How Long Will Breastmilk Jewelry Last? It depends on several things including the type of resin your artist uses, the method they use to preserve your milk, the care instructions they give you and most importantly, how well you follow them!
The important thing to remember is that any piece of breastmilk jewellery will always be close to your heart. Even if your piece goes yellow or otherwise changes colour, tarnishes, breaks it’s almost always possible to repair it and it will always have your breastmilk in it. If it’s lost, your artist may still have your milk even years later.
I’m Nikki Kamminga, owner of Tree of Opals and Keepsaker Supplies, and I’ve been teaching people around the world how to make jewellery with their clients’ breastmilk for almost a decade. Here are the factors affecting the stones and settings, or How Long Will Breastmilk Jewelry Last?
It’s often said that epoxy resin is longer lasting than UV resin, but in all my years making resin jewellery I haven’t found that to be true. For my first year in business I used exclusively epoxy and became highly allergic to it, I could no longer be in the same room so I had to switch to UV resin. During that time I had plenty of pieces to repair that had yellowed quickly due to customers not following the care instructions (see below) but some of them have yellowed since in storage too.
I have UV resin breastmilk jewellery pieces that I made in 2016 in storage which are still almost white and have many happy customers from back in the “olden days” who tell me their pieces are still white, which were UV resin. That being said, plenty of pieces I’ve repaired that were UV too but we almost always find the customers tell us they forgot the care instructions. It’s not important which kind of resin they use so long as it’s cured properly and is a brand which doesn’t tend to yellow. In the advanced breastmilk jewellery course I teach, I have the students make sample chips with various brands of resin to keep in storage and on windowsills. Personally I use Padico Star Drop for all of my jewellery now.
During my first few months in business there was literally nobody teaching breastmilk jewellery making so I made it up as I went along, hoping that it would last. The first few pieces I made for myself went bad immediately because I wasn’t preserving the milk at all. I tried so many preservatives and got a stable method a few months in, then eventually bought a freeze dryer to batch process the milk samples. Eventually I came up with a formula for a breastmilk preservation powder which I’ve been selling for almost four years now and is used by around 60% of the breastmilk jewellers around the world.
If your breastmilk jeweller has been using their own method for at least a year or uses a preservation powder from Keepsaker Supplies then you have nothing to worry about. If the artist is new in business I think it’s only fair to ask them about their method of preserving milk. If they don’t want to tell you, and they are new in the industry, it might be a good idea to find another artist.
The most important factor in breastmilk jewellery lasting is whether you stick to the care instructions. My care instructions come up first on Google so hopefully if you aren’t given any, you have found mind and stick to them.
It’s worth noting, my mum has a ring from me with my children’s hair, and says she didn’t know about not using hand sanitiser. It’s gone yellow but she says she doesn’t care and doesn’t want it repaired. It’s absolutely fine to keep wearing your jewellery even if it’s yellow and you don’t want to risk sending it away but many artists, like myself, won’t charge you to fix a piece they created for you if you’ve had a little accident.
I once repaired a ring for a client which was hazy and a strange green colour. I removed the stone and the resin was an orangey yellow with a layer of translucent green on the top. In the client’s profile photo, they had bright green hair. We tactfully mentioned that it needs to be removed for cleaning and things like dying your hair but repaired the ring for free. Sometimes I wonder if fake tan has found its way onto someone’s stone when there’s a nice greeny brown tint… (not judging, I’m wearing the stuff as I type this!)
It’s not just the resin part of your jewellery which you need to protect, the precious metal usually needs special care too. The majority of breastmilk jewelry creations are solid silver which is prone to tarnishing, especially rings which are in contact with the skin more than any other piece. Although many ring shanks (bands) are made of Argentium silver, which is a bit purer than sterling and called anti-tarnish, they still can tarnish.
Tarnish doesn’t mean that your jewellery is faulty, it’s the metal reacting with environmental factors such as sulphur in your sweat or salt in the air. Some people are more prone to their jewellery tarnishing and some never experience it at all. If you leave your piece in the bathroom in a dish please don’t be surprised to see various shades of brown, orange, black, greens and blues on your precious metals. Your piece should be polished regularly with a silver polishing cloth or a gold polishing cloth whether it’s worn or not, and if you’re storing it make sure it’s in a tarnish resistant bag or special jewellery box.
Lost and Broken Jewelry
It’s not uncommon for clients to lose or break their jewellery, so it might be a good idea to keep a couple of little vials in the back of your freezer just in case or even preserve some of your own breastmilk and store the preserved milk away for safe keeping. You can always donate the rest of your breastmilk. Your original jeweller may be able to repair your piece or remake it if they’ve saved some of your preserved milk. Ask how long they will keep your milk for (I recommend jewellers retain it for at least two years after dispatching a finished piece).
Repair or Replacement
It’s possible your jeweller will still have your milk even years later so it’s worth asking, but if not then it might be possible to reconfigure a discoloured breastmilk jewellery piece into a fresh keepsake. Please reach out to the original artist who might be able to do this free or for a small fee, otherwise I’m always happy to undertake repairs here at Tree of Opals on many kinds of rings, necklaces, beads and other kinds of jewellery.
Depending on the method of making your breastmilk jewellery, the resin may have been turned into a stone or cabochon or poured directly into a setting. I remove this old resin and grind away any discoloured resin, before setting the remaining milk into a new mould or back into the setting directly with a little more resin.
How Long Will Breastmilk Jewelry Last Never Worn
If you never wear your breastmilk jewellery, there’s a chance it will last longer but what’s the point in buying jewellery to never wear it? I would advise anyone ordering it to ask your breastmilk jeweller or artist to create you a second small piece, maybe a mystery piece, to keep in storage. Stored with anti-tarnish strips in a little sealed bag or silver jewellery storage box, your additional piece will be protected from the environment. You’ll be able to wear your main piece to your heart’s content.
Here at Tree of Opals, I offer a Mystery Piece option where you can ask for me to create you a little something special with a big bit of artistic licence. These might be new designs I’m offering or something I need more photos of.
You can read my story on how I got into this little niche and why I started sharing what I’d learnt with the people everyone else called “the competition”. To me, there’s nothing better than seeing another small business succeed, especially if they’re doing it against the odds. They might be a work at home mum, someone fighting post-natal depression and loneliness by making beautiful pieces to brighten someone’s day or even a midwife earning a little extra income at home because nurses are never paid enough.
I have incredible respect for the talented creators out there who make these gorgeous little keepsakes and provide them with lots of free training and resources, such as care instructions downloads and webinars on fair pricing.
Please note, I’m using both spellings of the word jewellery and jewelry, as many of my clients are around the world. I love how language evolves and changes and the fact that in the USA, Canada and Australia you spell many things differently than we do here in the UK.