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It is important to have your jewelry inspected and cleaned regularly by a jeweler you can trust. However, there are many things you can do on your own to care for and protect your jewelry. The information offered below will help you protect your valuable investments by avoiding some very real problems that arise from improper storage, heat, light and exposure to harmful chemicals.
Perhaps the easiest, and yet most often overlooked, way to care for you jewelry is ensuring it is properly stored at the end of each day. Precious metals and gemstones possess varying levels of hardness. In addition, some pieces possess sharper corners or design elements than others. For these reasons, one must avoid the temptation to simply toss one's jewelry together in a drawer or box. Piling one's jewelry together will most certainly result in scratches and even fractured gemstones. We recommend the following rules of thumb:
Storing Your Jewelry
- Remove rings before performing household chores, such as cleaning, gardening or working with hand tools
- Jewelry should be stored separately to avoid scratches and damage from other jewelry. It is best to store your jewelry in a jewelry box or in individual cases/pouches. Make sure your jewelry box is equipped with padded slots, posts and compartments that offer the ability to store each piece securely.
Store necklaces, chains and bracelets flat or on so as to avoid kinks and knots.
- Always store bead jewelry and pearls flat and in a soft pouch. Avoid storing pearls in plastic bags, as the lack of moisture will cause the pearl to dry out and decay.
- Store jewelry away from sunlight as light and heat may have adverse effects on certain gemstones, causing them to fade or even crack (see the chart below for more details).
- Never throw your jewelry in your handbag or parcel.
- Never leave jewelry on the edge of a sink - they can very easily slip down the drain.
- Do not sleep in your jewelry.
- When traveling, give care to packing your jewelry items. Protect your pieces from scratches and impact damage by using padding. Jewelry travel totes are recommended.
- Keep silver away from sulfurous materials to prevent tarnish. Store in an airtight zipper bag to prevent air from coming in contact with your silver.
Cleaning Your Jewelry
When cleaning your own jewelry, it is important to remember that precious metals like gold and silver are susceptible to damage from exposure to chemicals found in many household cleaning agents. These and other common chemicals, such as chlorine found in most pools, can also damage or discolor gemstones. Clean your jewelry and colored gems with warm water, a soft brush, and use only a mild soap (no detergents) if at all. A water pick or toothpick may be used to clean the hard to reach places, while a soft, lint-free cloth works well for drying and polishing. And of course, be sure to close the sink's drain before cleaning. A list of cleaning tips follows:
- Clean ear wires in rubbing alcohol.
- Use a soft polishing cloth to clean your pearls and gemstone jewelry - chemical paste, liquid and bath cleaners are too harsh.
- Avoid wearing jewelry when spraying hair spray, perfume, and when coloring your hair; different agents cause jewelry to dull.
- Purchase an appropriate cleaning solution to keep your pieces clean and untarnished. Consider using an ultrasonic cleaner, but first consult the Gemstone Care chart below.
- Grease can be easily removed from gold jewelry by dipping it in rubbing alcohol.
- Don't rub precious metal with anything other than a fine piece of felt or polishing cloth to prevent scratching from fibers.
- Never use an ultrasonic cleaner on organic materials (amber, bone, coral, horn, ivory and pearls). This is also true for opals and turquoise.
- Pearls require special care. After each wearing, gently wipe them with a soft cloth to remove body oils and perfume.
Listed below are commonly known gemstones and some rules of thumb for cleaning them.
Amethyst A durable stone that can be cleaned using an ultrasonic cleaner. Avoid direct heat.
Aquamarine Do not use an ultrasonic cleaner - use only soap and water. Avoid heat as it may cause discoloration.
Blue Topaz Do not use an ultrasonic cleaner. Avoid prolonged exposure to light and heat. Be careful to avoid sharp blows or sudden temperature changes.
Citrine A durable stone that can be cleaned using an ultrasonic cleaner. Avoid direct heat.
Diamond A durable stone that can be cleaned using an ultrasonic cleaner.
Emerald Do not use an ultrasonic cleaner, as it may dissolve the oils inside the stone. Emeralds should be cleaned gently with a small brush and lukewarm water. Avoid sudden temperature changes and sharp blows. Consider having your emeralds re-oiled periodically by your jeweler.
Garnet A very durable stone that can be cleaned using an ultrasonic cleaner.
Opal Do not use an ultrasonic cleaner or any ammonia based cleaner on the stone. Clean with a small brush and lukewarm water.
Pearl Never use ultrasonic or steam cleaners. Clean regularly (after each wearing) with a soft cloth. Periodically clean with very mild non-detergent soap. Lay pearls on a clean towel and dry completely before wear. Avoid contact with perfumes, cosmetics and household cleaners, and return your strand to your jeweler for periodic professional cleaning and restringing. Peridot Do not use an ultrasonic cleaner. Be careful to avoid sharp blows or sudden temperature changes.
Ruby Rubies are generally very durable stones; however, avoid sharp blows or prolonged exposure to heat.
Sapphire A very durable stone that can be cleaned using an ultrasonic cleaner. Avoid direct or prolonged exposure to heat.
Tanzanite Do not use an ultrasonic cleaner - use only soap and water. Be careful to avoid sharp blows or sudden temperature changes.
Topaz Do not use an ultrasonic cleaner - use only soap and water. Be careful to avoid sharp blows or sudden temperature changes.
Tourmaline Do not use an ultrasonic cleaner - use only soap and water. Be careful to avoid sharp blows or sudden temperature changes.
Turquoise Do not use an ultrasonic cleaner - use only soap and water. Do not expose to ammonia or chlorine, and avoid prolonged exposure to heat (turquoise is susceptible to cracks when heated).
Zircon A rather soft stone that may be damaged by heat or exposure to household chemicals. Clean with a small brush and lukewarm water.