Search This Blog

Friday, March 22, 2019

Spring Has Sprung! Have you started your spring cleaning?

Jewelry, like clothing, houses and yards should be cleaned regularly.  We tend to neglect cleaning our jewelry on a regular basis, and sometimes we don’t clean it at all!
Why not start a routine jewelry cleaning schedule, beginning in the Spring?

Think of your jewelry like clothing: No two pieces are alike, and they all come with a unique set of cleaning guidelines.  That means some of your jewelry can be cleaned at home, while others might require the attention of a professional.
Gold and sterling silver can be cleaned at home, but more delicate metals, like platinum, can sustain small scratches more easily than its other metal counterparts. While many enjoy the unique matte look, if you prefer to maintain your piece’s lustrous appearance, a professional re-polish is best.
In general, jewelry made of precious metals set with diamonds, sapphires and rubies is safe to clean yourself with most commercial jewelry cleaners, and I personally prefer the eco-friendly, natural, biodegradable types.  If you cannot find this type of cleaner, contact me and I can provide it to you.   You can also clean this type of jewelry with a mild soap and warm water.

How to clean your jewelry at home:

First, gather your jewelry and separate it based on costume base metal jewelry (most inexpensive), solid precious metal jewelry (silver, gold with no stones), and fine jewelry, solid precious metal jewelry with gemstones ( diamonds, colored gemstones)., and jewelry with pearls or opals.

Before you start cleaning, inspect each piece for broken parts, loose stones, rough metal or missing stones.  Put these items aside.

Starting cleaning with your costume jewelry. Take any antique costume jewelry to a professional and don't attempt to clean it at home.  It is far too delicate!.  Add Dawn blue dish washing detergent to a bowl of warm water large enough to allow complete immersion of your jewelry.  Add your jewelry and allow it to soak for approximately five minutes.  Remove each jewelry item separately and inspect for cleanliness.  If there is caked on dirt or make-up present, brush the area with a soft toothbrush dipped in the Dawn/water solution.  Rinse with warm water and dry with a soft cloth.  Leave on a fresh dry cloth to continue drying.  Many costume pieces have glued in stones so you should never use vinegar, ammonia, acetone or chemical cleaners for this type of jewelry, or scrub vigorously as you may loosen the stones.  If you are cleaning discolored brass jewelry, you may use a soft jewelry cleaning cloth and test an area on the back of the piece to see if you can remove the discoloration without damage.  Proceed with caution or take the piece to a professional for help.

For Silver and Gold jewelry with no stones, there are several safe methods used for cleaning.  If the metal has a darkened background ( called a patina) avoid using a ultrasonic cleaner or chemical cleaners as they may affect the oxidized finish.  You may clean high polished Silver and Gold without patina with a ultrasonic cleaner or a chemical or natural cleaner designed for cleaning jewelry.  As an alternative you can use a paste of baking soda and water applied with a very soft toothbrush.  Rinse well with warm water and dry with a soft towel, then leave the item on a fresh towel to finish drying.

Silver and Gold Fine Jewelry with stones.  I do not put jewelry with precious stones in an ultrasonic cleaner even though many jewelers use these cleaners.  The vibration can loosen the stones and some stones are sensitive to heat!   For everyday cleaning, you can use baking soda and water with a soft toothbrush, brushing gently.  Do not use standard chemical based jewelry cleaner unless it was purchased from a jeweler and recommended for use with stones.  The best option is to take your pieces to a jeweler, like me, for a professional cleaning and a check for loose prongs, loose stones etc.  White gold is usually plated with rhodium to whiten the color and protect the metal.  Over time this plating may wear and the metal will start to look slightly yellow.  To freshen the white gold, take the piece to a professional jewelry for re-plating and your jewelry will look fresh and new!

Jewelry with pearls, opals, turquoise, coral and platinum metal should be cleaned professionally by a jeweler to avoid damage.  These stones are very soft and can be damaged easily.  Platinum is easily scratched.  Antique jewelry can be tricky to clean and if it features a closed back it should not be moistened.  Pearls can be cleaned by soaking in a warm bath of mild soap and water,  and placed on a soft cloth to dry.  Then wipe carefully with a lint free cloth.   Pearls, opals, coral and turquoise should never be placed in an ultrasonic cleaner!

Damaged items should be repaired before worn again!

I will be happy to repair your broken or damaged jewelry, whether it is costume or fine jewelry. Costume jewelry can sometimes be more costly to repair than its monetary value but if it is a favorite piece it may be worth it.  Often it is a simple repair, such as replacing a jump ring or clasp or re-gluing a stone.  

Knotted pearl strands should be restrung every three years or when string is dirty or pearls are slipping over knits.

Damaged prongs are an open invitation to lost stones.  You should have your fine jewelry inspected every six months for prong damage and wear and tear.  Dirt and grease on your jewelry can dull the stones, taking away their beauty, and cause wear and tear on the prongs.  It can also cause irritation to your skin.

Don’t just throw your damaged jewelry in a drawer, bring it to me for a fresh new start!  That’s what Spring Cleaning is all about, isn’t it?

Dirt and Damage Prevention

Daily wear and tear dulls your jewelry, and when you subject it to soap residue and perfume or skin lotions it adds to the potential damage.

Remove your jewelry before bathing, swimming or active sports.  Salt, chlorine, dirt and skin oils are not good for your jewelry.  Apply perfume or lotion before adding your jewelry to minimize contact with chemicals which can damage soft stones and pearls and even metals.  DO NOT get leather jewelry wet!

Avoid storing your jewelry in direct sunlight or heat.  You can still display most of  your jewelry in those small trinket receptacles or on jewelry displays,  but be aware that it will necessitate frequent cleaning to keep your jewelry fresh and dirt free.  Always clean the receptacle to eliminate build up of dust.

Certain colored gems can be more sensitive to sunlight, like emeralds and tanzanite, for example. Other color-treated gems can also be more sensitive to prolonged direct sunlight, so if you are not sure if the gem is color-treated, do not leave it in the direct sun.

For easy storage and less cleaning, consider keeping your jewelry in a box with individually lined compartments to keep your chains from tangling and your jewels from rubbing against or scratching each other.  I recommend acid free boxes to prevent oxidation.  As an alternative, you can put silver pieces in sealed acid free plastic bags, and include a small piece of sidewalk chalk or a charcoal strip (available through jeweler supply stores).

Jewelry boxes, jewelry bags or open trays should have separated areas for rings, earrings and soft bracelets. Hanging your necklaces will keep them from getting tangled.   For cuff bracelets, stand them in a plastic tray with compartments enclosed with an acid free plastic bag.

I hope these tips are helpful!  

My final bit of advice:  Get in the habit of cleaning your jewelry at least every six months, and use 1st day of spring and 1st day of fall as dates for a reminder.  Put it on your calendar and stick to the schedule.  If you jewelry needs attention in between those times, don't put it off!  You could lose a valuable stone or damage a piece more!

Happy Spring Cleaning Everybody!