.  I can see some of the gold coming through but the stains are still present, so I try something else:


 

Lemon Juice

  1. Squeeze the juice of fresh lemons into a container ( I used 2 for the lot in above photo, and a small plastic pail)
  2. Soak the beads in the lemon juice for about 20 minutes
  3. Rub them in your palms in the juice a couple of times during that time
  4. using a toothbrush clean any stains still present
  5. rinse in warm water and dry with cotton cloth or hair dryer

The results are now what I need!:

What if your beads are already in a piece of jewellery?

You most likely wouldn’t want to put the entire piece in water or lime juice!  You can apply one of the above methods in a way which leaves the other parts of your jewellery intact.

Depending on the extent of discolouration, try cleaning the beads/pendants individually by dabbing a lint-free cotton cloth in soapy water or lemon juice as needed and cleaning them one at a time.  Before drying, remember to clean the soap or lemon with just water on the cloth.

Alternatively, if the beading was your own work you could dismantle it all and clean the brass ones.