How to Properly Clean Your Jewelry

When determining how properly to clean a piece of jewelry, there are several factors that should be taken into consideration. Firstly, and most importantly, it is vital to know what materials are present in a particular jewelry item (metal type, gemstones present, plating, etc.). Once you determine the materials present in a piece of jewelry, the best method or combination of methods is much easier to determine. Below are the advantages and benefits of different methods and which methods are effective on various materials.Cleaning MethodsUltrasonic- Access to ultrasonic jewelry cleaning has traditionally been limited to jewelry professionals, but there are small ultrasonic cleaners intended for home use that can be purchased for less than $35.00. Ultrasonic cleaners hold a reservoir of cleaning solution in which jewelry can be submerged. Ultrasonic cleaners work by creating ultrasonic waves within the solution creating an effect called microagitation where tiny bubbles attack and flush out debris located on the surface of your jewelry and in all the tiny crevices. Ultrasonic cleaning is particularly effective at cleaning items such as diamond rings where there are lots of nooks and crannies where debris collects. If you have ever had your diamond jewelry cleaned at a jewelry, it is likely the jeweler used ultrasonic cleaning to make your diamond jewelry shimmer and shine. This cleaning method is very effective when cleaning intricate jewelry, but is usually not very effective on tarnished sterling silver.Silver Tarnish Remover (Liquid solution) – Many commercially available silver tarnish removing solutions (aka: Silver Dips) contain hazardous chemicals, and most are caustic! That being said, these sulfur rich dips are very effective-although the dips do stink to high heaven! For those of you interested in more environmentally friendly solutions there are several options available that are effective (they smell better too!). It is vital that silver dips be used only on jewelry items that are comprised of Silver only! The aggressive acids in silver dips can (and will) damage gemstones, pearls, and any other porous material present. Most silver dips come with instructions and a list of safety measures that should be taken when using the products. Be sure to read any documentation that comes with the silver dip of your choice, and make sure to follow any and all safety guidelines related to the use of the product because these are serious chemicals we are dealing with.Soapy Water Solution- This method of cleaning is just as the name suggests. Create a soapy mixture using a mild soap or dish detergent and warm water.If you are using a liquid dish detergent (not dishwasher detergent!!!) just a few drops of detergent for every half cup of water will do the trick. Submerge the jewelry in the soapy mixture and allow the jewelry to soak for 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on the situation.Polishing Cloths- Polishing cloths are great for putting a quick shine on your favorite jewelry and for keeping your jewelry looking great.A dry soft jewelry polishing cloth is ideal to keep with you for any quick fixes you may need to make. Also available, are wet polishing cloths. These cloths are saturated with an oily solution that will clean up anything from an old penny to the most tarnished sterling silver. The wet polishing cloth of choice for me is the Cape Cod Polishing cloth. These cloths are available at many places online and from many jewelers. To use a wet cloth you gently wipe your jewelry in a repetitive buffing motion and then polish the jewelry with a soft, lint-free dry polishing cloth; I promise your jewelry will look great! These wet cloths should be used on metals and some plastics. I do not recommend using wet cloths on stones or any porous material because these cloths may leave a residue if allowed to soak into a porous material.Acceptable cleaning methods from the above list for MetalsPlatinum- Ultrasonic, dry/wet polishing cloths, soapy water.
Gold- Ultrasonic, dry/wet polishing cloths, soapy water.
Sterling Silver- Ultrasonic, dry/wet polishing cloths, soapy water, tarnish removing silver dips
Tungsten- Ultrasonic, dry/wet polishing cloths, soapy water.
Titanium- Ultrasonic, dry/wet polishing cloths, soapy water.GemstonesWhen cleaning jewelry where gemstones are present, consideration should be given to the texture of the stone(s). In most cases, polished stones are easier to clean than porous or raw stones. Porous stones will often allow liquid to soak into them which can sometimes damage the stone, but more often it will be difficult to thoroughly rinse clean-saturated stones take much longer to dry. Below, various gemstone types and cleaning methods are discussed.Agate, turquoise, and other porous stones- Very often, agate jewelry features a cross-section slice of an agate rock with a polished surface. As with most any stone (porous or otherwise), soaking agate jewelry in a solution of a mild soap and warm water for 30 minutes to an hour, followed by a thorough rinse in warm water will do the trick. After rinsing, allow the agate or stone jewelry to air dry. Once dry use a soft, lint-free cloth to shine up any areas that need to shine. This method of cleaning is appropriate for nearly all gemstones, especially the porous stones. It is very important to rinse stones very well and it is an absolute must that you allow the stones to air-dry completely.Black Onyx and other polished stones- Polished stones are generally less likely to absorb liquids as easily as their porous counterparts. It is common for polished stones to get dirty from coming in contact with oil from your skin, residue from cosmetics, etc. Finger prints and make-up residue can be easily removed with a dry polishing cloth. Simply buff the face of the stone with a dry, soft, and lint-free polishing cloth to shine these stones. If there are stubborn areas, a quick wipe with a damn cloth will usually do the trick followed by a quick shine with the dry polishing cloth. If these methods prove unsuccessful, try a good long soak in a soapy water solution followed by an air-dry and dry buff.Please NoteThe methods discussed in this article are based on experience from working with jewelry comprised of diverse materials. That being said, every situation is different, and if you are hesitant to clean your own jewelry, consult a jeweler before risking damaging your jewelry.