If your jewelry has value to you, it is valuable enough for you to want to take care of it. Jewelry Care means being careful you do no lose it as well as being careful how you store and clean it.
When you buy jewelry, any jewelry, from the most expensive fine jewelry to inexpensive costume jewelry, you buy it because it is beautiful. The gleam of the metal and the shine or luster and fire of the gems appeal to your aesthetic sense of beauty, based on what you can afford. The better the jewelry, the longer you want to wear it, perhaps even for rest of your life, and the longer you want it to have that like new glow, although some metals and finishes attain a warm patina with wear. What you don’t want, however, is scratched or gouged settings and dull gems. Accidents can happen, but all too often the jewelry is damaged by carelessness or not taking the few moments necessary to tend to the jewelry.
In most cases, being careful is the only care jewelry needs. Some types of jewelry, nevertheless, need special care because the gems may be soft, absorbent, or fragile.
Keep in mind that the harder the gem and the higher it is on the Mohs scale of hardness, the more durable it generally is. At time, a hard gem with high or distinct cleavage is apt to be fragile and may break or cleave if it is struck at the right angle. Hardness therefore is not synonymous with toughness. A tough gem may be soft enough to be more easily scratched but it is less apt to break or shatter. These characteristics have pertinence in wearing, cleaning, and storing jewelry, and in remodeling.
Metals have similar characteristic. The purer the silver and gold, the more easily it can be damaged. Also, you must consider the combination of metal in settings with gem or gems. What may be perfectly good to clean a metal, such as sterling silver, may not be the best for the gems. You have to consider the jewelry as a whole, not as simply metal or gems.
These point are tied in with the third point: the care you take with your jewelry to protect it from loss, both when you are wearing it and when you put it away for safekeeping. All the care in cleaning and storing will not matter if you lose the jewelry. The care you should take in this sense involves the precautions you would take to make sure you do not lose something you like and enjoy. That common sense, and it is common sense whether or not the jewelry is insured, and whether or not it is valuable. The precautions you should take with any jewelry that you like and that means anything to you, in fact, are simple common sense.
– Protection of jewelry
First of all, think about what you do when wearing jewelry. Rings are good example of how common sense can prevent loss.
More Rings are probably lost through carelessness than any other type of jewelry, because they are more apt to be taken off when being worn than pins or necklaces, bracelets or even earrings. So, Precaution Number One, if you wear rings, is to wear them at all times, or be careful with them as you are with your money and credit cards.
Men and women, incidentally, tend to regard rings differently.
– Storing and cleaning jewelry
When you take jewelry off, all jewelry and not only rings, what do you do with it? First, you should have a good and safe place for it. Second, that place should keep the jewelry safe not only from loss but also from damage.
The worst place you can put it is in a jewelry box already filled with other jewelry all jumbled together, where it can become scratched or more seriously hurt. The best place you can put jewelry is in individual leather or cloth cases or bags that will protect each piece from being damaged by other pieces of jewelry. If you do not have separate boxes from the jeweler for each piece of jewelry, at least put each piece in an individual case of some kind and do not drop it casually into a jewelry box.
In most cases, a plastic bag is a good substitute for leather or cloth. Plastic, however, should never be used with pearls, opals, and ivory, which need air to retain their beauty. Plastic, nevertheless, does have an advantage for other jewelry in that you can easily see the piece of jewelry that is in the bag. This method, incidentally, is also good for costume jewelry, which can be scratched as easily, if not more so, than precious jewelry.
Cleaning is also important in retaining and restoring the beauty and luster of jewelry with and without gems. Even gold can discolor from soaps and perspiration. Silver can be especially prone to tarnish, although almost all American sterling silver jewelry is coated with rhodium, an element of platinum, to prevent tarnishing. Any other silver that is worn all the time rarely needs polishing either, since wear retards tarnish. It still may need cleaning, though.
In fact, any metal may need cleaning now and then to remove dirt, soil, or soap film, as may gems. There are, in general, four methods of cleaning jewelry. Although all are safe for cleaning precious metal and diamonds, all are not interchangeable and safe for all kinds of jewelry. These are the methods most commonly suggested and used, but be sure to read further for the exceptions and for the precautions you should take with specific metals and gems.
-Detergents Bath. Mix a mild detergent and warm water in a small bowl or cup. Immerse the jewelry, brushing the pieces with an eyebrow brush. Rinse the jewelry under warm running water, being sure to put the jewelry into a tea strainer or cheesecloth for safety’s sake. Pat dry with lintels cloth. Do not use for soft gems or foe any jewelry that is strung, such as ivory or pearls.
