A regular professional cleaning is a good idea. Not only does it keep your jewelry looking its best, it also ensures that a trained professional takes a look at it at least once a year, allowing for the earliest possible detection of wear or damage. Between professional cleanings, however, there are some things you can do to keep your jewelry clean.
For diamonds, use a soft-bristled non-metallic brush and a mild ammonia and water solution. Gently scrub away any grime, especially around the prongs or setting where buildup is likely. Even a clean looking diamond often has a thin layer of skin oil and will shine better after a cleaning. Avoid touching the diamond as much as possible.
Cleaning gemstones is easy. Simply soak the piece in a bowl of warm, soapy water for several minutes and then use a soft, non-metallic brush to remove any grime. If you use a jewelry cleanser, make sure it is non-abrasive. Don’t use harsh chemical cleaners, and don’t clean the item in the sink too often it ends up down the drainpipe. Also keep in mind that some gemstones may have been treated or enhanced by heating, oiling, irradiation or diffusion. Heated and irradiated stones generally don’t require special care when cleaning, but diffused stones could become lighter if scrubbed too hard. Also, the oil on an emerald can be stripped away by cleaning, making the emerald change appearance. If this happens, simply bring it to your jeweler for re-oiling.
Pearls are beautiful. Unfortunately, the layers of nacre of which a pearl is made are very soft by jewelry standards and easily damaged. Since it is an organic compound, pearls also are easily dulled or even eaten away by chemicals and alcohol. Wash cultured pearls in very mild, soapy water and nothing else. It's also a good idea to bring your cultured pearls in for restringing every couple of years, especially if you wear them often.
For mountings, you can use rubbing alcohol to dissolve some of the stickier grime. However, don’t use alcohol on any kind of pearl jewelry. Soap and water and a soft brush will take care of most of your cleaning needs. Make sure the brush is VERY soft when used on metal, especially gold, which can be scratched relatively easily. Use a soft cloth that won’t leave fuzz or threads behind to dry and buff your jewelry once it's cleaned.
Ultrasonic cleaners are machines that clean jewelry by bombarding them with sound waves. This vibration shakes off dirt, but the vibrations can also cause serious damage. The inclusions in gemstones, especially brittle stones like emeralds, can be greatly enlarged by the shaking, making the stones less attractive and even less valuable. Soft gems like pearls should never be put in an ultrasonic cleaner. Because of the risk, we recommend against using the ultrasonic cleaners now available to consumers unless your jeweler specifically says it won’t cause any damage.
Jewelry Shipping & Storage
If you've ever sent jewelry somewhere, you know how tense it can be. However, there are a few simple precautions that can make the experience less stressful.
Package your jewelry securely in an appropriately sized box. When possible, use a box designed to hold the specific type of jewelry you are sending, since this will hold it securely. Otherwise, wrap each piece individually in cloth, not plastic, and fill empty spaces in the box to keep the jewelry from shifting too much.
Use a shipping method that allows tracking, such as UPS or FedEx, so you'll be able to know when it gets to its destination.
Buy insurance, especially for extremely valuable jewelry. It costs a little, but it can make the sting of lost jewelry a little easier to bear.
Jewelry is vulnerable while it's being worn, but it can also suffer damage if it isn't stored properly. Diamond is the hardest substance on Earth. So how does a diamond get scratched? By another diamond. Diamond jewelry can also scratch softer stones as well as gold and even platinum. For this reason, it’s important to store your jewelry so the pieces don't come in contact with each other.
Wrap individual pieces in tissue or cloth or put them in separate compartments in a jewelry box. Be extra careful with pearl jewelry since it is soft and scratches more easily than gems and metals.
Often jewelry comes in a special box, bag or wrap. Keep these; they are often the best means for storing or packaging the jewelry and will provide protection from damage and dirt.
Caring for your jewelry starts with proper wear. That means knowing when to put your jewelry on – and when to take it off.
Put jewelry on after applying makeup, perfume and hairspray. Also, handle gems and pearls as little as possible, since skin oil can build up over time and dull their appearance.
Remove your jewelry if you're going to do any manual labor, including housework. A bracelet can be easily broken or bent if it catches on a hook. Gems, even diamonds, can chip or crack if they're knocked against a hard surface. Another danger comes from the harsh solvents used in cleaning, which are not good for any kind of jewelry and particularly harmful to pearls.
If you wear earrings, it's usually best to remove them while you're having your hair styled. That way the stylist's comb won't catch them. And, never wear pearl earrings or necklaces while you're having your hair colored. Some of the coloring agents contain alcohol and other chemicals that can mar the luster of the pearls.
If you're right-handed, think about wearing a bracelet or watch on your left wrist since you don't use it as much as your right. The opposite applies if you're left-handed.