Caring for your Jewelry: General Do's and Don'ts
Always consult a certified Gemologist for the correct method of cleaning your particular gemstone. This is provided as a courtesy, and not an exhaustive list.
Make it a regular practice to visually inspect your jewelry periodically. Don't just take your jewelry for granted. Pay close attention to the clasps, chains, gemstones, beads etc. Also latches and catches on chains and bracelets should close with an audible "snap". If not, they may not be working properly. Remember, preventive maintenance is your best insurance and will save you time and money in the long run. Have repairs done promptly when needed and your jewelry will last many years.
Protect your jewelry when it is not being worn by separating it from other jewelry using a separate compartment in your jewelry box, or keep jewelry in separate cloth bags, or pockets to prevent tangling or scratching. When improperly stored, gems and gem quality items can damage each other. For example, diamonds will scratch all other gemstones including rubies, sapphires and emeralds. Additionally, most gemstones will scratch gold, silver and platinum.
There are several products on the market including tarnish free jewelry boxes and silver anti-tarnish pouches or cloth, that slow down the process immensely. If you own many pieces of jewelry, I feel they are well worth the investment. The next best thing is to store your pieces in sealed plastic sandwich bags until you are ready to wear them. I purchase "Pacific Silver Cloth" from my local fabric store, and put a snip of it into the plastic bags I store my jewelry. Do not mix different metals in the same bag, some can permanently damage each other.
Pearls deserve special attention. Separate them into their own silk or cotton pouch and be sure they are clean and dry before storing.
Put jewelry on after you apply hair spray or cosmetics. Chemicals present in either may cause damage, especially to cultured pearls. Wipe your pearls with a soft chamois or flannel cloth after each wearing to remove your skin's oils and salts.
A few colored gemstones, such as kunzite, may fade when worn in sunlight or in a tanning booth. Avoid exposing fine jewelry to intense heat, for example, while cooking. Exposure to extreme heat can cause damage to many gems. Don’t take off rings and lay them on the side of the sink unless you are sure the drain is closed.
Avoid exposing fine jewelry to extreme temperature changes, such as might be encountered by putting jewelry in a refrigerator or in-the-ground safe during the winter, where temperatures may be quite cold, then removing it and wearing it in a heated room. This is especially true with opals.
Few watches are waterproof, though many are water resistant. If moisture or dust has penetrated the case of your watch, have it checked only by an authorized technician. Attempts by an untrained repairperson may seriously damage the watch and invalidate factory warranties.
Activity which might subject a gemstone to sharp blows-such as gardening, working with hand tools, or playing sports-may also damage a gemstone. Diamonds are also susceptible to damage from an impact, which might cause them to chip or crack.
Keep your jewelry clean always. Grit from dust and makeup will cause premature wear and tear on your jewelry, and may be the only thing holding in your stones, so please carry out the cleaning process in a bowl that can catch a lose stone, and carefully check for missing stones before dumping cleaning water. I actually use a tea strainer to ensure I don't accidently toss a jewel.
It is dangerous to remove jewelry outside of the home, as it is VERY easy to lose. If you are putting on lotion or need to remove your jewelry at an appointment, plan ahead by putting a small ziploc see-thru bag in your purse so you can safely see and store your jewelry. When I put on lotion, I carefully hold my rings between my teeht or lips (no lipstick).
Speaking of teeth, often you can use a very soft toothbrush, or Water-Pik to clean jewelry. For the finnicky/delicate stones I've described, or listed in this article, don't use this method. The water jet can be messy, so work inside a plastic bag. Set the pulse on "medium" and direct the jet under and around the stones. With invisibly set jewelry, clean the stones first from the top, then from the bottom while pressing your finger against the stones from the top. This method is very effective for cleaning emerald jewelry. (described in an About.com article regarding Jewelry Cleaning).
For nearly every jewelry design I create, I feel comfortable using Sunshine Products-except of course the porous gemstones and beads listed above and below. The following website sells this product and gives you specific directions on what you can or cannot use it for:
Be very careful when using any soaking method to clean jewelry that has soft stones (amber, azurite, calcite, chrysocolla, fluorite, lapis lazuli, malachite, pearls, rhodochrosite, sodalite and turquoise are all soft stones which should be cleaned with care). Extended soaking in any solution may harm the polish on the stone. With these soft stones it is preferable to simply wipe the stones down with a little soapy water rather than soaking them. Because they are very porous they absorb liquid and can become discolored by any chemicals - even soap. Pearls are especially sensitive to acidity and humidity. It is recommended that you wrap pearl pieces in jeweler’s tissue and store directly in a soft bag as moisture can build up in a plastic bag and damage the pearls.
There are a variety of methods to clean silver. Google “ how to clean Sterling silver jewelry”. About.com has great recipes. I’ve found that storing silver in Ziploc bags minimizes tarnishing. There is also a cloth you can find at your local fabric shop that is specifically used to cover silver and prevents tarnish called “Pacific cloth”. It’s a brown treated soft cloth, and I cover my jewelry in between shows with this cloth, you can cut it into small squares and add it to the plastic bags.
***To make my crystals “Bling and Sing” I use a combo of Ammonia, Mr Clean, and Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (dissolved in warm water).You must be extremely cautious using these ingredients-read the About.com article, as it can ruin pearls, turquoise and many other stones, and harmful to breathe unless used in a very well ventilated space!
I tumble nearly all my jewelry when I’ve completed the design, unless there are delicate or porous stones like Turquoise, Amber, Ivory, Mystic Topaz or Pearls. For these stones, please do not tumble or use liquid jewelry cleaners as they cannot withstand the abrasiveness and will remove their natural finish. Use a soft flannel cloth with warm water to wipe the jewelry clean that contains the above delicate stones. I tumble my own personal jewelry except for the above stones and gems. There is an excellent article online at "Urban Maille"’s website, and they have wonderful products and information!
I use ultrasonic cleaners for chains only, as many stones can be damaged in the solution or the vibration of the machine.
Use a silver polishing cloth or a mild liquid detergent with warm water is safe for most items and will remove light dirt.
Bottom line: Clean Responsibly :) -read and investigate prior to caring for your jewelry. I'm a Google gal, when I need to know, I Google!
Don't put jewelry loose in your pocket or purse. This is the most common way jewelry becomes damaged-or LOST.
It seems obvious, but don't wear your jewelry while doing rough work such as gardening, and or, engaged in a form of physical activity…exercising etc. It is surprising how many people do this and damage their wedding rings, bracelets, and other jewelry.
Don't wear any gold or silver jewelry when swimming in a pool. The chlorine in the pool water reacts with the precious metals. A little bit of the metal dissolves in the water with each contact. The effect is cumulative, but, in time, the metal becomes brittle and is susceptible to cracking. The net result is the loss of stones and the breaking of chains and bracelets around the clasps.
Don't sleep wearing your chains or delicate bracelets. They can easily become pulled or kinked during sleep. Earrings can come off and could even cause injury. Chains can become broken from links.