Proper Care for Special Jewelry Pieces
Good pieces of jewelry are not only items of value, they can also be sentimental pieces that conjure memories of special times in your life. Proper care of your jewelry will help to keep it looking its best for a lifetime. Some types of jewelry require special care to avoid damaging delicate stones. Jewelry cleaning sessions are a good time to inspect your jewelry to determine if any pieces need repair.
Pure gold is very soft, so jewelry is usually made with an alloy of gold along with another metal to give it more strength. Gold does not tarnish, though the metals mixed with it can discolor. Gold that is at least 14K will most likely not tarnish over time. Make a solution of a mild, non-phosphate detergent and water and gently clean the metal with a Q-tip or soft cloth. This action will remove dirt and tarnish, if it has occurred. Rinse the gold pieces with clear water and allow them to dry completely overnight. Then, buff the gold with a jewelry polishing cloth in a straight-line pattern. Do not use toothpaste or baking soda to clean gold.
A silver cleaning paste works well for silver jewelry that has a texture that can catch dirt and oils. Rinse thoroughly and dry the pieces with a soft cloth. Always be careful to keep the cleaner off the stones held by the silver. Stones like turquoise and pearl are very delicate and can be damaged by the chemicals in the cleaning paste. Sterling silver is very soft and can become damaged very easily. The best method of cleaning is to use a silver cleaning cloth that is free of any abrasives. A clean sponge can also be used if you are certain it does not contain any chemicals.
You can clean diamonds safely with a small, soft-bristled brush and a mild ammonia and water solution, no more than 10 percent. Scrub away grime between the prongs and under the setting where dirt buildup is likely to be found. Then, lightly wash the diamond and rinse thoroughly. Avoid touching the diamond with fingers, as this can leave a thin layer of skin oil on the stone.
You can soak gemstones in a bowl of warm, soapy water to remove dirt and body oils. Avoid using hot water, which can discolor some metals like sterling silver. Then, use a soft-bristled, non-metal brush to gently remove dirt from tight crevices. Avoid using abrasive-type cleaners on gemstones. Many gemstones are treated to enhance color by oiling, irradiation or diffusion processes. Though irradiated and oiled stones can generally be cleaned safely, diffusion-treated stones may lose color when frequently cleaned. In addition, emeralds often contain oils that can be stripped away by home cleaning, making the stone appear different. If this occurs, take the stone to a reputable jeweler for oiling.
Nature creates pearls with layers of nacre, a substance made by the oyster to protect itself against an irritant. This nacre is very soft by most jewelry standards and can be easily dulled or deteriorated by chemicals and cleaners. Gently clean pearl jewelry only with a solution of a very mild soap and water. Pearls may require re-stringing by a reputable jeweler every few years.
Using Ultrasonic Cleaners
Ultrasonic cleaners are devices that use vibration and liquid to help remove dirt, grime and body oils from jewelry. However, the vibration can cause serious damage to delicate stones. Many experts advise against using these machines because some gemstones cannot tolerate the vibrational movement. Always check with your jeweler before using these devices on your good jewelry.