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



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