Tips and tricks on how to clean your fine jewellery

Tips and tricks on how to clean your fine jewellery

Jewellery care 101

Text: Angelyn Kwek


Hear ye, hear ye: When it comes to do-it-yourself fine jewellery cleaning, heed these dos and don’ts

Common sense decrees that the delicate nature of fine jewellery necessitates careful handling and cleaning to retain the eye-catching lustre that first drew you in. Aside from the basics like removing your rings if you're getting hands on with some rugged work, and storing your finery in lined cases to keep them from scratches and tarnish, there's actually a lot more that goes into their maintenance — even if you're not investing in professional cleaning services.

What else do you need to keep in mind besides not going swimming with your jewellery and scrubbing it with a polishing cloth, you ask? For one, different types of stones require specific cleaning methods; and two, various metals react differently to cleaning solutions, so yeah... there's pretty much an entire lexicon on fine jewellery care and cleaning you're going to need to brush up on. And if you want your precious possessions to go a long way, keep to these tips and guidelines and your shiny luxuries will last a lifetime.

DO: Gemstone jewellery should be wiped thoroughly with a clean, soft and damp cloth after each wear. It may be tedious, but doing so will enhance the lustre of the stones over time. Storage is equally important as gems can incur scratches more so than diamonds, so keeping each piece separately in a soft pouch — to prevent the pieces from scraping each other — is key.

DON'T: Expose your gemstone pieces to salt water and chemicals such as chlorine and detergents. These reagents can erode the finish and polish of the stones, as does coming into contact with hairspray and perfume. Additionally, take care not to subject gemstones to abrupt changes in temperature to prevent fracturing. Of course, with so many coloured gems in the market, the proper care for each stone may vary, so be sure to get the full rundown for any particular gem from an expert jeweller.

DIY Jewellery Cleaning

DO: Remove your diamond engagement or wedding band despite your paranoia of losing it when it comes to doing rough work because, contrary to popular belief, the hardest material in the world is prone to chipping if a hard blow hits the solitaire at the right angle. And seeing as it's a piece of jewellery that's worn daily for years on end, it's recommended that you see your jeweller once a year to look over the band for any loose prongs or mounting wear. You should also take care to give it an 'at-home' cleanse every now and then as diamonds can become smudged or dusty due to the oils in human skin forming a film on the gem.

Four non-damaging tried-and-true methods to regain that brilliance include:

1. Detergent bath
Combine a small bowl of warm water with any mild liquid detergent and stir into a sudsy mixture. Dip an eyebrow brush into this homemade cleanser and gently run it over your diamond ring. Transfer the ring into a wire tea strainer and rinse under running water until clear. Finish up by patting dry with a soft lint-free cloth.

2. Cold water soak
Prepare a solution of cold water and household ammonia in the ratio of 50:50 and soak the ring for 30 minutes. Upon removal, gently tap around the mounting with an old, soft toothbrush before swishing it once more in the solution, then draining it on tissue paper.

3. Quick-drip method
Get yourself any trusted commercial liquid jewellery cleaner kit that's specific to cleaning diamonds, follow the instructions to the letter and presto, your ring is clean as a whistle. Tip: To prevent messing up your cleaning job, handle your diamond by the edges so you don't immediately smear the gem with sloppy fingerprints.

DIY Jewellery Cleaning

4. Ultrasonic cleaner
Requiring a bit more than soap and water, this one is a small machine that cleans any piece of jewellery that can be immersed in liquid. Consisting of a metal cup filled with a cleansing solution that you drop your jewellery into, the machine then creates a high-frequency turbulence to clean your pieces. It may be more costly, but on the up side, you can use it for everything from necklaces to earrings that can undergo the ultrasonic cleaning process.

DON'T: Be conscious to keep your diamond away from chlorines and bleach when you're tackling household chores as they can damage and discolour the stone. Tossing your ring haphazardly into a drawer or jewellery case with other pieces is also prohibited as solitaires can scratch each other as well as other gemstones. And be sure not to leave your ring on the rim of a sink while washing your hands as it can easily slip down the drain — that's a cautionary tale right there.

DIY Jewellery Cleaning

DO: Use a chamois bag, or wrap your pearl jewellery in tissue, when storing them away as cultured pearls are very delicate. They should also be brought to your jeweller for restringing once a year as regular wear stretches and weakens the threads. Take note that your jeweller strings your pearls with a tiny knot between each sphere so as to prevent that dreaded explosion of beads going all across the floor and into every concievable nook and cranny in the event the thread snaps.

DON'T: Wear your pearls whilst doing hair and makeup as cosmetics and hairspray may stain them. It is also recommended to clean your pearls with mild soap and water at the end of the day to remove all traces of perfume, makeup and perspiration before keeping them in proper storage. And it goes without saying that you should never attempt to clean your pearls with chemicals or abrasives.

DO: Invest in a good chamois cloth as an effective and inexpensive way to maintain the gleam of your gold jewellery. Commercial cleaners are also good to have on hand to remove tarnish. Mixed with water and a few drops of household ammonia, brush through with a soft-bristled old toothbrush, give it a lukewarm rinse, air dry and your gold pieces will be spanking new again. For more stubborn substances like grease, karat gold jewellery can be treated by a quick dip into plain rubbing alcohol.

DON'T: As hardy as karat gold material can be, it is advised that you remove all traces of jewellery before showers and when you're applying makeup or skincare products such as hand lotions or moisturisers. All fine jewellery should always be kept in a dry place.

DIY Jewellery Cleaning

DO: If you're looking to achieve that gorgeous aged patina when it comes to your sterling silver pieces, be sure to care for it properly by cleaning it with a mild soap and water solution every now and again, and dry it by patting down with a soft cloth. Jewellery cleaners specifically for silver can also be utilised to treat tougher stains. Be sure to store silver pieces in cool and dry places, individually cocooned in tarnish protective bags, or wrapped in soft felt cloth to prevent irregular oxidation and scratch marks.

DON'T: Shine your silver with anything other than a polishing cloth or fine piece of felt — even something as innocuous as tissue paper — as the fabric fibres in other materials can cause abrasions on your precious silver. Also triple check that your storage case is light and airtight or the silver will tarnish. And once again, don't bring your sterling pieces anywhere near chlorine water if you don't want the chemical to wreck havoc with the delicate metal.

Credit to Jewelers of America for the advice and recommendations.