Cleaning Your Jewelry is Easier Than You Think

By: Shmukler Design

The investment you make in a quality piece of jewelry doesn’t stop after the initial outlay of cash — it includes making a promise to care for that item and giving it the attention that it deserves over the piece’s many years of ownership. But don’t fret. As arduous as that task may sound, taking care of jewelry isn’t as difficult as you might think.

There are many simple, inexpensive steps that you can take at home to properly care for your jewelry pieces in order to maintain their beauty. In today’s post, we cover some of the basics you can perform to make your jewelry last a lifetime and beyond.

Consistency Matters

One of the most important steps in taking care of jewelry is consistency. Depending on how much wear a piece gets, you should give it a routine cleaning at home either weekly or monthly. Special occasion jewelry may only need a cleaning every few months or once a year. And most of it can be done while talking on the phone with a friend or watching the latest episode of The Crown or another binge-worthy show on Hulu or Netflix.

Jewelry Cleaning Supplies and Methods

Often, the safest jewelry cleaning methods are also the easiest. You can clean your jewelry with items that are inexpensive and easy to find around the house or pick up at the grocery store.

Warning: Your kitchen or bathroom sink should never be used to clean jewelry. And, of course, that’s because sinks contain a drain that can easily swallow your jewels should they become slippery and fall while cleaning or polishing them.

Supplies to always have on hand for jewelry cleaning include:

  • Soft microfiber cloth (never use a rough towel)
  • Gentle cleaning brush, one made specifically for jewelry, or a dedicated children’s toothbrush
  • Mild soap/detergent
  • Silver polish

First Off: Do Your Homework

When contemplating the cleaning a piece of jewelry at home, one obvious place to start is with the cleaning instructions you received when you took possession of that piece of jewelry you’re about to clean. Most jewelers offer tips, approaches, and warnings for the cleaning and maintenance of the pieces they create and/or sell. If you don’t have instructions, call the jeweler and ask advice on cleaning the piece at home.

For gemstones, each requires a different kind of care. In the birthstone series here on the Custom Jewelry Blog, we talk about the birthstone for each month, including its history and care. For information on the care of diamonds, for example, please read It’s April and Here’s Why Diamond is Your Birthstone, which includes a detailed section on the proper care of these highly sought-after gemstones. We also have posts that include information about the care of amethyst, aquamarine, bloodstone, emerald, alexandrite, moonstone, and pearl.

For guidance on cleaning specific gemstones, please refer to the following guide, provided by the good folks at the International Gem Society:

