Jerry’s Gemstone and Jewelry Cleaning Guide
Originally posted on January 1st 2000 by Gerald A. Livings
The first step in properly cleaning your jewelry is to pull out that little container of jewelry cleaner that you probably were given at a jewelry store, and that you probably keep under your kitchen sink (That is where most people keep it). Now take out the little strainer that comes with it. Set the strainer on the kitchen counter and then empty the liquid down the sink. If you like the plastic container then keep it but it will never get used to hold cleaning solution ever again.
So why do I put this right at the top of the page? Because having this little plastic jar of jewelry cleaner almost always has the name of the store that gave it to you on the lid.
Why is that important? Because you are you most likely to inspect your jewelry when you clean it. If you have this little tub of jewelry cleaner (and I use that term loosely), at your elbow when you find something that needs repaired, you have a jewelry store name right in front of you.
And they “CARE ABOUT YOUR JEWELRY”.
Because they gave you some free jewelry cleaner they know that the chances are better than 50/50 that you will not even look at other options, but bring your jewelry items to repair straight to them.
Simple marketing 101. get your name in front of the customer and they are less likely to look for options.
Most of those jars are filled with simple liquid soap and some coloring. A weak soap solution and cold water will rarely clean your jewelry. After being frustrated trying to clean your jewelry, you will again, be more likely to take your jewelry to the jewelry store who gave you the cleaner. And this gives them a new opportunity to sell you something when you walk in.
Now I have nothing against selling jewelry. I did it for many years. I just do not want to mislead others into thinking that they cannot adequately clean their own jewelry, and I do not like using gimmicks to get you back into a store to sell you something.
So because of that, I wrote this guide to help you care for all of your jewelry so that, day in and day out, it looks like you just purchased it. I believe that proper care will extend the life of, and help maintain the value of your jewelry. And for the most part, you can do it yourself, at home
To do this, this guide has four sections:
Basic rules to live by for jewelry care.
Things to Remember General information that does not easily fit into the other sections, but is good to know.
The Care Guide
The heart of this pamphlet, easy to follow instructions on how to care for your jewelry
The Parts List
A descriptive list and table to help you find the best method to clean each part of your jewelry. Clean each piece using the instructions from the care guide for the most delicate part.
- Always… Before cleaning, inspect your jewelry for loose gems, bent clasps, broken links, frayed silk, broken gems or worn parts. If you find an item that you feel is in need of repair or adjustment, seal it in an envelope and take it to your jeweler.
- Always… If you do anything to your jewelry that makes you worry, if only for a minute, about its condition, seal it in an envelope and get it checked by your jeweler. Even though most of the time everything will be ok, it’s that one time that you catch a little problem before it becomes a big one, that makes it worth the trouble.
- Always… Pat your jewelry dry with a lint free towel after cleaning. Never rub, this prevents damage caused by snagging on prongs and in-between chain links.
- Always… Have your jewelry checked every six months by your jeweler.
- Always… Jewelry worth more than $200 should be appraised by a Graduate Gemologist and copies of the appraisals given to your insurance agent.
- Never… Use toothpaste to clean your jewelry! Toothpaste has abrasives to clean your teeth. Just think about what it’s doing to your mountings and gems.
- Never… Wear your jewelry while you sleep. A lot of damage is done by catching prongs and chain links on your bedding. (Many people will wear a medical alert bracelet or a religious symbol at all times. These are the only exceptions, but I recommend you have these items checked every three months).
- Never… Wear your jewelry while doing anything where you may damage or put it in contact with harsh chemicals; some examples include exercising, car repair, gardening, and house cleaning.
- Never… Wear your jewelry in a pool or hot tub. While pure silver, gold, and platinum are inert to almost any chemicals that you may come in contact with on a daily basis, the alloys in your jewelry will be harmed or discolored more easily. Chlorine and bromine from pools and hot tubs will combine chemically with just about everything and this is why they stay clean unfortunately your jewelry will slowly become worse looking and damaged.
- Never… purchase most liquid jewelry cleaning solutions. The majority of them are basically soapy water, no matter what kind of “special cleaning ingredients” are listed on the label. Follow this guide and you will not need them.
- Never… Use an acidified thiourea based chemical dip to remove tarnish. More on this below.
Liquid silver cleaner ( TarnX ® ) Probably the best known of the acidified thiourea chemical dip tarnish removers, this is a liquid that smell very bad, and cleans your silver only jewelry extremely fast. But do not use it! This remove tarnish, but they also etch your silver giving it a dull appearance. And your jewelry will tarnish much faster due to having more surface area exposed to oxygen and sulfur in the air due to the etching.
