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How to Clean Gemstone Jewelry

How to Clean Gemstone Jewelry

When you own a fantastic piece of gemstone jewelry, ensuring it always looks its best is typically a priority. Since dirt and grime can build up over time, you'll occasionally need to clean your gemstone jewelry to restore the sparkle and shine. Plus, cleaning can come with other benefits, which is why it should be part of your routine.

However, using the right approach is critical when cleaning precious metals and gemstones. If you're wondering how to clean gemstone jewelry, here's what you need to know.

Why You Should Regularly Clean Your Gemstones

Regularly cleaning your jewelry is critical to ensuring the gem and metal remain shiny and the visible color stays true. Through the course of normal wear or when pieces aren't stored securely, dirt, grime, and dust can build up. When that happens, the shine tends to dull. Plus, metals can tarnish due to air and moisture exposure, but you can limit it with proper cleaning.

Cleaning your jewelry regularly also ensures the piece isn't carrying around bacteria or other concerning materials. Again, this can naturally occur over time, particularly if a piece is worn regularly and not removed when doing certain common activities, like handling raw meats while cooking.

Gemstone Care: Cleaning Gemstones

How to clean stone jewelry with a soft bristled toothbrush

Precisely how you need to clean gemstones varies depending on the gem itself. Some are more sensitive to certain cleaners than others. Additionally, some stand up well to options like ultrasonic cleaning systems or boiling, while others don't.

In most cases, the safest way to clean gemstone jewelry is to wet the piece and use a soft-bristled brush or microfiber cloth to remove dirt, grime, and other buildup. Using a mild liquid dish soap is typically an option, or you can opt for a jewelry cleaner known to be safe for the type of gem you're cleaning.

After cleaning, rinsing the gemstone is essential. That helps remove cleaner residue, ensuring the gem looks its best.

Dry jewelry with a clean microfiber cloth

Another critical step is to store cleaned jewelry properly. Make sure the piece is completely dry, using a microfiber cloth to remove excess moisture if necessary. Then, place the jewelry in a lidded and lined jewelry box.

Storing the gemstone jewelry in a box ensures dust doesn't build up on the surface. Plus, you can avoid accidental exposure to potentially harmful materials, such as harsh cleaners.

It's also essential to keep gemstone jewelry pieces separate in the box. Using one with compartments is often best, as that prevents harder stones from rubbing against softer ones, a situation that could cause softer stones to scratch.

Gemstone Care: Wearing Gemstone Jewelry

When you're wearing gemstone jewelry, you want to take precautions to reduce the odds of dirt buildup and damage. Don't put on jewelry immediately after applying creams, perfumes, or similar body products. In some cases, the ingredients in body products may harm gemstones and precious metals. Additionally, lotion may get onto the piece, leaving a residue that reduces the shine.

Making sure that the gemstone you're wearing is appropriate for the activities you're planning is also a must. Many gems are far more susceptible to damage from incidental contact with hard objects. As a result, it's best to limit their wear in some cases or ensure they're only on jewelry pieces where contact is less likely, such as earrings or pendants, and not rings or bracelets.

Generally, tougher stones like diamonds, rubies, and sapphires work well for everyday wear because they aren't susceptible to damage. Gems like pearls, jade, opals, and aquamarines have a lower hardness, so the risk of wearing them daily is greater.

How to Clean Gemstones at Home

How you can clean a gemstone depends on the stone type. Some are at greater risk of damage and discoloration than others. As a result, you want to ensure your cleaning approach is appropriate for the stone in the jewelry piece.

Here's a breakdown of how to clean various types of gemstones at home and what you should avoid:

How to Clean

What to Avoid

Amethyst

Wet, brush, and rinse. Use ultrasonic systems with caution.

Avoid heat and extreme temperature changes

Apatite

Wet, brush, and rinse.

Avoid boiling, steam, and ultrasonic systems

Aquamarine

Wet, brush, and rinse. Use ultrasonic systems with caution.

Don't use acids or boil

Chalcedony

Wet, brush, and rinse. Use ultrasonic systems or boiling with caution.

Avoid high heat or extreme temperature changes.

Citrine

Wet, brush, and rinse. Only jewelers should use ultrasonic systems or boiling.

Avoid extreme heat to prevent discoloration

Emeralds

Wet, brush, and rinse. Only jewelers should use ultrasonic systems or boiling.

Avoid extreme heat to prevent discoloration

Garnets

Wet, brush, and rinse.

Don't use acids or ultrasonic cleaning systems. Do not boil, expose to extreme heat or bright light.

Howlite

Wet, brush, and rinse.

Avoid high heat, steam, and ultrasonic cleaning.

Kyanite

Wet, brush, and rinse.

Avoid high heat, steam, and ultrasonic cleaning.

Labradorite

Wet, brush, and rinse.

Avoid high heat, steam, and ultrasonic cleaning.

Moonstone

Wet, brush, and rinse.

Avoid boiling, steam, and ultrasonic systems

Peridot

Wet, brush, and rinse.

Avoid heat, extreme temperature changes, and acid

Quartz

Wet, brush, and rinse. Use ultrasonic systems or boiling with caution.

Avoid high heat or extreme temperature changes.

Rubies

Use soapy water and a brush, rinsing when done. Use ultrasonic systems or boiling with caution.

Glass-filled versions should only be cleaned by professional jewelers.

