How to Clean and Care for Your Jewelry
The most effective way to clean your jewelry is to bring it to your local jeweler. That may not always be possible. It always seems that on a Saturday night, before going to dinner or while getting dressed for a wedding, you realize that your jewelry is lacking a bit of its glisten and luster.
Jewelry Maintenance Schedule
Since most people keep their jewelry in a central location, such as a jewelry box or safe, it is easy to keep a basic checklist along with it. It is commonplace for one to let time pass before noticing one day when examining their jewelry that a diamond is missing from their ring or bracelet. Keeping a simple checklist in your jewelry box can act as a reminder. All fine jewelry that is worn regularly and is mounted with gemstones should be brought to a jeweler to be inspected for wear on prongs and closures on a routine basis. Over time, frequently worn jewelry often comes in contact with coarse surfaces during everyday wear, making it prone to erosion and metal fatigue.
“Erosion” takes place when gold or a precious metal rubs against itself or other surfaces. As precious metals rub against counter tops, stone, or mineral surfaces the soft precious metal slowly erodes. Your jeweler can advise you of needed repair before an item becomes broken and is lost. This recommended preventive measure can prolong the life of your precious jewelry.
Jewelry Metal Fatigue
“Metal fatigue” takes place when metal is stressed by constant knocking or bending. The easiest way to understand this is to envision a coat hanger being bent back and forth several times until it breaks. The impact of hitting a ring or bracelet on a doorknob or the constant depression of a spring clasp on your jewelry latches slowly contributes to its “metal fatigue”.
Professional Jewelry Maintenance
We recommend that everyday items such as engagement rings and tennis bracelets be viewed by a professional jeweler every 6 months, and annually for jewelry that is worn less frequently. A trained jewelry professional will inspect prongs and clasps for wear and tear. The jeweler will detect loose stones and arrange to tighten your prongs and repair or replace worn areas.
Professional Jewelry Cleaning
Most jewelers will clean and polish your jewelry while you wait and the more advanced jewelers will be able to machine polish your jewelry with several stages of compounds to restore its original luster. They may also be able to restore a rhodium finish on your white gold. The more highly qualified jewelers will also be able to steam clean and ultrasonically clean your jewelry. Your jewelry professional should understand the nature of delicate materials, gemstones, and patinas in order to avoid damaging your precious items while working on them.
Home Jewelry Cleaning
In order to properly clean your jewelry at home you should first have an understanding of what your jewelry is made of.
Jewelry Cleaning No No’s
Many materials should not be cleaned at home. Below are a few examples of jewelry that should be handled cautiously.
- Organic stones or materials such as pearl, ivory, bone, coral, wood, leather, cord, or string should not be exposed to harsh detergents or soaked in liquids or ultrasonically cleaned. These commonly used jewelry materials may absorb the fluids and be damaged or stained permanently.
- Antique or rare artist jewelry should not be tampered with at home. Polishing and cleaning can destroy the patina and integrity of some rare jewelry.
- Coins should never be polished and cleaned by a non-professional.
- Some gemstones are treated with or have natural oils that can be disturbed by detergents. Some stones are porous and can absorb detergents or moisture. Here are a few gems that caution should be used with: Emerald, Opal, Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli, and all of the organic stones and materials listed above.
- Chemical exposure can lead to disaster. Soaking jewelry in chlorine-based cleaners can completely dissolve a piece of jewelry, leaving behind only the stones. Likewise, constant exposure to pool chlorine can decay the solders used to make jewelry. A small bead of mercury from a broken thermometer can attract to gold and contaminate all other jewelry that it comes in contact with, turning the gold white. This has been known to render entire jewelry boxes of valuable jewelry useless. As a rule, any corrosive product in household use containing acids, lye, or chemicals that you yourself should not be exposed to is probably not good for your jewelry.
- Polishing plated metals with abrasive compounds can wear through the plating. The micron plating solution used on many pieces of costume jewelry is thin and abrasive compounds can wear through to the underlying metals. Once the base metals are exposed, they may vary in color or tarnish with time.
- Caution should be taken when using ultrasonic cleaners. Ultrasonic cleaners use high frequency waves to release makeup grime and dirt from your jewelry. The process involves vibration.
* Vibration causes erosion when two items are rubbing against one another or the side of an ultrasonic tank.
* Vibration can also loosen stones and epoxy or glue.
* Vibration can also shatter fragile materials such as amber and enamel.
* Vibration can change the color or remove the surface enhancement on many of the novelty gems in the market place today.
* Vibration can dislodge fills from stones that have additives.
Once you have determined that your jewelry can be cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner, the tips below can help you with your safe cleaning.
* Use only recommended ultrasonic cleaning solutions.
* Be sure that your items are positioned so that they do not rub on one another or the bottom and side of the ultrasonic tank.
* Do not leave jewelry unattended in an ultrasonic cleaner for extended periods of time.
Proper Jewelry Cleaning at Home
Now that you have an understanding of what you need to be careful with, let’s review the many things you can do to take care of your jewelry and make it look great. The easiest way to keep your jewelry looking terrific is by cleaning it regularly. It is much easier to remove a thin layer of hairspray, lotion, or makeup than a long-term build up. The more often you clean your jewelry the easier the process.
Polishing Precious Metals
You can brighten your jewelry by obtaining a jewelers rouge cloth or a velvet cloth from your local jeweler. These are soft cloths charged with mild polishing compounds used to brighten jewelry. The polishing materials on the cloths are not abrasive enough to damage your stones or metal, but when rubbed vigorously against gold or silver will provide a nice luster. When you are finished polishing your jewelry, you can clean it to remove any of the compounds left behind. Be sure to put your jeweler’s cloth in a dust free container such as a poly bag when you are finished. This will prevent the cloth from picking up grit and foreign matter that may scratch your items on it next use.
Cleaning Diamonds Gold and Platinum
Gold, diamonds, platinum, sapphire, ruby, and most durable stones not listed above in the “Don’ts” section can be easily cleaned. Simply mix a solution of 1/2 Windex and 1/2 warm water. It is not necessary to create a large batch; a half cup is usually sufficient. Make sure the room is ventilated. Soak the items for as long as it takes to loosen the buildup. Remove the items and simply scrub them with a soft toothbrush. Be sure to press the bristles gently between the prongs and in all of the creases of the jewelry. If the residue is stubborn repeat the process. Be sure to rinse your jewelry thoroughly and dry to avoid irritation of the skin. Some people like to dry the stones on the underside with canned air, in order to avoid water spots. Once again, the more frequently you clean your jewelry, the easier the process.
Jewelry Ultrasonic Cleaners
It is very important to read the above warnings about the use of ultrasonic cleaners, as they are very aggressive. That being said, aggressive can be good if you follow the rules. Use only ultrasonic cleaning devices that are designed for home use and read the instructions thoroughly. It is wise to use the solutions that are sold to be used for ultrasonic jewelry cleaning, however, small units can be used with 1/2 Windex and 1/2 warm water. Make sure the room is ventilated.
Cleaning Pearls and Other Organic Jewelry
Pearls, coral, ivory, bone, and other organics can absorb moisture and chemicals. It is for this reason that all make up and hairspray should be applied before putting on your pearls. It is also wise to wipe them down with a soft clean moist cloth when you remove them. In the case of pearls and beads, try not to get the cord and knots wet to avoid staining and rotting of the string. * Never use chemicals or detergents to clean your pearls