Cleaning and Caring for Your Jewelry – Myths and Facts
Everyone owns at least a few pieces of jewelry. Why do we buy jewelry and love it so? Like fish are attracted to a shiny lure, women love sparkly jewelry. The more the sparkle, the better. Whether you have a complete jewelry wardrobe or just a few pieces, you probably wear it to complement your outfits and get noticed.
What makes faceted gemstones sparkle? Light penetrates through the top of the gemstone (the table), travels inside to a facet and bounces off of that facet. Depending on the gemstone’s dispersion, the light then becomes a prism, splitting into beautiful rainbows of color and travels back to your eyes. If you have hairspray, body oil, lotions, soaps, etc. on that gemstone, the sparkle can’t be created
There are a lot of ways you have been told to clean your jewelry:
Toothpaste with a toothbrush – the school of thought from the 1940s was that the volcanic pumice in the toothpaste would make both the gemstones and the metals shine. This method with scratch your gemstones and gold/platinum/silver settings.
Sonic cleaners – jewelers use them, so they must be great for jewelry, right? You put your jewelry into a basket, add pre-packaged jewelry cleaner, water and turn it on. Waves of water wash your jewelry. Using a sonic cleaner will loosen your gemstones right out of the prongs and/or crack and destroy tanzanites, emeralds, etc.
Jewelry steamers – jewelers use these too. They cut through any gunk that is inside your rings, chains, bracelets, etc. These build up the heat inside the gemstones (even diamonds) and if put in cool water after steam cleaning, the gemstone can fracture internally. A client of ours in London went to the Queen’s Royal Jewelers with an emerald ring and a red Burmese spinel we designed, and they used too much steam and destroyed these beautiful gemstones.
Jewelry polishing cloths – they polish and remove tarnish. Simply rub with the chemically treated cloth, showing instant results of black tarnish on the cloths. These cloths should only be used on completely clean jewelry. Think of the wax finish on your car – using a polishing cloth or buffer on a dirty car will scratch the finish. Some of the cloths are treated with toxic chemicals, so you must use with care.
Liquid jewelry cleaners – you buy a jar with this pink or blue chemical liquid and a tiny brush. You drop your jewelry in the jar and after some time use the brush and rinse. These chemicals can be toxic and they also can damage your gemstone jewelry.
Some formulation of borax, or bleach, or ammonia in various solutions with water. Probably the worst things use you can use to clean your jewelry. These solutions are strong and can damage both the gemstones and the settings.
There is a better way. As gemologists specializing in diamonds and colored gemstone jewelry, here is what we use at California Girl Jewelry and recommend to all our clients - Dawn dish detergent. Seriously. That’s it - just Dawn dish detergent.
Dawn dish detergent has the unique ability to break down almost instantly body oils, lotions, soap residue, almost everything that accumulates on your jewelry. We tell all our clients – just take a jar and mix about a tablespoon of Dawn with a 1/4 cup of warm water (not hot). Put your jewelry in the Dawn while you shower and get dressed. After your hair is done, lotions applied, perfume, take the jewelry out of the Dawn and just rinse in warm water. Dry with a soft towel. If a more thorough cleaning is needed, soak the jewelry overnight and use a very soft toothbrush with Dawn. That’s it. This cleaning method will bring your jewelry to sunglass-worthy sparkle. (Please note – opals, coral, turquoise, pearls or other porous gemstones are not recommended for this cleaning treatment.)
Colored gemstones have various hardness – measured on the Mohs’ scale. The higher the number, the harder the gemstone. Diamonds are the hardest at 10, while others, like Tanzanites are soft at 6.5. All gemstones will benefit with a cleaning with Dawn – except those porous gemstones listed above. Opals require different care (we’ll be happy to talk to you about them). Use Dawn to clean the side diamonds and metal settings that are usually with these porous gemstones, and just use a damp (clean) cloth on those special care gemstones. If in doubt about your gemstones, stop by the store – we’ll be happy to talk to you about your gemstone’s care.
Remember the old jeweler’s adage, “Put your jewelry on last, take your jewelry off first”. Hair sprays, perfumes, etc. will keep your jewelry from sparkling. Keep a jar of Dawn on your vanity – you will be amazed at the sparkling results.