You buy fine jewelry to wear for years to come, so understanding how to properly store and clean your jewelry will enable you to keep them beautiful and retain their value.
If you walk away with one tip, it should be this: to avoid having your jewelry appear tarnished or dirty, take it off every day before bed.
Here are other tips to keep your jewelry in the best and brightest condition possible.
General everyday jewelry maintenance tips
- Dry jewelry off if it gets wet; water can cause residue that dulls the shine and soften glue that holds stones in place.
- Store jewelry where pieces can’t be damaged (or misplaced), such as on soft dry cloths or pouches or in individual boxes, and avoid having pieces touch other pieces
- Put jewelry on after you’re dressed and then remove it before undressing. Chemicals in skin care products, lotion, perfume, moisturizer, make-up, cologne, shampoo, etc., can damage gemstones and metals – causing fading, tarnishing, and even corrosion. Adopt the mantra: put it on last, take it off first.
- Remove jewelry before sleeping to avoid chains breaking or loose gemstones getting lost.
- Use a 100% cotton cloth or jewelry wipes (yes, wipes specifically made for jewelry) to gently wipe off excess make-up and skin oils after each wearing and before storing them. This will help prevent corrosive chemicals from sitting damaging your pieces. As a bonus, jewelry wipes will leave a thin anti-tarnish coating on the jewelry to shield from damage!
- Don’t wear rings (in particular) when cleaning, playing sports, or gardening, unless you are wearing gloves, to avoid scratches and other types of damage.
- Take jewelry off before swimming – chlorine and salt water can damage jewelry; beach sand is rough and abrasive and can damage stones, prongs, chains, and if a piece of jewelry comes off in the water (or sand) you may never find it again!
- Take jewelry off before exercising – sweat can tarnish even the best of pieces. Any gold that is 18K or less means it’s gold with a higher composition of alloy, silver, or other metals. If it’s 19K or higher, your piece can get damaged from contacting hard surfaces.
Maintaining jewelry can reduce the need for cleaning
If you’re able to follow the general tips above, your jewelry will retain its sparkle and value for years.
Cleaning tips for most items – NOT for pieces containing pearls, onyx and other delicate gemstones
Here are three at-home cleaning tips to consider for your jewelry pieces that do not contain delicate gemstones.
Water and dishwashing soap (most recommended method)
For regular at home jewelry cleanings, mixing mild dish soap and warm water for 3-5 minutes can loosen grime, dirt, and bacteria that has collected during the day. After soaking, brush the pieces with a soft toothbrush then rinse with lukewarm water and dry with a soft cotton cloth.
Salt and lemon
In a non-metallic container, combine 3 tablespoons of salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice, place your jewelry in the mix, add hot water and soak for 3-5 minutes. Remove the jewelry and rinse it with warm water, then dry with a soft cotton cloth.
Aluminum foil and baking soda (for silver jewelry)
If you have some sterling silver that needs some revitalization, line a container with aluminum foil (shiny side up), place the jewelry on top and sprinkle baking soda over the piece until it is covered. Separately, boil enough water to soak the jewelry, pour over the jewelry and let it sit 2-3 minutes. Remove the silver piece(s), rinse jewelry with water, and then pat dry with a soft cotton cloth.
Some special care tips for precious gemstones, white gold, and pearls
Even though quite durable, most gemstones can still be chipped or broken from any heavy impact to an edge or point of the stone. Gemstones can also be damaged by chemicals, such as bleach or chlorine, and some stones, such as emeralds, are sensitive to direct sunlight and heat.
Gold is naturally yellow, so white gold pieces are most commonly yellow gold that is plated in rhodium, part of the platinum family. When cleaning white gold pieces, special care is needed because of the soft gold and ultra-thin layer of rhodium.
If you wear white gold every day, remove the piece at night and wipe off the daily dirt, film, and residue with a soft, lint-free cloth. Note: avoid paper towels as they are abrasive!
Chlorine is particularly damaging to white gold, so remove pieces before swimming in a chlorinated pool. Also be aware that tap water can contain trace amounts of chlorine, so removing pieces before showering or bathing will help to retain their shine.
Pearl pieces require special attention for their longevity. Avoid wearing pearls to bed or in the shower where the silk thread can become damaged or stretched. Store pearl necklaces on a flat soft surface (not on a necklace tree or other hook). Try to avoid submerging pearl rings and earrings in water – the pearls will be fine, but the water can dissolve the glue over time. And, as with all fine jewelry, make sure the pearls are completely dry before storing. Read more about Cleaning and Caring for Pearl Jewelry.
Benefits of having professional jewelers inspect your pieces
Professional jewelers have special tools to safely and effectively clean your fine jewelry pieces.
Jewelers will check to make sure the prongs holding the gemstones are still secure, they will polish the piece so it looks brand new, and they can smooth out any scratches they see.
Rhodium gradually fades with everyday wear, so bring any white gold pieces to a jeweler every six months to have them professionally re-plated so the pieces stay white! Professional jewelers can smooth out abrasions, too, when needed.
Keep your jewelry looking like it’s brand new
How often you clean jewelry really depends on how often you wear it. If it’s often, then having a weekly cleaning schedule can be quite beneficial!
When you balance at-home jewelry care and maintenance with annual professional jewelry inspections, your jewelry will sparkle and shine – like new – for years to come!
Gary J. Long Jewelers offers free jewelry cleanings and inspections, so bring your piece(s) in today!