Sapphire

Use soapy water and a brush, rinsing when done. Use ultrasonic systems or boiling with caution.

Glass-filled versions should only be cleaned by professional jewelers.

Sodalite

Wet, brush, and rinse.

Avoid extreme temperature changes, boiling, ultrasonic systems, and acid.

Tourmaline

Wet, brush, and rinse.

Avoid steam and boiling. Don't use ultrasonic systems.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Gemstone Jewelry

What Kind of Brush Should You Use to Clean Gemstone Jewelry?

Clean jewelry with a soft toothbrush

Generally, avoiding any brush with stiff or rigid bristles is best. Along with potentially damaging the stone, it could harm the setting, particularly if a bristle gets caught. Instead, opt for soft or very soft brushes.

In most cases, using basic toothbrushes labeled as "soft" or "very soft" is a reasonable and affordable starting point. However, you can opt for jewelry brushes if you prefer. Fine camel hair artist brushes are also suitable for cleaning jewelry, and the longer bristles may help sweep away dirt that accumulates below the girdle of a faceted gem.

Another strategy is to use an alternative to a brush. For example, microfiber cloths are solid choices, particularly if the jewelry doesn't have many nooks and crannies.

How Do I Make My Gems Shiny Again?

What you need to do to make gemstones shine again depends on the reason they've become dull. A thorough cleaning might restore the shine if it's a simple matter of the gem being dirty. However, if scratches are to blame, the stone may need polishing.

During the polishing process, the surface of a gemstone is essentially gently sanded, resulting in a smoother surface. When the surface is smooth, it's better at reflecting light cleanly, leading to more shine.

While there are ways to polish gemstones at home, there's some risk involved. Novices may make mistakes that lead to uneven surfaces or more scratches. Plus, it's possible to damage the settings depending on the polishing compound used.

Some jewelry cleaning should be left to professionals

As a result, repolishing a gemstone is often a task best left to professionals. Jewelers or jewelry repair and restoration specialists may offer the service, so it's wise to check with your preferred provider and see if they can repolish the stone.

How Do You Clean Cloudy Gems?

Cloudiness is often caused by surface dirt. As a result, using the appropriate cleaning method for the type of gemstone you have could solve the issue. Usually, that means using water and a soft brush or microfiber cloth. Sometimes, a few drops of gentle liquid dish soap can also help, though that isn't appropriate for all gems.

In some cases, cloudiness is the result of surface scratches. In that case, getting a professional to repolish the gemstone is potentially the best choice.

Does Vinegar Clean Gemstones?

While vinegar is popular for household cleaning, it's not appropriate for gemstones. Vinegar is acidic, and acids can damage many types of stones. In some cases, vinegar will also harm any adhesives used that keep the gem in its setting.

Since that's the case, it's usually better to avoid vinegar – even if it's diluted – when cleaning gemstone jewelry. The only exception is gems that aren't sensitive to acids, which are few and far between.

How Do You Clean Gold Rings with Stones?

In most cases, any cleaning process that's safe for the gemstones works for jewelry metals. Wetting, brushing, and rinsing can remove most surface dirt. In some cases, adding a little gentle dish soap can speed up the cleaning process.

Gold, silver, and similar precious metals are also safe for ultrasonic cleaners. However, tungsten should not be cleaned ultrasonically. Similarly, avoid ultrasonic cleaners if a piece of jewelry is plated instead of solid metal.

Not all jewelry should be cleaned in ultrasonic cleaners

How Do You Clean Tarnished Gemstone Jewelry?

If the precious metal on your gemstone jewelry is tarnished, polishing it with a suitable precious metal polish can restore the look of the piece. However, it's critical to exercise caution as the polishing compounds may damage gemstones.

Generally, you'll want to follow the instructions that come with the polishing compound, as the required steps can vary. Additionally, it's critical to note that excessive pressure or over-polishing can come with risks, including damage to the metal. Similarly, removing tarnish from plated jewelry requires extra caution, as too much polishing may wear through the precious metal plating.

Since removing tarnish is an involved task, it's potentially best to work with a professional instead. They'll have the required expertise and materials to do the job without the same amount of risk.

What Can Damage Gemstones?

What may damage a gemstone varies from one stone to the next. Some gems are highly susceptible to damage from simple contact, such as hitting them against a hard object during normal wear situations. Others are more resilient to physical damage, but they'll still potentially get harmed from forceful impacts.

In most cases, acids and various chemicals can harm gemstones, particularly after prolonged or regular exposure. High heat – especially when the temperature rises quickly – may also lead to issues like cracks. Discoloration can occur from heat exposure, as well, with some gemstones.

Ultrasonic cleaners aren't ideal for all gems because the vibrations damage the material. Additionally, while soaking for a short period doesn't harm most stones, there are exceptions.

Some gemstones are water soluble, at least to a degree. As a result, soaking can cause the gem to break down. Additionally, softer or porous stones may be harmed if they're soaked. Since that's the case, it's better to simply wet a gemstone while cleaning instead of letting it soak, especially if you aren't sure if the gem is water soluble, porous, or soft.

Does Baking Soda Damage Gemstones?

Baking soda is an abrasive cleaner. Since that's the case, it can scratch gemstones and precious metals. Usually, the scratches are thin. As a result, they'll reduce the shine and can lead to a cloudy appearance.

Generally, the risk is greatest with softer stones and metals. However, it's still wise to exercise caution if you're cleaning harder gems or metals.

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