The Care and Non-Feeding of Jewelry

As a gemologist and independent jewelry appraiser, I am privileged to handle thousands of jewelry and watch items every year.  Also, I have seen people spend thousands because they weren’t proactive.  One of the most common questions I get is “How do I keep my jewelry clean?”  A better question is how do I care for my jewelry?  The answer is as simple as “Don’t wear it 24-7!”, and understand what you own.  Particularly when it comes to pearls, the old adage that pearls get better the more you wear them is exactly the opposite.  Pearls are organic gems that are damaged by body oils, cosmetics, soaps and even chlorinated water.  They should be the last thing you put on and the first to be taken off.  But that really goes for all jewelry.  Diamonds are the hardest, natural substance but that means that they are resistant to scratching.  They can be damaged or broken by wearing them every day doing normal activities such as working out at the gym; gardening; house cleaning, or dropping on a tile floor.  All other stones are much less durable so constant wear will shorten the lifespan considerably.

I recommend that to extend the life of your jewelry (particularly rings) remove and always put them in the same place when you’re doing everyday things around the house.  I also suggest the same in order to keep them clean; don’t shower, bathe or wash your hands with jewelry on.  Soaps and lotions have oils that adhere to and cloud the stones.  Chlorine breaks down the alloys in gold jewelry and weakens it over time.  And there is absolutely no good reason to wear jewelry to the beach!!! Sand is an average of 7 on the Moh’s Hardness scale and can scratch just about any stone or jewelry metal.

So how can you clean your jewelry?  Ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are used to professionally clean jewelry and any jeweler would be happy to do this at no charge. They are safe for most but not all transparent stones and all gold and platinum.  This process can take a few minutes to several days, depending on how long it has been between cleanings.  I recently had a client’s diamond ring sit in my ultrasonic for 3 days before I could examine it properly!! And yes, stones can come out in the cleaners but that means that they were not securely set or the dirt was holding them in so it’s better that they come out in the cleaner rather than in your carpet!  The stones can be fished out and secured in a Ziploc bag and taken to your jeweler for the proper resetting.  You can also use straight ammonia and a soft toothbrush at home between professional cleanings. Don’t use toothpaste as this substance can scratch the metals.

In closing, I recently received this email from a client who bought an ultrasonic from me.

“Just wanted to drop you a note and let you know how much I am enjoying the ultrasonic cleaner. After cleaning a few items I am astonished at how much gunk there is on the pieces. Yikes! Anyway, just wanted to say thanks.”


Yantz Bradbury Associates
P.O. Box 10123 –  Rockville, Maryland – 20850  
Office: (301) 335-6687

Serving MD, VA and DC Metro Area

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