Some important points to remember about acidified thiourea chemical dip tarnish removers.
- With only a few minute’s exposure, you can experience respiratory problems.
- Do not use on any jewelry metal. This includes silver, Gold, Platinum and Palladium, Copper and its alloys, Brass and Bronze.
- If you have an item that has been cleaned with an acidified thiourea chemical dip, it will require professional polishing at a minimum. If it had a patina of any sort, that will need to be redone as well (repatination).
- Acidified thiourea is a strongly suspected carcinogen. Acids are corrosive and will damage silver, niello, bronze, stainless steel knife blades, and organic materials such as wood and ivory.
I recommend that you take any acidified thiourea chemical dip solutions to your hazardous waste collection site in their area.
Click this link to find a “household hazardous waste disposal near me”.
This link will open in a new tab or window.
*Things to Remember*
Rouge cloths are polishing cloths that are impregnated with jewelers rouge. This is rusty red in color and when rubbed on jewelry will remove fine scratches and surface oxidation. Your fingers will also turn red, but don’t worry, it washes off. The cloth will turn black as you use it, and this is normal. You can use it till it is practically solid black or it is falling apart, whichever comes first.
There are many cleaning wipes on the market today that are already have cleaning solutions in them. As you polish your jewelry try to avoid rubbing it over your gems. (Note: don’t use a cleaning wipe on plated jewelry unless the product says it is designed for that use due to the fact that the plating is usually very thin and could be damaged.)
Ammonia. This is safe to use on precious metal only jewelry and some gemstones. The conditions needed where gold and silver could be affected are not possible in your home. Platinum is not affected by ammonia at all. It may damage or attack some gemstones either directly, or by removing surface treatments on the gem, so be careful and follow this guide and you should keep surprises to a minimum.
Before cleaning silver and gold, you might want to use a rouge cloth to remove fine scratches. Silver when it is heavily oxidized may need to be professionally polished and cleaned. If any of your jewelry items have a patina applied, take these to a professional for cleaning. Platinum cannot be polished at home so just clean according to this guide.
*The Care Guide*
some easy to follow directions on how to care for your jewelry organized A thru F, with A being the most gentle.
“A” Clean with a toothbrush moistened with tepid (room temperature), slightly soapy water (slightly soapy means one drop of mild dish soap in one quart of water). Rinse with tepid water.
“B” Soak for five minutes in tepid, slightly soapy water. Clean gently with a soft toothbrush and rinse with tepid water.
“C” Soak for five minutes in two cups of warm water with two drops of mild dish soap. Clean gently with a soft toothbrush and rinse in warm water.
“D” Heat two cups of water in your microwave till hot, but not boiling. Then add two drops of mild dish soap and soak your jewelry for five minutes. Clean with a soft toothbrush and rinse in warm water.
“E” Soak for five minutes in two cups of warm water with two drops of mild dish soap and two tablespoons of ammonia. Clean with a soft toothbrush and rinse in warm water.
“F” Heat two cups of water in your microwave till hot, but not boiling. Then add two drops of mild dish soap and two tablespoons of ammonia. Soak for five minutes and clean with a soft toothbrush and rinse with warm water.
*The Parts List*
*Silver, Gold, Platinum jewelry with gems…Refer to the gem chart for the best care method. and remember to clean each piece using the instructions from the care guide for the most delicate gem.
*Silver, Gold, Platinum jewelry with no gems… These are items that can be safely cleaned using care method “F”.
*Costume, Plated, gold filled jewelry… This category is so broad that you are safest using only the most gentle care method “A” but since these styles of jewelry can be made from anything, you need to use your best judgment and be careful.
*Non-precious metals…In today’s jewelry market this would usually be titanium and steel. The best options would be to find a jeweler that carries that type of jewelry and ask them.
*Damaged Gems and jewelry with gems not on this list…Take these to your jeweler and follow their instructions.
Please remember that I wrote this guide to help you with your home jewelry care but it does not take the place of biannual inspections by your local jeweler or Gemologist.This guide was written by and is the intellectual property of Gerald A. Livings.
All instructions should be considered the opinion of the author. “Jerry’s Jewelry and Gemstone Cleaning Guide”, the name “Livingston Jewelers”, the “Livingston Lions”, and the format of this cleaning guide are copyright 2000 by Gerald A. Livings. 2nd ed.©2005-2021 All copyright infringements will be aggressively prosecuted.