Jewelry cleaning – pt 2

Hi again!  I didn’t want to overwhelm you with information about cleaning your jewelry, so I thought it best to split up the post.

As you can see in the before and after photos in the featured image and just below this paragraph, dirt, soap, lotion and other crud can build up under the setting (known as the pavilion, whose job is to reflect the light that enters the gem), resulting in a dull stone.  Look at the difference a good cleaning will do!


Cleaning your gemstone jewelry by mechanical means (ultrasound, boiling, and steam) should really be left to the professionals, who understand the structure of your gemstone and know how the stone reacts to light, heat, and acids.  You see, the main risk factor isn’t from the equipment; it comes from characteristics within the gemstones.  Inclusions (tiny cracks) and structural stresses that are only visible to the professional using the proper equipment, and any treatment the gemstone has received (heat, color enhancing, oils) can end in poor or tragic results…case in point, the story I told at the beginning of the previous post.

Here’s the lowdown on mechanical methods for the home user:

Ultrasonic cleaners:

The stainless-steel tank requires a special liquid that uses microscopic frequency waves in the millions that bounce against the hardest item inside.  That’s a lot of energy focused on your gemstone!  If there happens to be a small crack or internal stress that you don’t know about, the energy that’s focused on the stone can exacerbate the weakness and destroy the stone.

Never…ever…EVER place opals, pearls, coral, turquoise, malachite or amber in an ultrasonic cleaner.  Emeralds, Sapphires, and Rubies may be oiled to heighten its color and translucency which the solution can remove, leaving a sad stone in need of an oil treatment.


Not typically used by the home consumer.  The steam is used to melt and blow away grease and oils.  Although it’s highly efficient, the danger here is that the temperature of the gem is risen quickly and returned to its normal temperature just as fast.


Simple and quick, it has a lot of risks.  You use the same water and non-detergent soap solution mentioned earlier, but you place the gemstones in the pot with the solution, bring it to a boil, turn off the heat, let the water cool, remove the gemstones, clean with a soft brush, rinse and dry.

It comes to this:

You take a risk when you expose your gemstone to high temperatures.  Some gemstones have inclusions that are a different material (liquid, gas or solid) and if the heating coefficient varies, it can destroy the stone.  Some, like the garnets discussed last month are temperature sensitive.  Even a diamond isn’t impervious.

Professional cleaning is optimal, but don’t be afraid to ask questions about the procedures they use and your gemstones.  If you’re dissatisfied with the answer, move on to someone else.  Arming yourself with a bit of knowledge about your gems and the best care for them will be instrumental in making the best choice.

Tuesday, the post will be about this month’s birthstone, the fabulous Amethyst.  I didn’t forget about you, my February babies!

That’s all for now!  Please know that my joy is knowing that you get to enjoy your piece for many years to come.  I hope this post gives you the information you need to clean your jewelry properly.



References for this post are available upon request.

Images courtesy of





Jewelry cleaning – pt. 1

Several years ago, a work colleague of mine told me about a large gemstone ring (I don’t recall the stone) his mother had.  He said that one of her friends had just purchased a cleaner and offered to clean it for his mom…nice friend, but HUGE mistake!!!!   This ring that she loved and took great pleasure in cracked in two in the ultrasonic cleaner!  Talk about heartbreak!  Because it was a friend instead of a professional, she had no insurance to cover against the loss.

Proper care for your gems and passing this information along will ensure they will last as part of your legacy to be enjoyed by generations to come.

While you do want to clean your jewelry as it needs it, caring for your jewelry prior to and between cleaning it is just as important.  A good rule of thumb to follow is “last item on, first item off” as a good way to care for your pieces before it’s time to clean them.  Chemicals found in fragrances, makeup and some hair products (things that contain alcohol, for example), body oils, and lotion can dull your gemstones and can ruin delicate gems (such as pearls).

Exercise care when it comes to cleaning your beaded necklaces; leaving it in a liquid solution can expand the bead cord causing it to weaken or become brittle.  The last thing you want is for your cord to break and have all the elements fall off, especially when it’s not knotted between the beads as is the case with most gems.  The best thing to do is to (I’m just the messenger here, y’all…) clean each gem individually.