– Cold water soak. In a cup or bowl, combine half cold water and half household ammonia. Put the jewelry in and soak for 30 minutes. Do not leave it overnight or for a long period of time. After 30 minutes, remove the jewelry and gently clean the front and back of the setting, if necessary, with an eyebrow brush before swishing the jewelry in the solution again and draining it dry on tissue. Do not use soft gems or any jewelry that is strung, such as ivory or pearls.
– Quick dip. Commercial jewelry cleaners generally employ the quick dip method. Since cleaners vary, you should read instructions carefully and follow them to the letter. Do not use cleaners on nay jewelry not specifically mentioned unless you check with a jeweler first.
– Ultrasonic cleaners. You will find several of these small machines on the market. In general, the principle is that of using high frequency turbulence to clean jewelry soaking in a metal cup of water and detergent. Again, be sure to read and follow the directions with the utmost care and do not use the machine on any jewelry not specifically mentioned. Not all jeweler, feel these machine are safe even for diamonds. Before buying one, therefore, be sure to check with your jeweler and get his advice.
These then are the common methods in general. Specific metals, and gems, require specific care. The methods described below are safe for the specific metals and won’t harm most gems. Keep in mind, though, that some gems need special care. Whenever you have any doubt about cleaning jewelry, be sure to consult your jeweler.
Copper will tarnish like silver in presence of moisture and sulfur. In most cases, however, a lacquer is baked on to prevent the jewelry from tarnishing. To clean copper, use any commercial cleaner that specifies it safe for copper. Do not use ammonia, which can erode copper.
The lower the number of karats, the more gold will discolor due to the higher percentage of base metals in the alloy. Mild soap, water and ammonia will remove the discoloration with ease.
One theory goes that you can prevent gold from leaving black mark on the skin by spraying the gold with hair spray. All you actually doing is adding a substance that can add to the tarnish. Keeping gold clean is the best way to avoid skin discoloration. In any case do not use hair spray on any gold with gems.
Gold-filled. Remember, the character of gold filled jewelry is the same as the karat gold that makes up 1/20 of the total weight, except that the jewelry will not last as long as the same jewelry in solid karat gold. Gold-filled jewelry can be cleaned the same way as karat gold, with mild soap, and a drop of ammonia.
Rolled gold plate. Rolled gold plate may contain less gold than rolled gold, but it should be cleaned the same way as gold-filled and karat gold jewelry.
Gold electroplate. Although the layer of gold deposited by electroplating may be 7 to 100 millionths of an inch thick, good gold electroplate can wear as well as rolled gold. It should be wiped clean regularly with a damp, soft cloth, and a mild soap and water solution may be used to remove any makeup. Do not use a treated cloth to clean gold electroplate.
Gold-washed or gold-flashed. Jewelry finished in this manner contains very little gold. The surface layer, in fact, is so thin that it may be negligible and wear off after a few times of being worn. Any cleaning, and particularly any rubbing, any remove the finish entirely.
Any commercial silver cleaner or silver cloth will touch up and clean silver jewelry. Soap, water, and a drop of ammonia will also clean silver that is very lightly tarnished or may just need cleaning to remove makeup and perspiration.
Silver-filled. Clean silver-filled jewelry in the same way as sterling. The older the jewelry, however, the more permanent the patina will be. Such a patina cannot be removed.
Silver plate (or silver electroplate). Silver plate, unlike gold, can last for years and can be cleaned in the same way as sterling silver. It can be re-plated, if necessary, although re-plating is more common in silver tableware than in jewelry.
4) Combination metals
Metals, including precious metals, are sometimes combined with other metals and with enamel. Be very careful in cleaning the metal that you don’t clean off the inlay or enamel. The same caution holds true for vermeil, which is sterling silver with karat gold electroplate. If you must rub, rub very gently with soft cloth.
Some gems need special care. That care includes both cleaning and storing gems. Be particularly careful with:
Amber. Amber is the softest of all gems and will be scratched by all other gems. Be careful in wearing it and always store it by itself. It darkens gradually with age and exposures to light and should be kept in a cloth or leather bag case.
Never use a rough clothe or clothe that may have dirt, dust, or grit on it to clean amber because of its softness. Never use acid to clean amber or wear amber when working with acids since acid will decompose amber. Alcohol and other solvents do not normally affect amber, however, unless it is exposed to them for a long period of time. For this reason, be careful not to leave amber in any cleaning solution, except very briefly. Hair spray and perfume can also affect amber.
