Fine Jewelry Care
Get into the habit of removing your jewelry before showering or bathing. (This is a
good time to carry out its daily cleaning.) Soap can deposit a film that diminishes the
liveliness and beauty of your jewelry, necessitating more frequent cleaning. Also remove
jewelry before putting on makeup or powder or hair spray, and wash your hands to remove
dulling residues after applying makeup before handling your jewelry.
Try not to touch the stones in your rings when putting them on or off. Instead, hold
the ring by the shank (metal portion that encircles the finger). Touching the stones will
cause a greasy buildup on their surfaces, which greatly reduces brilliance and sparkle.
To restore rings sparkle, get into the habit of "huffing" them to
remove the dirt and oily film on the stones surface. Simply hold the ring close to
huff" on it with your breath youll see the stone fog up and wipe
it off with a soft, lint-free cloth such as a handkerchief or a blouse sleeve. Youll
be amazed to see how much better jewelry can look simply by removing even the lightest oil
from the surface!
Dont take off rings and lay them on the side of the sink unless you are sure the
drain is closed. Also, never remove your rings to wash your hands when you are away from
home (unless you hold them in your teeth!); all too many have been forgotten and lost.
Never wrap your jewelry in facial tissue, which might later be tossed into the trash!
Avoid wearing fine jewelry while doing any type of rough work, such as house cleaning
or gardening. Abrasives can scratch your jewelry both the stones and the metal.
Chemicals such as chlorine can cause discoloration of metals used in settings and dull the
polish on many stones, making it necessary to have the stone repolished to restore its
full beauty. Chlorine can also cause pitting and discoloration to settings. Ammonia will
remove the polish on stones such as malachite, turquoise and coral.
Avoid exposing fine jewelry to intense heat, for example, while cooking. Exposure to
extreme heat can cause damage to many gems. Enamel also may be ruined by contact with
Every 12 to 18 months have your jeweler check each piece to make sure the setting is
secure, and have prongs or shanks reinforced as necessary. If you ever feel or hear the
stone moving in the setting, it is a warning that the prongs or bezel need tightening.
Also, check catches and clasps to make sure they are secure and working properly. Failure
to take care of this may result in loss or damage.
Storing Fine Jewelry
Avoid exposing fine jewelry to extreme temperature changes, such as might be
encountered by putting jewelry in a refrigerator or in-the-ground safe during the winter,
where temperatures may be quite cold, then removing it and wearing it in a heated room.
This is especially true with opals.
Store your jewelry in a dry place. Avoid extremes of temperature and humidity. Keep
gemstone-studded jewelry, pearls, and gold jewelry separated from each other to prevent
scratching. Store silver separately from gold jewelry, to avoid tarnishing the gold. Do
not store pearls or opals for long periods of time in a safe deposit box. The dry, close
air and dark environment seems to discolor pearls and dry out both pearls and opals. Keep
fine jewelry in soft pouches or wrapped in soft cloth to help protect it. Dont
overcrowd your jewelry box. This can result in misplacing or losing pieces which might
fall unnoticed from the case, or damage, such as bending a fragile piece or chipping a
Diamonds can scratch other gemstones very easily, and can also scratch each other.
Ideally, to prevent scratching, diamond jewelry should be placed in a case that has
dividers or separated compartments, or each piece should be individually wrapped (but not
in facial tissue).
Pearls of all kinds (natural, cultured, South Sea, Tahitian, freshwater) are very soft,
only 2 ˝ to 4 on the Mohs hardness scale. Because normal dust contains much harder quartz
particles, pearls can be easily scratched if left uncovered. Store pearls in a separate
pouch, preferably one lined with a soft fabric such as satin, or wrap it to prevent
scratching the pearls surface on sharp metal edges or prongs, or against harder
stones. Never toss carelessly into a purse or travel case. Avoid contact with ammonia,
inks, hair spray, perfumes, cosmetics, and especially vinegar, which will immediately
begin eating the pearls surface. These substances will spot the pearls, and some of
the substances may weaken the string, making it susceptible to breakage.
