Gemstone Care & Cleaning
For Long Lasting Treasures
Beautiful jewelry, of course requires special care… but it is also meant to be worn and enjoyed! Or what’s the point really? At Shimmerlings we do the best we can to create pieces that do not require a great deal of care to keep clean. To be perfectly honest, the best way to keep silver from tarnishing…is to wear it on a regular basis. But alas the elements do cling to jewelry when it is being worn. Not just dirt or particles in the environment, but also in the air.
I woman that I met at a show not too long ago told me that when her silver jewelry became too tarnished, she simply tossed it. She did not realize that the tarnish could be removed easily. As I told the same gal, I don’t ever want to hear of someone throwing away jewelry (especially my creations) because they became tarnished!! So here is what I suggest, from all of the information that I have gathered, this is indeed how I clean my own jewelry…
FIRST & FOREMOST, THE FOLLOWING GEMS NEED TO BE REMEMBERED….
These gems are notoriously delicate and require special care:
- Foil-backed glass stones
- Mother of Pearl
- Petrified Wood
- Dinosaur Beads
- Unstabilized Turquoise
These delicate gems require very gentle cleansing. They should not be exposed to ammonia (including vinegar or Windex type solutions), hot solutions, ultrasonic cleaning or any abrasives. Now for more general information….
For All Jewelry in General
My suggestion would be to never use anything for cleaning jewelry that is abrasive or includes bleach. Both of these will damage silver and most any gemstone. This would included toothpaste (no matter what your grandmother says) especially toothpaste for whitening teeth, scouring powder of any kind, baking soda or any “creamy” opaque jewelry cleaners. That is simply my suggestion, these cleaners do exist.
Also, although I use a toothbrush to clean larger pieces, please remember only to use a new, never been used toothbrush! Regardless of how well you think you may have cleaned a used toothbrush, there may remain a tiny residue of toothpaste on it which could harm your jewelry…I am of the mind set that it is “better safe than sorry”. If you buy a brush for cleaning jewelry, then only use it for that purpose.
The gentlest ways to clean delicate jewelry is with:
- A jewelry cleaner that is specifically gentle and non abrasive. I have used both Sunshine Jewelry Cleaner and Jewelry Joose. Both of which you can spray on, dip or soak several pieces, and it is safe for metals and gemstones.
- Ionic jewelry cleaners do not use heat, sound waves, or abrasives, and they do an excellent job of removing tarnish and dirt very quickly. Ionic jewelry cleaners are available from many sources on the Internet; shop carefully because prices can vary widely. These are considered safe for metals and gemstones as well.
Preventing and Removing Tarnish on Sterling Silver and other Metals
Because sterling silver and most other metals naturally darken over time, the occasional use of a nonabrasive polishing cloth (I use Sunshine Cloths) will remove all tarnish and return your metal to its natural glow. If you use any over the counter cleanser, please keep in mind that if your jewelry is oxidized (antiqued) these cleaners may remove that from your metal.
For plain sterling silver jewelry (with no stones), you can also get good results using commercial silver dip liquid, polish paste, or polish cloth. Although I wouldn’t use these products on jewelry containing gemstones too often, if at all. With the exception of the stones listed above, below are the methods that I have used with success to clean my finished jewelry creations. Again remember that if a piece is oxidized or antiqued purposely, anything with ammonia might damage that finish…
- Windex is often used to shine up silver jewelry, including some gemstones Spray Windex on the jewelry, wait a few moments, rinse, and wipe clean with a soft, dry cloth.
- You can steam clean your jewelry at home also. This method is safe for all metals and gemstones (except the ones listed!) The method I’ve used is to slowly boil a solution of trisodium phosphate and water in a saucepan. Use a small wire hooked on the edge of the pan, or if you have a grease splatter screen, or something similar. The point is to get the jewelry into the steam, but not to let it touch the bottom of the pan. Take care not to burn yourself with the steam either.
- Ultrasonic cleaners are also safe to use on most jewelry (except the ones listed!), and small models are available at many stores.
- If you have mostly sterling silver jewelry, that has been badly tarnished, and it does not include any delicate stones, I have used a solution 5-2-1 water, vinegar, dish soap, mixed it well together then dipped the pieces. Don’t let them soak, and rinse them immediately. It may take several “dips” to get the hard core tarnish off, but it is something you can do at home quickly and easily. This is what you use instead of throwing your jewelry away! After rinsing, I would wash again with a mild soap, then dry carefully with a cloth. If you can, remove any stubborn tarnish with a cleaning cloth.
- An ionic cleaner is the best to remove any tarnish quickly and safely from most any piece!
Keeping Tarnish Away
So, you have purchased a new piece, or have spent the time to clean a tarnished piece. Now what? Starting with your clean jewelry, how do you keep the tarnish from returning and becoming dull again? I received a gift a few years ago, a jewelry box that is lined with anti tarnish fabric. If you come across these treasure chests, I suggest you purchase it! It has kept all of my jewelry clean and un-tarnished! But until you find one…
I recommend keeping your pieces in zip-lock bags, with a tarnish strip (available from most jewelry suppliers) if possible in the bag as well. Once I create a shimmerling treasure, it is placed in a bag until it has been cataloged and photographed, then it is placed in my jewelry keeper with a tarnish strip until my next show. Follow the directions on the no-tarnish strip, generally it needs to be replaced every 3-6 months, depending on the air quality of where you live, and how often you wear it!
Keeping & Caring for Pearls
Pearls are soft compared to other gemstones and precious metals. It is important to take special care of your pearls to ensure they will remain bright and beautiful for generations to come.
Personal Care Products Can Damage Pearls
Cosmetics, perfume and hair spray all contain chemicals that can dull the luster of a pearl. The natural acids contained in body oils and perspiration can damage pearls in the same way. It is best to put your pearls on after applying makeup, perfume and hair spray.
Simple Steps to Protect Your Pearls
Wiping the pearls with a soft damp cloth after you wear them will ensure that they remain free from harmful build-ups of these compounds. Periodically, pearls should be washed with a mild soap.
Store Pearls Separately from Other Jewelry
Always keep your pearls separated from hard jewelry items, to prevent them from being scratched. Pearls are best kept in a soft cloth pouch or a soft lined jewelry box or compartment.
For the price of one box of store brand zip-lock bags you could keep your jewelry safe and tarnish free for months and months and months!