Coral. Coral is relatively tough. Be careful with twig coral in both storing and wearing, since the thinner the twigs the more easily the coral can break. Remember, coral is not a mineral and its luster may be spoiled by preparations used to clean other jewelry.
Diamonds. Diamonds should be kept apart from other gems to avoid scratching the other gems. This rule holds true for both storage and cleaning. One expert suggests boiling diamonds for 10 minutes in soap, water, and ammonia to clean them.
Ivory. Wash ivory carefully in soapy water, drying it with a damp cloth. Never soak ivory in soap and water, however, since soaking can cause it to crack or break. If you are cleaning ivory beads, do not get the string wet because the string will stay wet and can affect the beads. Do not use commercial jewelry cleaner or acid.
Ivory darken with age. It can be bleached by sunlight or peroxide. If peroxide is used, do not soak the ivory in it, and avoid wetting any string with which ivory beads are strung with the peroxide.
Keep in mind that ivory is permeable and relatively soft, factors tending to make it contract or shrink in cold and expand in heat. The combination of temperatures, along with soaking and drying out, can lead to the cracking of the ivory. Wiping it carefully with a soft, damp cloth, therefore, is probably the best method of cleaning ivory.
Jet. Jet, although tough, is soft and should never be kept with other jewelry that can scratch it. Scratching diminishes its polish and lessens its value to collectors.
Lapis Lazulli. Despite its softness, Lapis Lazulli wears well and is popular for men’s jewelry and especially men’s rings. Even though it may scratch, the scratches are not difficult for a good jeweler to polish out.
Malachite. Malachite is soft and is not tough like jet. It breaks easily and should be worn with care. It also scratches easily, losing its polish. Be careful wearing it next to your skin, which can turn malachite dark or black.
Moonstone. Moonstone’s softness means that it needs care. Moonstones should be kept by themselves and cleaned carefully with only a very soft cloth and soap and water.
Opals. All kinds of opals are fragile and require care, the most care of any other gem. The polished stones are usually thin and may crack or craze. One cause may be extremely cold weather, indirect sunlight, in hot dishwater, or when handling frozen foods. Cold weather may also cause opals to shrink, which means they can fall out of the setting. Because of their softness, they are easily scratched and may absorb dirt or grit, another reason for avoiding dishwater and being careful in cleaning them.
Opals contain water, sometimes as much as 10%. Thus, they may dry out. For this reason, some experts suggest leaving them in water, in a mixture of water and glycerin, or in mineral oil to keep them from drying out and losing their fire, whenever they are not being worn. Use only a mild soap solution and a soft cloth to clean them. Never put opals in plastic bags, commercial jewelry cleaner, or acid.
Pearls. Both Oriental and cultured pearls are genuine pearls and need a certain amount of special care. Cosmetics (including hair spray), dust, dirt, and particularly perspiration can affects pearls. They should be wiped carefully only with a soft clothe after wearing and kept in satin-lined box, never in a plastic bag. Because their softness, cars should be taken not to scratch them. Pearls need to be worn and allowed to breathe. Do not use commercial jewelry cleaner or acid to clean them.
Peridot. Peridot scratches easily and tends to lose its polish. It should be stored and worn carefully but no special cleaning is necessary.
Topaz. Topaz should be kept in dark, literally. The gems tend to fade or pale in light, and some yellow-brown topazes on display in museums have turned clear after several years. Remember, too, it cleaves easily. It does not require special cleaning methods.
Turquoise. Since turquoise is very porous, it will absorb all sorts of impurities, especially if it is exposed to dirt and grease, such as in working in the yard or in washing dishes.
Turquoise tends to change color with age. It may lighten, darken, or streak. According to an old wives’ tale, burying turquoise in dirt restore the color, but the advice does not say for how long or what amount of dirt might be absorbed. You are probably better off learning to appreciate the change in color.
Never expose turquoise to ammonia, which will spoil the surface by pitting or spotting. Jewelry cleaner and acid will also injure or destroy turquoise.
To sum up, one of best methods of cleaning jewelry is simply to use mild soap, water and a drop of ammonia, even though ammonia should not be used with certain gems. Commercial jewelry cleaners are also available at fine jewelers, and these are safe, too, for most, but not all, jewelry. Be surer to read the directions on any commercial cleaner carefully and to follow them.
When in doubt about cleaning any jewelry, ask your jeweler what he would suggest. Remember, a watchmaker is not a jeweler. For expert advice and help, you need a jeweler who knows metal and gems, because in some cases you may be better off bringing the jewelry into the jeweler’s for cleaning.