Restring pearls periodically. If they are worn frequently, once a year is recommended.
Fine pearls should always be strung with knots tied in the space separating each pearl to
prevent them from rubbing against each other (which can damage the nacre), or from
scattering and getting lost if the string should break. Treat any organic gem, such as
amber, coral or jet as you would pearls.
How to Clean Jewelry
Perhaps the simplest and easiest way to clean any kind of jewelry is to prepare a small
bowl of warm, sudsy water, using any kind of mild liquid detergent. Let the piece soak a
few minutes and then brush gently with a soft complexion brush or soft-bristled
toothbrush, keeping the piece submerged in the sudsy water. Rinse thoroughly under running
water (make sure the drain is closed; some prefer to place the jewelry in a strainer
before putting it under the running water) and pat dry with a soft, lint-free cloth or
For karat gold jewelry without gemstones, rubbing with a soft chamois cloth will
restore much of the luster. Tarnish can be removed with a solution of soap and water to
which a few teaspoons of ammonia has been added. Using a soft toothbrush, brush the
jewelry with this solution, rinse with warm water and dry with a soft cloth. Grease can be
removed by dipping in plain rubbing alcohol before washing.
Never clean opals or emeralds in an ultrasonic cleaner. They can crack opals, and
remove oil treatments from emeralds, making inclusions more visible and weaken the
For more advanced jewelry cleaning methods, go to "Jewelry Cleaning."
Take Precautions When Traveling
If you take jewelry with you when traveling, dont pack it in luggage (such as an
overnight or makeup case) to be given to the bell captain at a hotel, ships porters,
etc. Never leave it in your room. Wherever possible, obtain a safety deposit box in which
to store your jewelry when not wearing it, even for part of a day. Also store the jewelry
you leave behind at home in a safety deposit box.
Never remove your jewelry and wrap it in a facial tissue many pieces have been
thrown away accidentally this way. Keep a small pouch handy in your purse.
Purchase a "body pouch" that can be concealed under clothing for when you
must carry a valuable piece. Never go sightseeing with valuables in a purse or pocket.
For customs purposes, it can be useful to take a photocopy of your jewelry appraisal
with you. Or, have a photo of the jewelry dated and notarized prior to departure and keep
it in your passport. Jewels by Stacy Appraisals can take color enlarged photographs of
your jewelry for this purpose.
Enjoy Your Jewelry
Your jewelry is an intimate expression of your personality and a sentimental reminder
of important occasions. It will last a lifetime if properly cared for. Keep your favorite
pieces in mind when you make additions to your wardrobe! Wear your jewelry. Enjoy it! And
give it the care befitting the precious material that it is.
Want to Know More?
The above information was based in large part on an article written by
Antoinette Matlins, internationally respected gemologist and consumer advocate, and fellow
AGA member. You have probably seen her spirited discussions on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN.
Antoinette has published several excellent books that would be of interest to anyone
seeking a more in-depth knowledge of gems and jewelry.
- Jewelry & Gems: The Buying Guide, 4th Edition How to buy
diamonds, pearls, colored gemstones, gold & jewelry with confidence and knowledge.
(Quality paperback, $17.95; hardcover, $24.95.)
- The Pearl Book: The Definitive Buying GuideHow to select, buy, care for
and enjoy pearls. (Quality paperback, $19.95.)
- Engagement & Wedding Rings, 2nd Edition: The Definitive Buying Guide for
People in Love Takes the anxiety out of buying engagement and wedding rings,
turning it into the magical and romantic experience it should be. (Quality paperback,
- Gem Identification Made Easy, 2nd Edition: A hands-on guide to more
confident buying and selling. Explains what instruments are needed, how to use them, where
to get them, and what should be seen for each gemstone. (Hardcover, $34.95)
To order contact: Gemstone Press; Sunset Farm Offices; Route 4, PO Box
237; Woodstock, Vermont 05091. (802) 457-4000.
Credit Card Orders: 800 962-4544.