More Bling For Your Buck: How to Make Your Fashion Jewelry Last Longer

We've all felt the cold, green sting of betrayal that comes from wearing your new favorite piece of fashion jewelry too many days in a row. Suddenly, that geometric-bohemian-fringe-minimalist-chevron bangle you've been obsessed with shifts too much on your wrist and you spot the tell-tale sign that it's time to retire the piece. 

Rest in peace, little buddy. You served me well. For [checks calendar] four days.

Hm. Maybe I shouldn't have gone swimming for 12 hours every day.  

A chain hanging with significant copper tarnish

But first: It's not easy being green

Seeing the telltale green may make you feel embarrassed, annoyed, or even afraid that an allergy issue is afoot. Let me say quickly that you shouldn’t feel embarrassed; this happens to everybody who wears fashion accessories made with some kind of metal. Depending on how much you paid for the piece, “annoyed” may be an incredibly appropriate way to feel.

But let me say emphatically: It does not necessarily  mean that you are allergic.

So why does fashion jewelry sometimes turn us into Ephalba?

For the most part, green staining on your skin means that the piece was plated with a different color finish over a copper core. The green-ening isn't limited to copper, however; some sterling silver pieces have been known to cause skin staining as well, and quicker than you may think. Eventually, all jewelry pieces will show wear and tear, even the most expensive pieces. This explains all of those stores in the mall that clean, resize and restore antique jewelry. 

The central problem is that we are hot, hot creatures who like to adorn our bodies in shiny metals while we go about our long, dirty days. The more our sweaty bodies come into contact with the metals, the quicker the coating will wear off and leave behind a great temporary tattoo. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, and it’s nothing wrong with you; it’s just chemistry baybeeee.

But, there are certain precautions we can all take to keep our favorite pieces alive longer. With these tips in mind, you can hope to enjoy those long, dangly statement necklaces for many university parties and office mixers to come. 

A pool floating donut inside of a pool

Tip #1: Get Out of the Water

Remember the thing about the green mark being from a chemical reaction? Well, water will, over time, erode the coating on the metals. This goes doubly so for chlorinated water or the ocean; before you get in a pool or the ocean, make sure you take off your jewelry. 

Don’t forget that this applies to everyday exposure to water, too. If you’re leaving your fashion jewelry rings or bracelets on while you wash your hands, there’s a chance they’ll deteriorate quicker. We have all felt too lazy to take off a clasp necklace before we get in the shower, but that’s also shortening its lifespan.

Bonus Round: Sun- and skin-protecting chemicals will damage the piece as well!

Sunblock and bug spray are important things to wear when you're outdoors, and you definitely should. It's helpful to take your jewelry off before you apply them, though! While your increased body heat from fun in the sun will still strip the coating eventually, you'll give yourself more time with a little precaution.

If you still choose the ease of not taking them off, though, I support you…as long as you’re paying bottom dollar. You deserve a little rest and laziness, but you also deserve to not blow through a more expensive piece too quickly. 

Clear nail polish

Tip #2: Give Your Pieces A Coat

Yes, that whispered rumor you’ve heard is true: clear nail polish can keep those cheap pieces going longer. Adding an additional barrier between your skin and the metal is very helpful in giving your fashion jewelry a little more longevity. If you use clear nail polish, be sure to pay extra attention to the areas the regularly touch your skin.

However, that’s not the only top coat you can use. Before sending out my own jewelry and accessories, I give each piece a thorough coating of clear acrylic spray paint. This method ensures a more even coat, with less potential clumping, and no missed spots. I also use different finishes, such as matte and pearl, to achieve different looks for different pieces.

Krylon Crystal Clear Spray Paint

The Krylon Crystal Clear is one of my favorites to use.


I may price my items fairly low, but that doesn’t mean I want the quality to be low, as well. Taking this measure before I even send it out helps keep my customers happier longer. If you’re buying from another store, it pays to keep a spray can of clear glossy acrylic paint at home, to coat new pieces immediately. Your not-green skin will thank you. 