Gemstone Cleaning Techniques Comments
Amber Damp cloth and dry. Warm water and detergent are also effective. Amber is an organic gem, sort of a fossilized and hardened form of resin from ancient pine trees.
Amethyst Warm water, detergent, and soft brush. Most amethyst is heat treated to bring out best color, but it can crack as well as fade if exposed to high temperatures.
Aquamarine Warm water, detergent, and soft brush. This blue beryl also receives heat treatments to bring out its blue color. Heat can still cause color fading.
Carnelian Moist cloth. Rub briskly with dry cloth. Since wax won’t adhere to this tough variety of quartz, ancient people famously used this material to make seals.
Citrine Warm water, detergent, and soft brush This heat-treated quartz will fade when exposed to heat.
Coral Damp cloth and dry. Coral is another organic gem, made from the exudations of tiny marine animals. Extremely sensitive to flame and heat.
Diamond Ammonia-based cleaner. Warm water, detergent (grease cutting), and soft brush. Mechanical cleaning systems. Diamonds have the greatest hardness of any natural material, which means they resist scratches better than any other gem. These stones take heat well, too. However, mechanical systems could pose a danger if a stone isn’t examined closely beforehand. Although resistant to scratches, diamonds are susceptible to damage from physical blows. To maintain brilliance, remove any grease.
Emerald Warm water, detergent, and soft brush. Most emeralds are routinely bathed in warm oil after fashioning to improve color. Sometimes, dyes are added. Mechanical systems could boil out the oil. Inclusions in emerald often weaken the stone. Thus, mechanical systems can potentially cause breakage.
Garnet Warm water, detergent, and soft brush. Although relatively hard and tough, garnets do have some heat sensitivity.
Heliodor Warm water, detergent, and soft brush. These yellow beryl gems tend to be reasonably hardy and tough. However, avoid temperature extremes.
Ivory Wipe clean with damp cloth and dry. Warm water, detergent, and soft brush also work well. This organic gem material, consisting of calcium phosphate, sometimes receives harsh dyes. So much so that chemical cleaning could impair its appearance.
Jade Warm water, detergent, and soft brush. Mechanical cleaning systems. Both jadeite and nephrite are tough with little to worry about. They may withstand mechanical cleaning. However, acid treatments to improve color may weaken some specimens. Have a professional gemologist examine any pieces to identify treatments. Both jade varieties can take a high lustrous polish. Re-polishing requires professional equipment.
Kunzite Warm water, detergent, and soft brush. This spodumene variety has a distinct cleavage plane, which opens with little impact. Sunlight causes its lavender color to fade. This is definitely a night stone.”
Lapis lazuli Warm water, detergent, and soft brush. This porous material can vary greatly in appearance. It often receives dyes to improve color.
Malachite Cool water, detergent, and soft brush. Polishes bright, but wear can cause finish to dull. Rub briskly with wood to help restore finish. Sensitive to acid, ammonia, heat, and hot water.
Opal Warm water, detergent, and soft brush. Very sensitive to pressure and thermal shock (hot or cold), which causes crazing (surface cracking). This soft and fragile gem requires special care.
Pearl Wipe with damp, soft cloth. Remove stains with a mild soapy solution on a rag. Don’t dip pearls into liquid. Dry thoroughly. Blow out drill holes carefully. Moisture trapped there often causes discoloration. These organic gems require special care to look their best.
Peridot Warm water, detergent, and soft brush. Acids (even from perspiration) and heat can damage peridot stones. Wear with care and protective settings, since surface scratches will diminish this gem’s finish.

After-Cleaning Care

After cleaning, the right storage can keep your jewelry safe and clean when it is not being worn. Proper jewelry storage is sometimes overlooked in favor of displaying it out in the open. Most jewelry pieces come in a box or pouch when purchased, which is a perfect place to keep them. For example, sterling silver often comes in anti-tarnish cloth bag, and it is best to keep those pieces in their bags.

The ideal jewelry box is one lined in cloth and features individually padded slots for rings and multiple compartments for bracelets and watches. For necklaces, hanging posts can be a good option to keep them from getting tangled or scratching each other. However, be careful about storing jewelry in any open space where it can be exposed to harsh elements or prone to being scratched or worse.

When you travel, protect your jewelry pieces from scratches or other damage by packing them in their original boxes and bags, within a small case. Some stores do carry miniature jewelry boxes that are perfect for travel.

A Warning About Chemicals

With daily wear, keep your pieces cleaner for longer by taking care of what products you apply to your skin. Apply your lotion, makeup, hair products, and perfume well before putting on your jewelry. When taking jewelry off at the end of the day, wipe each piece with a soft, clean cloth to remove any oils that may have made their way onto the piece throughout the day.

Chemicals that can be found in cosmetics, cleaning products, and other everyday substances can damage your jewelry. Take off your fine jewelry when doing physical work such as housekeeping, gardening, or exercise. Never expose jewelry to household cleaning products and do not wear jewelry in chlorine swimming pools or hot tubs. Light and heat are also important considerations.

Pro Tip: Many people are led to believe that some of their jewelry causes skin irritations. In many cases, however, it’s not the jewelry that causes the irritation but the chemicals that become trapped in the hollow area in a ring or under stones, for example, that can cause skin rash and allergic reactions. For this reason alone, your jewelry should be cleaned on a weekly basis.

A great rule of thumb for jewelry care at home is to treat each piece as if it is a family heirloom — because some day it may be. And of course, if you’d like your jewelry cleaned by a professional and you’re in Southern California, contact us — Shmukler Design — by calling (949) 870-9915.

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