It’s recommended that before you clean your gemstones on your own, to take it to a professional gemologist to have it identified correctly and get informed of any treatments the gem has received prior to your purchase, because it can enhance or in some cases, diminish the durability of the gem and affect the way it’s to be cleaned.  This will let you know the limitations of any home cleaning methods you employ.  When you purchase your gemstone jewelry, the retailer should also be able to tell you what kind of gemstone you’re purchasing and of any treatments it has received.

If you decide to clean them at home, here are some suggestions:

Using a commercially formulated jewelry cleaner is generally safe, but do keep in mind that those containing chemicals or ammonia, can damage gems such as amber and pearls.

Soak your gems in a solution of a small amount of non-detergent soap and room-temperature water.  You can find dozens of “recipes” for homemade cleaning solutions; however, exercise caution because some of these solutions call for acidic properties such as witch hazel, baking soda and/or vinegar, all of which can possibly cause damage.  If your piece contains different stones (i.e., sapphire and pearl), then you should use the cleaning method best suited for the softer gem.   You know the saying “you’re only as strong as your weakest [gemstone]”!  You dig me?

If there a mass that has built up, you can carefully (and I really mean c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y) and gently remove the buildup with a toothpick…be patient!

Once you’ve finished cleaning your jewelry, place it back in the solution briefly, then rinse with the same temperature water you used to soak it.  Remember, some gems don’t take well to temperature changes.

If you’re cleaning silver or gold pieces, make sure the cleaner matches the metal.  Don’t use silver cleaner on gold and vice-versa.

A note for my pearl lovers; although they are resilient, extra care must be taken of these lovely and popular gems.  Unless you can help it, don’t wear them against the skin, and whenever you do wear them, wipe them off with a clean untreated, soft cloth (damp or dry) upon removal each time.   Per the Gemological Institute of America, you can clean them occasionally with soapy water, but make sure that the string dries completely before you wear them.

That’s all for now!  Please know that my joy is knowing that you get to enjoy your piece for many years to come.   Tomorrow, I will post the second part on cleaning your gemstone jewelry properly.




References for this post are available upon request.

Image courtesy of Izuly Jewelry


Martyrs, rescuers and the defiant, oh my!

Happy belated Valentine’s day!  I know this is late getting out, but I thought I would share a bit of history about the most romantic day of the year!

Getting into the narrative of Valentine’s day, there are several stories about the man, Valentine.   To start, the greeting goes back to the middle ages. There are three different saints with the same name that the Catholic Church recognizes; all of whom were martyred.  One Valentine (or Valentinus) was a priest who defied the orders of Emperor Claudius II by performing marriage ceremonies when it was against the law for young men to be married (apparently, single men made better warriors).  Another story is that a different Valentine helped Christians escape prisons in Rome and the third Valentine (as legend has it) is the one who started it all (not the greeting card corporate entities for all you cynics out there!) when he supposedly wrote letter to a young girl who visited him while he was imprisoned that closed with the words, “From your Valentine”.

There are other stories of origin, such as the church replacing the pagan celebration of Lupercalia (you can read about it here: or to memorialize the anniversary of the death or internment of one of the Saints Valentine.  In the end, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 at St. Valentine’s day; where it was believed to be the start of the bird-mating season.

So, whether it was being a rebel, rescuing Christian prisoners, or sending a love letter, the origin of Valentine’s day is mysterious, dark and romantic; and on February 14, of every year…celebrated in the USA, Canada, Mexico, the UK, France, and Australia.

One place that doesn’t celebrate on this day, is in the Baltic state of Latvia.  The co-owner of a family business where I worked about a zillion years ago, is Latvian.  She told me that instead of Valentine’s day, they celebrated “Name’s day” which was your personal day based on (you guessed it) your given name!

For example, my Name’s day is November 25, which also happens to be my dad’s birthday!  How delightful it is to add this celebration to all the rest of the days!  If you want to find your name in Latvian, go here:  Then you can go to the names day calendar here and look up your name’s day!  Have fun with it!

Please feel free to comment and ask questions!  If you want to know where I gathered information about the history of Valentine’s day, please follow this link –  (same as above).

That’s all for now; I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.




Lovely green garnets!

