January 12, 2021
We get lots of enquiries about caring for our jewellery, so we thought it would be useful to put a little guide together to help folks out. Don't be scared of cleaning your jewellery, but do it armed with these tips.
Ultrasonic cleaners, steam cleaners and any other type of jewellery cleaning device that uses heat, pressure, sound waves etc, should never be used on gemstone jewellery. Even if your gemstone is on the machine manufacturer's 'safe list', unless your gemstone has been properly assessed by an accredited laboratory as free from fillers, dyes, oils and incipient cleavages, do not risk it. You could pull out a very different stone than the one that went in. Even diamonds, while very resistant to scratching and abrasion, are not unbreakable - far from it - and they can also be filled with glass.
In our opinion, ultrasonic cleaners are best for solid metal jewellery only, with caution being used where the metal is plated.
For a more gentle cleaning method without the use of machines, we recommend this jewellery dip from Waitrose. We use it on our personal jewellery, and most of the antique jewellery we sell at Kit Clayton too. Drop the item in, leave it for a few minutes, then very gently clean it with the provided brush under the trickle of a cold tap.
Alternatively, use a gentle soap and water mixture. The most basic soap you can find with as few additives as possible, and a very soft toothbrush.
We cannot emphasise this enough: put the plug in the sink before you start. Cleaning is the perfect time for a loose stone to fall out, and a prized gemstone disappearing down the plughole is galling. The author speaks from experience, having spent any afternoon removing half the plumbing from her kitchen trying to trace an opal (which she never found). Plug, plug, plug!
Pearls are very soft gemstones and care needs to be taken when cleaning. To keep pearls looking their best, we would recommend cleaning with a damp, soft cotton cloth only. Nothing more than this is needed, and this method will keep them looking their best.
For solid gold and silver jewellery, we recommend polishing the metal with a Talk Town polish cloth or similar. These cloths can be picked up via their website or at many other retailers on the web including eBay. Talk Town make separate cloths for gold and silver, and you do need to pick the right one for your piece
Gold/silver polishing cloths are not suitable for plated or vermeil jewellery. The problem with polishing plated jewellery is the layer of plating is often very fine, less than a mircon for plated (thicker for vermeil), and polishing cloths are lightly abrasive. Stick to very occasional microfibre cloth cleaning for plated jewellery.
In short: don't. Take your jewellery off in the shower, in the bath, and NEVER wear your jewellery in the swimming pool or sea. The salt, chlorine and who knows what else in the water will corrode it. If you wear your jewellery to the beach, remember that sand is a very efficient abrasive and it will cause damage if you are not very careful.
OK, we concede that some jewellery is designed to be slept in - sleeper earrings for example, and wedding bands. However, almost all other jewellery is not. We move constantly in our sleep, and while we are moving our jewellery is pinned between our body and the bed. Each movement stretches and strains the metal. And whether it's a chain necklace, a bracelet, an anklet or claws on a gemstone ring, you will be weakening the metal and shortening the jewellery's lifespan. Some fines chain will snap the first time you sleep in them, thicker chains will take a while but eventually will come to pieces. Always take your jewellery off before you sleep.
With the proper cleaning and care, your jewellery can and will last a lifetime. Improper care will see the lifespan of your piece shortened, sometimes drastically.
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