Nobody, but nobody, cleans a piece of jewelry like I do. In this column, and the next, I will explain simple instructions for you to get great results at home and help prevent the damage most folks inflict on their precious pieces of jewelry.
It would be like using glass cleaner to clean a stain on a tan suede leather couch. There are certain things you just don’t do to your jewels.
Cleaning fine jewelry can seem daunting, do this, don’t do that. It’s confusing, but just remember two simple rules:
1. Don’t clean your jewelry with toothpaste! It’s not a smart thing to do. The paste contains pumice which is an abrasive and it can scratch many expensive gemstones rendering them lifeless and can result in a costly trip to a lapidary shop to re-polish the damaged gem. For the life of me, I don’t know where this ridiculous home remedy for cleaning jewelry came from. Might as well clean with sand! A used, soft bristled toothbrush, without toothpaste, is a useful tool for jewelry cleaning.
2. Don’t use bleach to clean your jewelry. This home remedy helps keep me and other jewelers busy. Bleach is one of the most caustic chemicals on this planet. It can dissolve precious metals into a liquid overnight. It causes havoc to your ring’s prongs, making them weak and brittle and is a major cause of stone and diamond loss. It also will destroy the finish to pearls and other porous gemstones such as turquoise, lapis, coral or malachite. You should also avoid wearing gold or silver in heavily chlorinated pools or spas! Chlorine is bleach on steroids, the damage is often irreversible and non- repairable.
So what does one use? Most jewelry cleaners contain ammonia which is another chemical that if used incorrectly, can do damage, too.
There are jar cleaners that are gentle and ammonia free. You may also consider a nice quality ultra-sonic cleaner if you have a lot of stuff. (Both products can be demonstrated and purchased at my island shops.)
A small drop of dish detergent in a coffee cup of warm to hot water; next a second cup of clean lukewarm water to rinse and an old toothbrush. Make sure the water is filtered or bottled. Tap water is sometimes full of chemicals, sulfur to name one, which actually discolors gold and silver.
Diamond, ruby and sapphire jewelry made of gold or platinum are the easiest to clean and are impervious to ammonia based jewelry cleaners.
I suggest using a swatch of cotton t-shirt on a flat, well lit surface, not too close to the sink. I have repaired my share of rings that ended up taking a spin in a customer’s garbage disposal.
Dip the brush in the solution and scrub gently to remove food, skin creams suntan lotions and the thanksgiving turkey stuffing from November that’s lodged behind the gemstones!
It’s important to rinse the jewelry clean then dry with a cotton swatch. Nothing cleans better than an ultra-sonic cleaner that vibrates the water and loosens all dirt and debris. The downside is if you have missing prongs or loose gemstones it will most likely remove the stones from the jewelry and they will fall to the bottom of the tank. So check rings and such before cleaning and after to make sure nothing got dislodged. If they did, fish out the stones later and have them put back in by yours truly.
Pearls on strands can be cleaned by using a damp cloth, dipped in the above solution and wrung out. Gently pull the pearls through the swatch a couple of times, then pull through a clean warm water swatch. Follow with a clean dry cloth. Caution! Avoid getting the silk cord wet, it can weaken the silk! Also never dip the whole strand in any cleaner solution!
Silver can be a pain to keep shiny but with my tips on cleaning, it should make the chore almost effortless with great results.. ‘til next time.
Richard Alan is a designer /goldsmith owner of the Harbor Goldsmith’s and Richard’s Reef’s of Marco Island. He welcomes your questions about “All That Glitters” 239-394-9275.