Anyone who’s ever opened their jewelry box to grab their favorite sterling silver bracelet, only to discover it’s tarnished significantly since last worn, understands the difficulty of jewelry upkeep and cleaning. Whether you’ve amassed a collection of investment gemstones or a selection of trendy costume jewelry, learning to properly care for your adornments is the key to extending their beauty.
Understanding the Basics
Keeping your jewelry looking brand new is more complex than simply purchasing a jewelry cleaning kit to use at home when they start to look dingy. The most important thing to keep in mind is that your jewelry is all very different and should be cleaned in different manners according to their make-up.
Think of your jewelry cleaning like you would approach loading the dishwasher: each piece needs sorted and washed according to their design. You wouldn’t put your grandmother’s fine china on the bottom rack during a heavy-duty pots and pans cycle, right? Some pieces aren’t safe to put in the dishwasher at all. Your jewelry is the same.
To Clean at Home, or Not to Clean at Home?
In much the same way as your dishes, some jewelry isn’t safe to clean using typical at-home cleaning kits. Knowing which pieces to leave to the professionals can save a lot of heartache down the road.
As a general rule, any vintage or antique pieces should usually be taken to the professionals for cleaning. Many older settings don’t allow for breathing like modern settings do and should not be submerged in any form of cleaning solution or water.
While most precious gem pieces today are perfectly fine to be cleaned at home, there are also a few that should never be cleaned with home kits. Soaps and chemicals can do damage to pieces containing turquoise, opals and even pearls, so it’s always best to let the professionals handle cleaning these pieces.
What to Use
When cleaning jewelry items at home, there are a few simple methods you can use as a routine to keep your pieces sparkling. There are obviously general cleaners that can be purchased to help keep most of your pieces clean, but you don’t need to purchase special cleaners to maintain your jewelry.
For pieces containing gold, diamonds, and other precious gemstones, a simple mixture of mild soap and water will suffice. Using a soft bristled toothbrush, simply clean your pieces using the mixture, rinse thoroughly, and dry with a clean cloth. For extreme dirt and oil build-up, most jewelry can be soaked in the solution for a while to help loosen the grime before cleaning with a toothbrush.
Sterling silver pieces are the trickiest to keep clean due to tarnishing. While there are specific silver cleaners out there, the easiest method is to wipe the pieces clean with a jewelry-cleaning cloth before rinsing it under water and gently drying after.
Once cleaned, keeping your jewelry items in the proper storage containers will also help cut down on any tarnishing or dirt build up. Jewelry should optimally be kept in a closed case in a temperate climate. Extreme heat and cold can affect the appearance of some gems, as can prolonged direct sunlight. In addition, look for storage containers with soft linings and designated compartments for your items to keep them from being damaged.
It’s also important to make sure you regularly clean your jewelry containers as often as you care for your jewelry. Remember, containers can pick up dust and debris as well as oils from your jewelry that will transfer back to your pieces if not properly cleaned.
Have Your Jewelry Regularly Inspected
No matter how vigilant you are at keeping your pieces maintained at home, it’s imperative to continue bringing them in for professional cleanings and inspections at least twice a year. This will ensure your most treasured gifts look brand new for many years to come.