Depending on how often you wear your jewels and how you store them, these precious mementos can suffer the abuse of natural oils from your skin, airborne contaminants and moisture, dust, and corrosion from common household cleaning products. Keeping them as shiny and brilliant as the day you got them is way easier than you might think. Just keep these tips in mind when cleaning your jewels and they're sure to keep their sparkle for years to come.
Before you begin, make sure you check the settings of diamonds or gemstones to make sure they're secure so you don't end up scrubbing them loose or scratching them. It's best to do this on a regular basis anyway to prevent loss of your precious stones.
If you don't wear the jewelry often, wipe it with a dust cloth to remove loose particles that could scratch your gems when you clean them. Also, a good general rule to follow is to begin with the least abrasive method possible and only advance to heavier cleaning when necessary. Remember that the harsher the method you use, the more likely you will be to inadvertently damage your precious gems.
Antique and heirloom jewelry cleaning is best left to professional jewelers in many cases. Professionals can also inspect the settings at the same time and make sure your family heirlooms are safe and secure. Last but not least, avoid cleaning your gems directly over an open sink drain!
Diamonds and Non-Porous Gemstones: Ammonia is commonly used to clean diamonds when a store bought gem cleaner isn't on hand, but it actually isn't necessary in most cases. Since any diamonds or hard (transparent) gemstones will most likely be set in some sort of precious metal that can be damaged by ammonia, it's better to stick to mild, non-toxic, everyday dish soap like.
Simply soak the piece in a solution of warm water and mild detergent for a few minutes to loosen and dissolve oils and grime. Then gently scrub out the area around the setting with a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove the dirt that can accumulate. Rinse with warm water and buff dry with a lint-free cloth. If your gemstone is set in gold, then you've also just effectively cleaned the setting.
Soft, Porous Gemstones: Porous gemstones include all the opaque varieties most commonly pearl, opal, and turquoise. These soft gemstones are much more likely to scratch than harder, transparent gemstones like sapphire, ruby, emerald, etc.
With these gems you'll want to use a solution of baby soap and warm water to soak them for a few minutes. To scrub off the grime, avoid using any type of bristle brush and opt instead for a lint free cloth.
The only exception here is with turquoise, some turquoise can stand a light bristle brush, especially to clean out the gunk around the setting or in the crevices of an intricate design.
Also, if you have a strand of pearls, avoid soaking the entire necklace or bracelet the warm soapy water can actually cause the string to stretch out. With these you'll want to simply wipe off the stones themselves with a soft cloth dipped in the cleaning solution of warm water a few drops of baby soap and let them air dry.
Silver: Silver jewelry can tarnish, causing a dark finish to build up over time, and the more humid the area you live, the more quickly your silver can tarnish. With silver jewelry, you have a few options depending on what type of piece you need to clean.
For silver jewelry with no gemstones or other metals, using a homemade solution to create a chemical reaction will remove tarnish beautifully and inexpensively. It just takes a few simple household ingredients: tin foil, a small bowl, hot water, salt and baking soda. While some harsh silver cleaning products can actually remove the outermost layer of silver, this solution removes only the tarnish. Again, this method is safe ONLY if the jewelry does not have any gemstones, as they are easily damaged with this solution.
First, cover a small bowl with tin foil and place your jewelry inside, making sure as much of the jewelry's surface area is in contact with the aluminum foil as possible. Pour in enough hot water to cover the jewelry, then add equal amounts (about a tablespoon) of salt and baking soda. Let it sit for a few minutes while the nifty chemical reaction takes place that attracts the tarnish to the aluminum instead of the silver, then rinse and pat dry with a cloth.
For heavily tarnished pieces, you will need to repeat this several times until the tarnish is removed. Only when you can't remove the tarnish with this method, or you have heavy grime built up in small crevices, should you need a store-bought cleaning solution or paste.
While some people use toothpaste to clean silver jewelry, this can actually scratch delicate pieces, so be careful!
Gold: With gold and gold-plated jewelry, a simple solution of warm water and a few drops of mild detergent will do the trick. Simply soak your gold jewelry in the solution and if necessary, scrub gently with a soft bristle brush. Make sure to buff the jewelry dry as letting the moisture sit on the metal is not recommended and can dull some of the gold's natural shine. This method will also work when you have mixed metals or gemstone jewelry that you're not quite sure how to clean.