Jewelry Cleaning - Do's and Dont's

Jewelry cleaning is no rocket science and anyone can do it, but certainly a professional will do it best. It’s always advisable to get your jewelry cleaned once in a year. In the long run, this small yearly expenditure can save you from incurring heavy loss due to falling of stones or any permanent damage to jewelry.

Ultrasonic Cleaning and Steam Cleaning of Jewelry

Each gemstone has a different physical and chemical properties, so their cleaning process also differs. If you have knowledge of the gemstone (to be cleaned) and aware of its appropriate cleaning process, then it's fine, otherwise better don’t take risk!

Market is flooded with variety of inexpensive sonic and steam jewelry cleaners. But, keep following important points in mind before applying these cleaners on your piece of jewelry:

  • Ultrasonic cleaning is not recommended for porous gemstones like opal, pearl, amber, topaz, turquoise and many other gemstones.
  • You might not be aware that most of the emeralds sold in market are oil-treated, so using ultrasonic cleaner on emerald jewelry will remove the oil. Removal of oil fades the color of emerald leading to dull and discolored appearance.
  • Ultrasonic cleaners and steam cleaners can damage stones that have had undergone enhancement treatment (like - fracture filling to cover inclusions). Damage can be permanent and beyond repair.
  • These cleaners are not recommended for cleaning semi-precious gemstones that are "glued" in setting.
  • An ultrasonic cleaner can cause loose stones to come out of their settings.

Personally, I do not recommend Ultrasonic and steam cleaning at home. For this you must get your valuable jewelry cleaned by any trusted jeweler (this will ensure cleaning as well as inspection for any damage).

Cleaning with available Household Items

You will find lot of information on how to clean jewelry at home with household items. However, household items are not meant for cleaning jewelry as it can lead to permanently damaging your precious jewelry. I mean toothpaste is for cleaning your teeth, not for cleaning your valuable jewelry.

Chlorine, bleach, baking soda, acetone, alcohol, lemon juice, vinegar, coke, ammonia, turpentine, and similar chemicals can severely discolor and spoil jewelry, as well as loosen the settings.

Petroleum based products are strict no for some gemstones like amber and pearls, because these gems are delicate and can get permanently damaged beyond repair.

You won’t be able to hold anyone responsible if you end up ruining your jewelry, so apply your common sense before trying such chemicals on your jewelry.

Cleaning with Soap Water

You can clean your jewelry at home by simple soap water. Use this process to clean gold, platinum and silver jewelry. Even diamond, emerald, quartz and cubic zirconia jewelry can be cleaned using the following process.

  1. Close the drain of your sink before you start jewelry cleaning.
  2. Get some warm water in a bowl (water can be warmed in microwave, but Don't put jewelry in microwave). It should be warm enough for you to comfortably put your hands in it. Boiling water is not required for cleaning jewelry.
  3. Mix few drops of mild detergent in the bowl and soak the jewelry for 15 minutes.
  4. Dip a soft-bristled tooth brush or any jewelry cleaning brush into warm water, and very gently scrub the stone, getting into small areas between the stone and setting, especially underneath the stone where dirt collects.
  5. Rinse with warm water, and dry with a microfiber cleaning cloth. Using a microfiber cleaning cloth or a polishing cloth will ensure there are no wipe marks and stone will be sparkling clear.
  6. Let the cleaned jewelry dry in air for few hours before storing it safely.

NOTE: Don’t soak emerald, quartz, turquoise or pearl jewelry. These are porous gems and liquids can easily seep in, causing discoloration of gems. Just dip the jewelry in warm water and clean it.

Cleaning multi-gemstone Jewelry

Suppose you have a diamond and emerald engagement ring, which method will you will choose to clean? Simply follow the process that is safest for most delicate element. Like - don’t soak your diamond and emerald engagement ring in soap water, just dip and clean it with soft brush.

If you have emerald and pearl jewelry, be extra careful as both are very delicate. Use the brush gently only on emeralds and wipe each pearl individually with a microfiber cleaning cloth dampened with soap water.

Below chart summarizes types of cleaner/processes that can be applied on different gemstones:

Having said that, it's always a wise decision to take jewelry to a trusted jeweler for cleaning. You can always check with jeweler if it's safe to clean jewelry once in a while at home in soapy water.

So, keep your jewelry safe and clean to enjoy its sparkling beauty forever.

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