Dos and Don'ts of Cleaning and Maintaining Your Prized Jewelry Pieces

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash
This is a guest post by Roxy Burg. 

Jewelry is an investment encompassing not only money, but patience, love, and time. When jewelry is properly polished and cleaned, it draws attention from those around you and maintains its value. Nature’s gift of precious metals and gems requires special care. Gem hardness dictates how vulnerable it is to damage. The harder it is, the less chance of any mishaps.

Taking great care when cleaning your family heirlooms and the high-quality sentimental pieces in your collection is expected. However, too many people forget about the prized jewelry pieces they wear daily—like diamond stud earrings, their engagement ring and wedding band, or the heirloom pearl brooch—and their need for a little tender loving care as well.

To keep all the pieces you love the most sparkling clean and in superb condition, here is a list of some dos and don’t basics for cleaning and maintenance.

Jewelry in General

Whether it is gold, diamond, pearl, or sterling silver, there are certain recommendations that should be observed for all jewelry.

Do make jewelry the first thing you take off and the last thing you put on. This avoids contact with chemical-laden makeup, hair products, and perfumes that may cause damage or buildup.

It also prevents clothing from snagging on the item and potentially causing damage such as broken chains. Even if it did not break outright, the force from yanking weakens the item, increasing the chances it will break when you least expect it. Not only will this be costly to repair, but you also run the risk of losing something of extreme importance. It will also protect your clothes from rips and tears.

Don’t ever use toothpaste to clean your jewelry. Most toothpaste has abrasive qualities that cause scratches, not to mention the added chemicals in many brands that can tarnish or dull your jewelry’s appearance.

Do read all the labels on any cleaning supplies you purchase. There is no “one size fits all” for cleaners. As all metals and stones differ, so do the chemicals and tools used to clean them.

Don’t ever wear necklaces, chains, or bracelets to bed. They can easily catch on linens and bedding, get tangled in your hair, or unintentionally be pulled while you are sleeping. Sleeping in quality jewelry can shorten its lifespan by almost 80%!

Do use a baby’s soft-bristled toothbrush, mild dish soap, and warm water to clean your jewelry (except for porous gems and pearls). If you are unsure if soap is safe for your piece, get advice from your jeweler.

Don’t clean your jewelry over open drains unless you are willing to make an emergency call to the plumber.

Do use a soft cloth at the end of the day to wipe down items you wore to remove dirt and oil. Store all items in a compartmentalized jewelry box lined with fabric or in a fabric pouch.

Don’t keep jewelry on while swimming or performing arduous tasks like gardening.

Do take your jewelry in for a professional to look at once every year or two. They will examine your items for signs of wear, complete any needed repairs, and give them a good cleaning to restore brilliance.

Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash
Precious Metals


All precious metals are soft material. Therefore, they are easy to solder, melt, and manipulate. Especially with gold, the designs can look stunning, but they may not have been created to withstand the rigors of excessive wear and tear.

When ultrasonic cleaners first arrived for purchase, they were seen by many as the most effective way to clean your jewelry at home. This new technology was thought to be preferable to the previous methods of manual scrubbing or soap and water cleaning. Although ultrasonic cleaners are a great way to clean platinum, gold, and silver jewelry, the high heat process can ruin gemstones.

Do remove precious metal jewelry before sleeping, bathing, cleaning. Chlorine and bleach are the two worst enemies of alloys. They will cause pitting and an eventual degradation of the metal.

Don’t allow a buildup of dirt and oil to turn your jewelry dull.

Do store each piece in its own compartment or pouch, so it does not scratch other pieces. FYI, even paper can scratch gold!

Don’t wear pieces that are too long or large. Especially for bracelets and chains, there is an increased risk of them catching on something and snapping.

Do wipe down pieces with a soft cloth before storing them. Take the time to closely examine items with gemstones to ensure the settings are still solid.

Don’t wear pieces that are damaged or close to breakage. It is easy to lose jewelry, such as bracelets and necklaces, without even noticing.

Gemstones

When you first bring home a gemstone, it sparkles brilliantly, has stunning color, and is smoothly polished. When worn daily, these attributes fade quickly if it is not given some TLC.

Do clean your gemstones by hand and treat them gently, especially diamonds, to keep them brilliant and prevent buildup under the stones.

Don’t use an ultrasonic machine on gems. Diamonds and sapphires will likely come out okay because of their hardness, but it is always better to be safe now than sorry later.

Do wipe pieces off at the end of the day to get rid of dirt and body oil.

Don’t polish items too excessively if they are antique. Especially with rose or yellow gold, the patina it took more than a century to acquire is not something you want to lose.

Do examine prongs and settings at least weekly for any signs of wear or breaks.

Photo by Volha Kudzina on Unsplash
Pearls


Pearls are in a class all their own as they are organically formed by an animal. As such, they require different care than gemstones. Ranked at 2.5 on the Mohs scale, pearls are very soft and are not durable without proper care. Careless day-to-day contact or even washing your hands can irreparably damage them without you even noticing.

Pearls are extremely porous. Their nacre can be eaten away by beauty products and home cleaners, resulting in pearls lacking luster.

Do clean strands of pearls with soap, tepid water, and a soft-bristled brush. Allow them to dry by lying flat on an absorbent cloth. For other items like earrings, pendants, and rings, use a moist, warm cloth and dab them clean.

Don’t ever immerse pearl setting jewelry in water.

Do keep pearls away from extreme heat.

Don’t store them in an airtight container. Pearls require a certain moisture level and air circulation to keep from forming a patina.

Do watch carefully when wearing pearl rings. Sudden temperature changes can cause the metal post to contract and loosen the pearl.

Don’t ever hang pearls to store or dry. The cord will weaken and stretch.

Final Thoughts

Purchasing fine jewelry is not a spur of the moment decision. Due to the high cost, you want something you adore and will be excited to wear each time you put it on. With a small amount of time and effort, the treasured jewelry pieces you have in your collection will give you enjoyment for years and last to be passed down for many generations.

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