Eve's Insight

10 Tips – How to care for your jewelry

It may seem like your Jewelry takes care of itself.  After all, its made from strong metals, and stones as old as time.  Truth be told, your jewelry is as fragile as it is pretty, and a little bit of care, will go a long way.

Here are a few crucial tips for cleaning and maintaining your jewelry which help ensure that your precious pieces will last a lifetime.

mangled gemstone setting
A mangled gemstone setting.

1. Treat your jewelry with care!  All jewelry should be removed before doing housework, gardening, workouts and sports.

Most people go to great lengths to avoid scratching their car, but expect their precious jewelry to survive all their activities unscathed.  Cars are made out of steel which has a hardness of 6 on the Moh’s scale. Precious metals have a hardness of 2.5 or 3, which is much softer than steel!  Even gripping the handlebars of your bike or elliptical machine will cause your precious metal rings (and sometimes bracelets too,) to bang against a much harder object repeatedly.  (Would you ever bang your car against a steel object repeatedly?!)

If you cannot take off your rings to work out or garden, at least wear the proper gloves to offer some level of cushioning and protection of the metal and gemstones!

2. Do not store your jewelry together.

Keep each piece in a soft pouch, separate compartment or cotton lined box. Diamonds, rubies and sapphires will scratch or abrade every other thing they touch.  Likewise, metal will scratch other metals.  Pearls are also extremely soft and should not be stored with other gems.  Store your things carefully, don’t cram all the pouches into a drawer or box, delicate settings can become damaged or bent (even broken by too much pressure) if improperly stored.

3. Clean your jewelry regularly – but be sure the method used is safe for your piece.

For most of your jewelry we actually recommend cleaning it with a common household item you might not expect. . . rubbing alcohol!  Yes, really, rubbing alcohol – a simple solution that is readily available at any drugstore or supermarket will remove grease and dirt with a little gentle brushing.

Misaligned pearls on a strand
Pearl Necklace in need of restringing.

We suggest putting the jewelry in a small dish covered with the rubbing alcohol for a few minutes, then use a soft brush (like an old soft bristle toothbrush) to remove the film left by lotion, soap, dirt and oils (yes, we have seen dried food inside settings too – ugh!)  Be sure to use the brush to go in & around and behind all the settings and gems, then rinse again with alcohol (or water) and let air dry on a clean soft towel.

DO NOT use rubbing alcohol on porous gems; like emeralds which contain oil and must only be cleaned with lukewarm water; opals, which have a high water content; or porous gems like turquoise, bone, etc.  Porous gems should only be cleaned with lukewarm water and a soft brush, then dried as above.  If you own a laser-drilled diamond, fracture-filled ruby or other gem with an unconventional treatment, skip the alcohol and use only warm water & the soft bristle brush, and keep them away from acids like lemon juice!

If in doubt, have it professionally cleaned.

Scratching and other damage can occur from improper cleaning.  Do not over clean.   Never use bleach or household cleaners.  When in doubt, do not use chemicals, but use a soft brush and luke warm water.

Surprisingly, rubbing alcohol will not damage pearls, however, pearls set into jewelry are usually also cemented to a precious metal post with glue or epoxy, so do not leave a piece with a pearl set in it soaking in any liquid for more than a few minutes as it may begin to loosen the cement that is holding it in place.

4. Periodically check for loose gems by gently shaking the piece, or by tapping it with your finger near your ear.
Prongs may be checked by trying to insert a thin piece of paper between the gem and the metal prongs. When in doubt, have it professionally checked. Have all loose gemstones tightened before wearing your jewelry

5.  Restring your gemstone and/or pearl bracelets and necklaces regularly.

Pearls are usually strung securely with silk, and are knotted between each pearl to avoid abrasion and prevent loss if the string should break. If your pearls seem to “travel” loosely on the thread or if the thread has discolored, it is time to restring. Have the pearls restrung once a year, if worn frequently. Heavier pearls may need to be restrung more often.

If the pearls seem to become dingy, it is time for a cleaning. Pearls can be cleaned professionally or you can wash them gently with Woolite in warm water, being careful not to stretch the thread. Rinse thoroughly and let air dry on a towel until the thread is completely dry (usually at least 24 hours).

Separated metal clasp
A separated metal clasp

6. Check clasps and fasteners often.   If they are not properly adjusted you risk losing your piece, so bring it in and have it professionally checked, adjusted or repaired if needed.

7. Do not store opals & pearls in the vault or a plastic bag, unless you keep a small open container of water in with it, and do not store them in direct sunlight either, or let acids and chemicals come into contact with them.

Pearls and opals will dry out and become discolored or loose their luster, even crack if stored in too dry an environment. Never expose pearls or opals to hair sprays, cosmetics, perfumes, sun lotions or insect repellents – the acids in them will attack the pearls. Often “Grandma’s pearls” are no longer beautiful and lose their value because they were stored in a safety deposit box or vault where the temperature and moisture are adjusted to keep paper documents, stocks, money, etc. in the best condition.

Pearl and opal dealers will keep an open container of water INSIDE their safes (and make sure to keep them filled) to avoid this sort of damage. You should also do this.  It is OK to keep your pearls & opals in a sealed plastic bag for a short period of time, but they will dry out and potentially sustain damage if left for too long.  This also applies to leaving these jewels in a hot, closed car – we do not recommend this!  Pearls should be the last article to go on and first to come off when dressing.

8. Take your jewelry off at night or when doing rigorous activities.

Platinum & palladium jewelry is very durable and strong, and they do not lose metal through wear and contact like other precious metals do, however they can still be scratched.  Other precious metals, like gold and silver, will scratch and gradually become worn as they come in contact with other objects and frequent wear.  Even your sheets will contribute to this, so we strongly recommend you take off your jewelry at night and store it gently until you put it back on.

9. Avoid wearing any gold or silver, opals, pearls & porous gems) jewelry in chlorinated water, such as swimming pools and hot tubs, because chlorine attacks the alloys in these metals.

Jewelry made of 14 karat gold is 58.5% gold and the other 41.5% is a mix of different metal alloys — depending on the color of the gold and the manufacturer’s formula.   18 karat gold is 75% pure gold and the balance are different metal alloys.  Chlorine attacks the molecular structure of the piece, and suspends the alloys in solution, actually carrying away some of the alloys with each exposure, greatly weakening your piece of jewelry.  You risk gems falling from their settings or the piece cracking as a result of the effects of chlorine and other damaging chemicals, so do not wear them in swimming pools, hot tubs, or while working with bleach and other harsh chemicals & acids.  Platinum and palladium are nearly chemically inert, so they are not affected.

10. Dirt & grime build-up will dull the beauty and sparkle of your gemstone set rings & cause stones to be pushed out of their settings!

This is true for all your jewelry, but rings are the most vulnerable because we wash our hands frequently through out the day. Soap residue, lotion, sunscreen, dirt and grime build-up inside your rings over time and can actually gradually cause your gemstones and diamonds to be pushed out of their settings and be lost. As these substances accumulate inside your ring settings through normal wear, they will dry and harden almost acting like cement behind the gems. Then, as you wash your hands during the day, or while washing dishes or preparing food, this buildup gets moist and expands, creating a pressure that works to loosen your gems. Over time, with repeated wetting, expanding and then drying and contracting, the gems are slowly pushed out of their moorings. So, please remember to clean them regularly to avoid these problems and keep them looking pretty, sparkly and well cared for.

If you’re ever in doubt about the care of your precious pieces, or you have a piece in dire need of care, please drop by or call for a special appointment.

Eve J Alfillé
(847) 869-7920

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