Make sure you use the spray outside, though, and use precaution. The jewelry’s life is important but yours is infinitely more precious. 



Green and white cleaning supplies

Tip #3: NSFHC (Not Safe For House Cleaning)

It may seem obvious, but it should still be said: if even our sweat and water can be damaging, imagine what bleach and other cleaning chemicals can do. If you're somebody who tends to forget to take jewelry off before getting in the shower (guilty) then you should be extra careful to remember to take them off before handling any house-cleaning chemicals.

Of course, depending on what you're using, you should probably be wearing gloves anyway. Don't make me shake my bejeweled finger at you!

Two rings sit inside of a jewelry box with moss

Tip #4: It's My Jewels In A Box

There is something easy you can do to remind yourself to take your jewelry off: keep a little trinket tray close to where you store your cleaning supplies, and close to your bath or shower. If you pick an especially cute decor piece, you may be more likely to want to interact with it anyway.

Turquoise trinket dish by an Etsy seller

Turquoise Green with Flecks of Copper Ceramic Trinket Dish by Artis4Everyone on Etsy.

As for long-term storage, even fashion jewelry should be stored in a nice way. This isn't just to save you hours of untangling errant chains; it's to keep the pieces alive longer.

A box that closes is ideal, to keep the items safe from chemicals that strip your pieces. Investing in anti-tarnish strips will help with everything from your fashion jewelry to a higher-price point piece of jewelry. However, even just a small and informal box can be enough. I still recommend that it have compartments, though; those tangles are no joke.

Anti-tarnish strips from The Container Store

Tip #5: All Good Things Must Come to an End 

I know it's heartbreaking to face it, but we all have to admit something to ourselves: nothing, not even our favorite accessories, will last forever.

Source: LucasFilms


I am personally very Luke Skywalker about this revelation. Calm, cool, collected, colliding down a large chute in a space station in order to escape my father-reality. It's fine! 

Still, [movie trailer voice] in a world where even the most expensive piece will eventually tarnish, we should make peace with the fact that one day we'll have to retire that fashion jewelry we love so much. When the time comes, we can give it the funeral it deserves, with a happy little send-off.

Before you shop, you can consider a few things. First, you should decide how long you want something to last, and how likely you are to take effort to protect your pieces. It's okay if you don't make efforts; sometimes living life is more fun. If this is true, though, you should try to find pieces that have a lower price point, so you don't feel such a sting when you inevitably have to retire them.

BONUS ROUND: How About Those Ethics Though

However, that isn't to say that buying all low-priced costume jewelry is equal. Before you purchase, I would also urge you to consider how much we are all contributing to the inevitable resource waste of the fast fashion industry. So, if you see a design you like at [mumblemumble IDon'tWantToGetSued] fast fashion chain store, you can also take a moment to consider if how much you like it and its probable longevity balances out.

You can still buy pieces at These Stores, but cutting back on the amount we do can be helpful. (Tune in next week to hear me scream about the individual responsibility versus the responsibility of corporations.) Any money you save can be spent on looking for smaller, independent creators with more ethical business practices. After all, the designs are probably stolen from them, anyway.

(You can see why I was worried about getting sued...)

 Now, you can go back to your regularly-scheduled life, with the knowledge that there's nothing wrong with your skin, or with you. There are precautions you can take to make your fashion jewelry last longer, but ultimately? It's the memories of times you wore them that is the most important.

If you're interested, I make quite a bit of fashion jewelry, which come pre-treated with extra protective coats.

I also sell a few little trinket trays, which could help remind you to take off your jewelry before showering, cleaning, etc. Or, you could go find other small creators with high-quality items you vibe with more. Either way, I wish you a lot of luck in your shopping endeavors.

If all else fails, don't forget: green is a great color, anyway.