Cleaning Specific Jewellery Pieces
Jewellery consists of many different materials, metals, stones, gems and organic materials.
Each material brings its own cleaning challenges. If in doubt please just wipe your piece over with a soft cloth after each wear. This will remove dirt, grime and body oils before you place it back into storage which will keep it looking its best longer.
In some designs the stones or focal pieces are glued into position and some cleaners (even water) may loosen the hold over time causing the focal to fall out.
Clean your sterling silver jewellery with a soft cotton or flannel cloth or a special sterling silver cleaning cloth. Remember, silver is very soft and can scratch if you aren’t careful so rub it gently. You may also use a very soft bristle brush, like a baby’s tooth brush or a horsehair silver brush.
Paper, polyester, and coarse fabrics can cause scratches on your sterling silver jewellery.
It’s recommended that you don’t use chemicals on your silver jewellery as it can leave tiny pits causing it to tarnish faster. Store your jewellery in an airtight container as silver will tarnish when exposed to air.
Polish your jewellery with a soft cloth to remove any surface dirt and dust but don’t rub in a hard circular motion which may scratch the surface of some metals used in your jewellery.
Just like a diamond, cubic zirconia can be cleaned with warm water and mild soap. Use a soft brush to reach crevices. You can use a trusted jewellery cleaner on your cubic zirconia.
Another method to clean cubic zirconia is using steam. Hold your jewellery directly over the steam stream to loosen dirt. Holding it over a boiling kettle works well, but use caution and maybe tweezers or tongs to avoid burns. Dry and polish with a suitable cloth.
Cubic zirconia can be cleaned with an ultrasonic cleaner.
- These cleaning methods are suitable for Cubic Zirconia but not for many gemstones or crystals which can be damaged by heat or ultrasonic cleaners.
Rhodium Plated Jewellery
Clean rhodium plated jewellery with warm water and a mild liquid soap. Rinse and dry immediately with a soft polishing cloth to avoid leaving water marks.
Rhodium plating is not a permanent coating and will wear off over time. Do not do the dishwashing or apply hand lotions when wearing a plated ring. This contact with chemicals will cause the rhodium to wear away faster.
Don’t use any chemicals on your rhodium items including those for silver or gold. This includes specialized cleaning cloths. Rhodium plate should not be cleaned with abrasives of any kind including toothpaste and brushes.
- Ultrasonic cleaners are not suitable for use on this material.
You can arrange with your jeweller to have your plating reapplied if the wear becomes too noticeable.
- Firstly your jeweller should be able to tell you if your piece is Rhodium plated or the more expensive Platinum.
- Rhodium is plated over gold and commonly called “white gold”. It will generally be stamped 10k or 14k to indicate what type of gold it is. If a silver-coloured piece has a gold stamp then its Rhodium plated.
- If it’s an older piece, you may be able to see the gold colour through any worn areas.
Gold and Vermeil Jewellery
Gold jewellery doesn’t tarnish, but it can be dirtied or dulled by the oils in your skin, body lotion, makeup or other substances.
Gold, can be cleaned easily with a mild detergent in warm water and a soft cloth or brush (baby toothbrush).
Put the item into a bowl of warm soapy water and let sit for a few minutes. Use a soft toothbrush to gently scrub the jewellery. Remove the item from the soapy water and rinse it. Dry thoroughly with a soft polishing cloth.
Gold filled and Vermeil Jewellery (gold plating over sterling silver) can be cleaned in the same way.
Never remove rings by pulling on the stone as that habit may result in a loose, then lost, gem. Most importantly, store each piece of gemstone jewellery separately so that harder stones don’t scratch softer ones. Many gemstones are harder than the metal it is set in. Gems can scratch the finish on your gold, silver or platinum if you throw your jewellery in a heap in a drawer or jewellery box.
Rings in particular tend to collect dust and soap in the setting behind the gem, especially if worn often. Cleaning them regularly will let the light through for your gems to sparkle.
To clean transparent crystalline gemstones, simply soak them in water with a touch of gentle dish soap. Use a bowl of water rather than the sink to eliminate the risk of anything going down the drain. If necessary, use a soft toothbrush to scrub behind the stone. Rinse the soap off and pat dry with a lint-free cloth (you want to make sure threads won’t catch on the prongs).
Some ring like those in this photo may be glued into the setting so be careful when cleaning them.
- Think twice before putting gems in an ultrasonic cleaner. Diamonds, rubies and sapphires will be fine but many other gems many not be, in particular emerald, opal, pearls, peridot: when in doubt, leave it out.
Organic gems like pearls, coral, and amber should only be wiped clean with moist cloth. Due to their organic nature, these gems are both soft and porous.
Be careful about chemicals in hairspray, cosmetics, or perfume which over time can damage pearls in particular. Opals also require special care, avoid heat and strong light.
Opaque gemstones like lapis lazuli, turquoise, malachite, require special care because they are rocks, not crystals of a single mineral like transparent gems. These gem materials should just be wiped clean gently with a moist cloth. These gemstones can be porous and may absorb chemicals, even soap, and they may build up inside the stone and discolour it.
- Never use an ultrasonic cleaner or ammonia and any other chemical solution.
Stainless steel jewellery does not generally tarnish as fast as silver jewellery but the rate of tarnishing depends on how often it’s used. 100% stainless steel will NOT rust.
Stainless steel jewellery is easy to clean using a mild dishwashing liquid in a bowl warm water, rinse and dry with a soft cloth. It will polish to a natural sheen in which you should be able to see your reflection.
Using a bowl will limit the chances of the item going down the drain. If using a sink remember to remove all items before pulling the plug!
Stainless steel jewellery is very durable and can withstand a lot of wear and tear, as opposed to silver which is a very soft metal. As with any jewellery it is best to avoid contact with chemicals (lotions, chlorine from pools etc.) in order to keep it cleaner longer.
There are some unscrupulous traders out there who may sell a lighter aluminium or alloy material as stainless steel. These are generally lighter in weight, may tarnish badly, have red/brown rust marks and can cause irritation to the skin.
If in doubt, see if a magnet holds firmly to your piece. If it does then it is likely stainless steel. Another hint is to tap the piece with a brass key. It should ring out, sometimes for an extended time.
If you have one of the alloy pieces you can try to clean the rust marks off with a paste of baking soda and lemon juice. Apply it thickly to the affected spots and let dry. Once dry rub the surface with a cut potato which has been dipped into salt. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
Gemstones are literally thought to be as hard as rock, but they come in all ranges of hardness with some being quite soft and may be damaged from careless and rough handling.
Here are some tips for keeping your gems and jewelry looking fabulous for years to come.
Remember, even the hardest gemstone varieties can be vulnerable to breakage especially if it has inclusions that weaken the crystal structure.
Exercise common sense: if you have a ring set with a softer gem variety or an included stone, take it off before strenuous exercise. Even the hardest gem of them all, the diamond, can shatter a well-placed blow.
For tips on individual care of some stones please visit other pages on my blog.
I hope you found this page helpful.
Remember - please err on the side of caution when trying these and use your least loved items as a tester.
I would like to reiterate that the easiest way to care for your jewellery is to quickly wipe the pieces over after each use, that way you won’t need to spend extra time cleaning, rinsing and buffing. It’s a bit like the “stitch in time” expression.
If you have successfully tried other methods, I would love to hear about them.