This post started as just a few helpful tips on taking care of your jewelry but it quickly became apparent that I needed to provide more information. As a result, this article will be a two part series. Today we will start with general guidelines for taking care of your jewelry. Friday, April 4th, Part 2 will be published and I will provide you with some cleaning instructions on a variety of popular gems as well as a little information on taking care of watches.
Fine jewelry is meant to be worn and passed down to future generations. Taking simple steps to care for and clean your jewelry today, will help ensure that it will remain looking beautiful tomorrow. Each piece of jewelry and timepiece is individual and needs to be cared for differently.
This post came to be because I was delivering some repairs to a customer over the weekend and we started chatting about the best way to clean your jewelry. This particular customer is very lucky to have a beautiful collection of jewelry so we had to cover a variety of gemstones in our conversation. On the way home I thought this might be good information to share with all of you. If you have any questions about the care of a piece, please contact me, I am glad to help. I am a GIA Graduate Gemologist and have been in the jewelry business for over 27 years. While I have heard my fair share of sad stories I believe, whenever possible, in creating happy outcomes! When in doubt, ask a professional!
Let’s start with some general guidelines.
1) When cleaning your jewelry over a sink, make sure the sink is closed and if you think you need to, place a strainer between you and the drain. Prongs can become loose or bent and the last thing you want to do is to have to remove the drain to look for a stone. Let me share a story about myself. Several years ago, I was putting laundry into the washing machine and I thought I heard a little “ping”. I stopped and for some reason, looked down at my engagement ring, only to find that my diamond was gone! I slowly took each piece of clothing out of the washer until nothing was left. Nestled in one of the little drainage holes in the bottom of the washing machine was my diamond! Somehow, I had sheared off two of my prongs. A close call.
2) Use common sense about when to wear your jewelry. Don’t wear your valuable pieces to garden, move rocks, furniture or do the Ironman. As hard a diamond is, it can be chipped or broken if it is hit just right. There are other gemstones that can take even less wear and tear. Gold can be bent or twisted and destroyed. If you notice that something is loose or damaged, don’t continue to wear it until you get it checked. Better safe than sorry.
3) Take care of your jewelry. Get it checked on a regular basis. On prong set items, the prongs can be lifted by something as simple as a snag on a piece of clothing. If you have a ring that is constantly snagging your clothing, it needs to be checked. The sharp prong or metal piece can usually be filed or pushed back down. Prongs as well as mountings, through time, wear away. Before you pass a keepsake onto another generation, have it checked and repaired if need be. Most jewelry can be refurbished and repaired. Depending on how hard you “wear” your jewelry, have it checked at least once a year, more if you are the person that does move rocks and furniture with your jewelry on.
4) All jewelry needs to be cleaned periodically. Different gemstones need to be cleaned with different products. Any jewelry you wear will get smudged, soiled and dirty. Lotions, powders, soaps, detergents and dirt, all create a film which will reduce a stone’s brilliance. In addition, chemicals in the air or that your hands or body come in contact with can oxidize or discolor your jewelry. Keeping your jewelry clean will maximize its brilliance.
5) Pearls need to be cleaned and occasionally restrung. If they have been sitting unworn in a jewelry box for years, the cord could be dried out and could break. Have them checked, cleaned and restrung before wearing them again. Cultured pearls are usually strung with a knot between the pearls.
6) Gold, silver and platinum can be damaged. These metals will naturally develop a patina as you wear them but they also need to be cleaned and polished periodically. Strong chemical cleaners can pit and scratch the gold. Chemicals circulating in the air can slightly oxidize the gold. Chlorine is very hard on jewelry. Chlorine based cleaners, pools, and jacuzzis are hard on jewelry in general. Once or twice in the pool is not going to damage your gold, silver or platinum items but consistent exposure over a long period of time can.
7) Proper storage is important. Don’t let your valuable jewelry be jumbled together. Everything is at risk to get scratched, bent, broken or tangled. Try to store pieces so that they are not touching another piece of jewelry. Some people use individual boxes or soft pouches. Some use a fabric lined jewelry case or a box with compartments and dividers. Whatever works best for you.
8) Be careful about leaving all of your jewelry in one place or one box if it is out in the open. Don’t make it that easy for a thief to break in and leave with everything in the box sitting on top of the dresser. Formulate a plan about the best way to secure you valuables. Perhaps it is a safe or a secure hiding place, maybe a safety deposit box if you don’t wear certain pieces often. If you hide it, write the hiding place down somewhere safe! About a year after we moved into our house, we found the previous owner’s stash of costume jewelry hidden in a drawer in the garage. I called her and to that day, she could not remember where she had hidden it.
9) Know what you have and what you are buying. Gemstone enhancement disclosure is a huge issue in the jewelry industry and one you should be aware of. As a consumer, you will regularly encounter in the marketplace gems that have been treated to change their appearance. Enhancement is very common and has literally been going on since the beginning of time. Still, you deserve to know what has been done to any gemstone you have or are going to purchase. In a sense, humans alter all gem materials after they are found in the earth in order to prepare them for use in jewelry. Beyond traditional cutting and polishing, however, gems can often be treated in ways meant to alter their color or clarity. Sometimes these treatments are not always apparent to the unpracticed eye, and are sometimes difficult to distinguish even by experts. It is necessary and legally required for anyone selling a gem (even consumer to consumer) to disclose the treatment procedure a gemstone might have undergone. Non-disclosure of this treatment could cause a person to believe that a particular gemstone was of higher quality naturally and therefore be more valuable than it actually is. An added challenge is that treatments can be permanent, long lasting, or short-lived under normal jewelry use. Treated gems may require special care by their owner. You will read more about this in Part 2 in regards to cleaning instructions.
10) Lastly, make sure your jewelry has been appraised, photographed and is insured. Don’t store the appraisals with the jewelry. Keep the appraisals in a separate, safe place. Make sure that all concerned parties know where the appraisals are kept. The appraisals should be a detailed comprehensive report of each jewelry piece done by a competent jewelry appraiser. I have heard too many sad stories over the years about people that were either not insured or had really poor appraisals to replace their valued heirlooms.
That’s it for Part 1, please tune in for Part 2 on Friday, April 4th. Please let me know if you found this useful.