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Caring for Jewelry

CARING FOR YOUR JEWELRY

Although fine jewelry is made from some of the world's most durable substances, gemstones and precious metals, it does need some care. Following a few easy guidelines will make sure that your jewelry pieces last for generations still looking like the day you bought them.

First of all: keep them clean! Lotions, powders, soaps, and natural skin oils can build up on jewelry, cutting down on the brilliance of the gems. Rings in particular tend to collect dust and soap behind the stone, particularly if you wear them all the time.

To clean transparent crystalline gemstones, simply soak them in water with a touch of gentle soap or ammonia. If necessary, use a soft toothbrush to scrub behind the stone. After brushing, simply rinse with lukewarm water and allow them to dry. Grease can be removed from plain karat gold jewelry by dipping it into ordinary rubbing alcohol. Rubbing with a soft chamois cloth is an effective way to keep gold jewelry shining.

Store your jewelry in a clean, dry place: a fabric-lined jewelry case or box with compartments and dividers is ideal. If you prefer to use an ordinary box, wrap each piece individually in soft tissue paper. Don't jumble your jewelry pieces in a drawer or jewelry case. Store each piece of gemstone jewelry separately so that harder stones don't scratch softer ones. Almost every gemstone is much harder than the metal it is set in. Gems can scratch the finish on your gold, silver or platinum if you throw your jewelry in a heap in a drawer or jewelry box.

Avoid immersing your jewelry in chemicals like chlorine. It's a good idea to remove jewelry before entering a chlorinated pool or hot tub or putting your hands into water with bleach. Chlorine, especially at high temperatures, can permanently damage or discolor your gold jewelry.

There are many types of small machines on the market that will clean jewelry in a matter of minutes using high-frequency sound. These ultrasonic cleaners can be a convenient way to quickly clean your jewelry at home. However, ultrasonic cleaners can damage some jewelry, particularly pieces set with pearls or colored gemstones.

Even the hardest gemstones can be vulnerable to breakage if they have inclusions that weaken the crystal structure. Exercise common sense: remove your jewelry during strenuous work or exercise. Diamonds are the hardest substance on earth but they can shatter in two with a single well-placed blow. Rubies and sapphires are the toughest gems but even they can chip if hit sharply. Take particular care if you have a ring set with a gem variety with a hardness less than 7 or an included stone. Treat each piece of fine jewelry you own with respect and you will enjoy it forever.

Jewelry Requiring Special Care Cultured Pearls Apply cosmetics, hair sprays and perfume before putting on any pearl jewelry. When you remove the pearl jewelry, wipe it carefully with a soft cloth to remove any traces of these substances.

You can also wash your pearl jewelry with mild soap and water. Do not clean cultured pearls with any chemicals, abrasives or solvents. These substances can damage your pearls.

Do not toss your cultured pearl jewelry carelessly into a purse, bag or jewel box. A pearl's surface is soft and can be scratched by hard metal edges or by the harder gemstones of other jewelry pieces. Place cultured pearls in a chamois bag or wrap them in tissue when putting them away.

Opal, Coral, Amber and Opaque Gems Opals require special care. Never use an ultrasonic cleaner, never use ammonia, and avoid heat and strong light, which can dry out the water in opals. Opal rings should not be worn during strenuous work or exercise: they will chip if hit with a sharp blow. Organic gems like coral and amber should only be wiped clean with a moist cloth. Due to their organic nature, these gems are both soft and porous. Be careful about chemicals in hairspray, cosmetics, or perfume: they can, over time, damage organic gems. Opaque gemstones like lapis lazuli, turquoise, and malachite, require special care. Never use an ultrasonic cleaner and never use ammonia or any chemical solution. These gem materials should just be wiped clean gently with a moist cloth. These gemstones can be porous and may absorb chemicals, even soap, and they may build up inside the stone and discolor it.

The reason why these materials need more care than transparent gemstones is that these materials are essentially rocks, not crystals of a single mineral. Think about it: when you put a rock in water, it absorbs the water and is moist all the way through. A single crystal gem like sapphire will not absorb water: all the molecules are lined up so tightly in the crystal that there is no room for water to enter.