Care and Cleaning of Fine Jewelry
By David Moncrief
If at all possible, jewelry should be pre-cleaned before attempting any other cleaning method. Pre-cleaning consists of nothing more than using a very soft brush to remove any dust or dirt. To help keep jewelry clean thus avoiding un-necessary cleaning, you should avoid having your jewelry come in contact with any body lotions or oils, perspiration, perfumes or colognes, all hair-styling products - especially hairspray. Pearls are particularly suseptible to these and should be wiped with a clean, damp cloth immediately after wearing.
Basic cleaning can be done at home using a mild soap (ie., liquid Ivory) mixed with water. This soapy solution can be carefully brushed over the jewelry - again using a very soft brush - to remove any stubborn dirt or oil residue. The piece should be rinsed with clean water and air dried. (Do not use a hair dryer to dry any jewelry.) Caution: If rinsing over a sink cover the drain to prevent possible loss of any gemstones.
Another effective way to restore the shine to gemstones is to rub them with a soft chamois. This should not be tried on organic gems, i.e., opals, pearls, turquoise, etc.
Also to be avoided are using any hard, sharp objects to clean around prongs or pronged settings. This can not only cause damage to the gemstone but also loosen the prong resulting in a lost stone. Another 'no-no' is to soak any necklace that is strung. This is especially true for pearls. Soaking any strung necklace - knotted or not - causes the material used to string the necklace to stretch and may also cause a breakdown of the fibers in the stringing material.
There are many commercial jewelry products on the market for cleaning jewelry - gemstones and metal. If you use any of these products read all of the instructions and cautions before using. Another consideration is to never mix jewelry to be cleaned in the same cleaner. In other words, have a commercial cleaner for gold, another one for silver and another one for organics. It should be noted that not all jewelry will respond well to commercial cleaners and if there is any doubt about using any cleaner - commercial or otherwide - DON'T! Ultrasonic cleaners are not recommended as they can cause damage to softer stones, particularly those with inclusions, and they can also loosen settings.
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