All fine jewelry needs loving care. Whether the two of you have chosen the perfect wedding set, your favorite aunt entrusted you with her favorite emerald brooch, or you’ve just found the most beautiful opal pendant for yourself, there are some general guidelines you need to know to keep your jewelry looking its best. Be sure to look at the chart below to see which cleaning methods are recommended for each type of gemstone.
Be sure to take off your jewelry and put it somewhere safe before you start doing any work where you might subject gemstones to impacts or chemicals. Chemicals can etch into gemstones, especially softer ones like opal or amber, and it can destroy the polished surfaces of many stones. Everyday wear is usually safe for any gemstone with a Mohs hardness rating of 7 or higher -- you can trust that they won’t scratch easily. Still, some of the harder but more brittle gemstones like the topaz and emerald are quite fragile and can chip or crack. Even the diamond, the hardest known substance, is not invincible to blows.
After you are done wearing your jewelry for the night, take it off -- but don’t pull by the stone! You might loosen its setting. Gently wipe jewelry with a soft cloth to remove excess dirt and oil. If allowed to build up on the surface of gems, these will dull the brilliance of faceted stones and can cut the luster of pearls.
Always store your jewelry in cloth pouches, paper, or jewelry boxes that have separate sections. Not only will you always know where you last saw those favorite diamond stud earrings, but this practice will prevent pieces from scratching each other. In particular, keep diamond pieces stored separately -- diamonds have a well-deserved reputation for scratching all other gemstones and each other. Also, it pays to store chains separately and save yourself the headache of untangling them.
Put your jewelry on after you apply your makeup, perfume, and hairspray. The chemicals contained in these products will affect most gemstones over time, ruining surface appearance.
Before you put a piece of jewelry on, test it for loosened stones and check the clasp. There’s nothing worse than losing a beloved piece of jewelry because the clasp fails.
Once a year, have your rings professionally cleaned. The jeweler will check for loose settings and put the original sparkle back in your favorite jewelry. And, most reputable jewelers will perform this service for free. Pearl and bead necklaces should be restrung by a professional every two years, or once a year if you wear them frequently.
Many precious gemstones have their own special needs and requirements that you should be aware of to ensure their longevity. Popular methods of cleaning, such as ultrasonic cleaners and steam cleaning, are not appropriate for all gems.
Amethyst, Citrine, and other members of the quartz family shouldn’t be steam cleaned because intense heat (as well as prolonged light) can permanently alter their color. Opals should always be treated with some care. Avoid impacts, chemicals, heat and extremely dry conditions -- all promote cracking. As for your emerald jewelry, avoid heat cleaning and chemicals that can remove the jeweler’s oil. Topaz sometimes cracks when subjected to sudden temperature changes as it would in steam cleaning. Porous gems like turquoise and amber are popular in silver jewelry, but they will become discolored by silver cleaners.
Aside from these cautions, you can clean your own jewelry at home without much fuss. For most types of mounted gemstone pieces, occasional, gentle brushing with a baby toothbrush in warm, mildly soapy water and drying with a soft cloth is all you need to keep your jewelry looking its finest every day. But, do use a bowl to clean your jewelry; don’t do it over the sink! Use this chart to remember which methods are best for different types of gemstones:
|Coral||wipe with damp cloth||no||no||no|
|Diamond||Yes, rinse and dry well||yes||yes||mild|
|Opal||dry or damp cloth only||no||no||no|
Cleaning natural diamonds at home isn’t hard to do. Commercial cleaners that are mild and ammonia based are fine for do-it-yourself cleaning. Be sure to use a bowl to put your jewelry in, or –- if you really want to wash them over the sink -- put a strainer or colander over the drain to prevent them from falling down the drain. For particularly quick and sparkling results, try bathing your diamond with vodka –- it really works!