Last, and by no means least, dear January babies, are the 2 green garnets in the group! To start is tsavorite, which gets its name from Tsavo National Park where Scottish gemologist Campbell Bridges first discovered them while he was working in Zimbabwe in 1961.  A geological map showed him that hills near his camp had various types of rocks that possibly formed minerals deposits or gemstones.  On his day off, he started for the hills to explore, and as he was making his way up the edge of a gully, a buffalo charged at him!  Talk about having your heart in your mouth!  He did what anyone would do; he jumped into the gully (can you see it?)! After the buffalo left, he was checking out the area where he found the green crystals in an outcrop (a visible rock formation).  His second discovery was made in 1967 in Tanzania, then, in 1973, Bridges and Tiffany & Co introduced tsavorite to the world.   The color ranges from bright yellowish green to deep green or bluish green.

This amazing find of an 185-gram tsavorite took place in East Africa!

Here are the photos of both sides of the uncut stone

Here is faceted stone weighing in at 325.13 carats (deeeee-licious!)


Tsavorite hardness: 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs scale

Toughness: very

Cleavage: none

Stability to light: Stable

*NEW* Buyers guide – look for gems that are emerald green in color.  The color shouldn’t be yellowish green or too dark, as these are considered lower grade gems.  View it under daylight as incandescent lighting can make it appear a little more yellowish.  For all gems, when it comes to cut, never compromise!  The light should reflect evenly across the gem, making it sparkle.  Look for eye-clean or near eye-clean gems.  If you have any doubts when you’re making a substantial purchase, you can always get an independent lab report to ensure that the merchandiser is selling you the gem they say it is, not just a bill of goods, you dig?

Another green garnet, demantoid, was originally discovered in Russia around 1853 by a group of children (and not a charging buffalo in sight!).  They are found in other parts of the world but the Russian-mined garnets remain the standard by which all other demantoid gems are measured.  By the way, a well-cut demantoid can display such a stunning amount of dispersion (the ability to split white light into the full spectrum of color – a.k.a fire); it can have a higher rate than a diamond! Peter Carl Faberge integrated this garnet into some of his pieces for the Royal family from the late 1800’s until 1917 when the Russian revolution brought a sudden end to the house of Faberge and the Romanov dynasty. Russian demantoid garnets are considered a highly valued due to the long, thin needle-like strands of chrysotile (a form of asbestos) forming what is called “Horsetail inclusions”.  These golden wisps are markers of Russian origins, but they are also found in gems from Iran and Italy.  They are not found in those from Namibia and Madagascar. Check out this example of Russian demantoid.  You can see how the inclusions burst like fireworks!



Below are two views of a pendant Peter Carl Faberge created using a delicious demantoid garnet.  Staring at his gorgeous enameling makes me itch to get back to it, myself!


Because I care, here is a demantoid brooch, circa 1885 (L) and a ring auctioned at Sotheby’s; you can see the horsetail inclusions in the ring…


Although the greens between tsavorite and demantoid overlap, the demantoid is a bit softer and has higher refraction (how the varying density of gems make light waves change direction as it passes through it) and dispersion.

Demantoid hardness: 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale

Toughness: good

Cleavage: none

Stability to light: Stable

Buyers guide – While an emerald green color is the ideal, it really comes to a matter of personal taste; darker gems will have less fire whereas a lighter color will show more fire.  They are rarely more than 1 or 2 carats in size.

Care: Garnets are heat sensitive and should not be exposed to sudden changes in temperature.  Ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended.  The best way to clean them is with a soft cloth or soft brush (not a toothbrush and only if needed) with warm water and a mild soap.  Rinse thoroughly with the same temperature water to make sure all soap is rinsed off.  Although they are tough and durable, remember to protect them from hard blows and keep them away from other gems to prevent scratching.

Symbolic meanings for garnet to use in your gift-giving guide are: Purity, Truth, Faithfulness, and Friendship.  It’s also the gemstone given for the second wedding anniversary. *

That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed learning about the garnet group as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you!  Later this week, I will start off by using gemstones as an acrostic message.  On week 2, I will give you some tips for taking good care of your lovely jewelry and then we will spend the remainder of the month exploring February’s birthstone, Amethyst.  Thanks for your time!


Please feel free to ask for reference information

*this information will be provided in the last birthstone post.