If your diamond ring has lost its luster or your silver or gold bracelet is starting to tarnish, you don’t have to pay big money to a jeweller to make them sparkle again. The following solutions will show you how to clean your jewellery so it looks like new again.
Caring for Pearl Jewellery
When cleaning your pearl jewellery it is recommended to use a mild, non-detergent soap, lukewarm water and soft cloth (preferably 100% cotton). Dip the cloth in the water and gently rub the pearl in a circular motion. Do not use excessive pressure. Lie flat on a towel and allow to air dry. Never soak your pearl jewellery as pearl is an absorbent material and soaking will cause them to swell and crack. Clean your pearl jewellery regularly and avoid excessive contact with perfume, dirt and skin oil. Remember to always put your pearl jewellery on last, after you have applied makeup and perfume.
Never store pearl jewellery in an airtight container or plastic bags as this can cause their quality to deteriorate; some plastics may even emit chemicals that can harm pearl jewellery. Protect pearl jewellery from temperature extremes and chemicals, such as alcohol and hairspray, as these can erode the surface. Never leave your pearls in a hot area such as a sunlit windowsill or on a radiator.
Wear your pearls often as they thrive on your skin, the natural oils from your skin will help to keep your pearl necklace in top condition. Also avoid soaking in chlorinated water or any liquid. If you have hand-strung pearls then have them restrung every few years as the silk string usually has a life of no more than 8 years.
Storing pearl jewellery for long periods can dry them out and fracture the surface. Wear them regularly, pearls love to be worn. Store your pearls flat, as opposed to hanging them, thus avoiding stretching the thread prematurely.
Caring for Silver Jewellery
Silver in its pure form is very soft, too soft to be used for silver jewellery and other items, so it is mixed with other metals to make it more durable. A popular silver mixture, called an alloy, is known as sterling silver.
Jewellery sold in Ireland cannot be marked or described as silver, solid silver, sterling silver, sterling, or using the abbreviation Ster. unless it contains at least 92.5 % pure silver. The minimum silver content can also be stated as 925 parts per thousand of pure silver, so you might see the figures 925 or 92.5 used to mark silver content. Copper is the most common metal used to round out the 7.5 percent alloy balance in sterling silver. It adds hardness to pure silver jewellery, but brings with it a tendency to tarnish (a darkening that occurs when sterling silver reacts with gases in the air or with other substances that it comes in contact with.)
Storing Silver Jewellery
Ideally you should store your sterling silver jewellery in air tight tarnish prevention cloths or bags. The treated cloth slows down the tarnishing process and keeps the jewellery from rubbing against harder jewellery that can scratch it. Try to keep your sterling silver jewellery in a cool, dry place. You can also place it in an air tight bag with a piece of chalk. Chalk is highly absorbent and will absorb any moisture in the air around your silver thus really slowing down tarnishing.
Cleaning Your Silver Jewellery
Clean sterling silver jewellery with a phosphate free detergent. A low abrasive cleaner is a good choice for removing light tarnish, or you can use a silver polishing cloth if you don’t like mess. A good cloth should last for several years. Some people use toothpaste to clean their sterling silver jewellery, but most silver experts caution against it because they feel toothpaste is too abrasive and leaves dulling scratches on fine silver jewellery.
Sterling Silver Patina
Sterling silver jewellery that is worn continually often develops a lovely silver patina, a kind of glow combined with darkened areas. If you like the look, leave it alone. If you prefer a bright and shiny look for your sterling silver jewellery, use polish to restore your jewellery to its original appearance.
Caring for your Gemstones
Clean opaque semi precious gemstone jewellery, such as opal jewellery, lapis lazuli jewellery, jade jewellery, turquoise jewellery and malachite jewellery, by wiping it with a moist lint free cloth after each wearing. Avoid exposing gemstone jewellery to soap and water as these gemstones are porous.
Clean organic gemstones such as pearls, coral and amber by wiping them with a soft cloth after each wearing to remove dust and body oils from the gemstones. Protect gemstone jewellery from exposure to hairspray, perfume or cosmetics, as the chemicals in these products can damage organic gemstone jewellery over time.
Separate gemstone jewellery pieces as hard gemstone jewellery can scratch softer gemstone jewellery. This can be done by placing them in separate sections within your jewellery box, using fabric pouches, or wrapping them in separate pieces of soft cloth.
Light Sensitive Stones
Many semi precious gemstones will bleach in strong light if left exposed for long periods of time. Gemstone jewellery will lose it’s bright colour and eventually become drab and unattractive. The gemstone jewellery most vulnerable to sunlight include amethyst jewellery, ametrine jewellery, aquamarine jewellery, aventurine jewellery, chrysoprase jewellery, citrine jewellery, rose quartz jewellery, smoky quartz jewellery, fluorite jewellery and topaz jewellery.
Do not use Chemical Cleaners
Many types of gemstone jewellery will be adversely affected by harsh chemical cleaners, which will discolour them and some may eventually break apart. The gemstones which are particularly vulnerable include amber jewellery, aquamarine jewellery, coral jewellery, emerald jewellery, jade jewellery, lapis jewellery, opal jewellery, pearl jewellery, mother of pearl jewellery and turquoise jewellery. It is never advisable to use chemicals on any type of gemstone jewellery.
Caring for Copper and Brass Jewellery
Surprisingly, copper jewellery and brass jewellery are very simple to care for. While they do tarnish more quickly than silver jewellery, they can be restored to their original shine very easily. Methods for cleaning and polishing copper jewellery and brass jewellery include
using tomato ketchup, worcestershire sauce or vinegar. As unlikely as it sounds, the acetic acid in these substances will shine up copper and brass very nicely. Apply them carefully with a toothbrush or soft cloth, leave on for a couple of minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Avoid rinsing if your jewellery also contains pearl or water absorbent stones such as opals, lapis lazuli, jade, turquoise and malachite.
Disclaimer: In this post I have discussed the generally accepted way to clean your jewellery. I follow these methods and have always been happy with the results. Whilst the information given above is provided in good faith, I do not recommend you do anything unless you are personally certain that no harm will come to your jewellery as a result of the cleaning. I do not take any responsibility for damage which ensues from your actions.