Understanding how to care for and protect your treasured jewelry can make a world of difference in maintaining its beauty and keeping your heirlooms sparkling for generations to come.
Cleaning your jewelry
Most colored gems can be cleaned with warm water, mild dish soap (no detergents) and a soft brush. Be sure to rinse your jewelry in a glass of water to remove cleaning solutions since you risk losing loose stones – or even an entire piece of jewelry – if you rinse directly in the sink. Soft gems, such as pearls, on the other hand, can easily scratch. Use a new, clean makeup brush and warm, soapy water to softly clean them. Lay a strand of pearls on a towel to dry. The wet silk thread can stretch − and attract dirt − so don’t touch your strand until it is completely dry.
Ultrasonic cleaners should not be used to clean:
- Gems that are susceptible to heat and temperature changes whether they are treated or not. Some of these gems include tanzanite, sunstone, moonstone, fluorite, iolite, kunzite, lapis lazuli, malachite, opal, topaz, turquoise and zircon.
- Gemstones with surface-reaching breaks that have been filled with a substance such as oil, resin or a glass-like material.
- Organic gem materials such as pearls, coral, ivory, or amber.
- Some heat-treated gemstones.
The vibration generated by the machine can sometimes shake gems loose or chip gems that are set with their girdles touching.
Storing your jewelry
Proper jewelry storage is often overlooked. Jewelry should never be tossed into a drawer or on top of a dresser − that’s asking for scratches and damaged gems. Most jewelry pieces come in a box or pouch from the store, which is a perfect place to keep them. Sterling silver, for example, should be kept in an anti-tarnish bag or cloth. Jewelry boxes that feature individually padded slots for rings and posts for hanging necklaces and bracelets are also ideal.
Light and heat exposure
Just as the sun’s harmful rays can damage our skin, light and heat can affect a colored gemstone’s durability and color. Over time, they can fade or damage some gemstones. Pearls and other delicate materials can bleach under extreme exposure to light and may dry out, crack or discolor. Excessive heat and sudden temperature changes may also fracture some gems. Heat can easily remove the natural moisture these gems need to keep their beauty. Opals can turn white or brown, develop tiny cracks, and might lose their play-of-color.
Exposure to harmful chemicals
Exposure to chemicals can damage or discolor precious metals – gold, silver and platinum – and may harm some colored gems. Even everyday substances like hairspray, lotion, perfume or other cosmetics can contain chemicals that will permanently damage the surface of your pearls and other delicate or porous gems. Fine jewelry should be removed before diving into a chlorinated swimming pool or before using household cleaners. Many of these cleaners contain ammonia, which can be too harsh for delicate gems or vintage jewelry. Chlorine bleach, another common household solvent, can pit or damage gold alloys.