Fine jewelry will last a lifetime if it is properly cared for. Daily use and exposure to dirt, soap, lotions, sweat, and moisture can diminish its sparkle. Fortunately, most items can be cleaned without seeing a professional jeweler. In this guide, we’ll explain how to clean jewelry including gold, silver, diamonds, and gemstones.
Check your jewelry often whether you wear it all the time or have put it away. Even in storage, high-quality gems can lose their luster.
General Approach to Cleaning Jewelry
Most jewelry can be cleaned by washing it in warm water and gentle liquid soap. The soap should be colorless and fragrance-free with no harsh chemicals, moisturizer, or antiseptic. Even a gentle hand soap will do.
To clean the grime out of crevices and tight spaces, use a cloth or soft-bristled brush. Intricate pieces can collect grime and dust that are hard to remove. An ultrasonic cleaner can dislodge such debris in hard-to-reach places. Avoid ultrasonic cleaning of blackened or patinated silver jewelry and soft gemstones like opals, pearls, or turquoise.
Making Your Own Jewelry Cleaning Solution
There’s usually no need to go out and buy a specialized jewelry cleaner. To make your own at home:
- Add 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid to 1 cup of warm water.
- Mix in ½ teaspoon of ammonia-based cleaner, such as a glass cleaner.
- Soak the item for about 5 minutes.
- Scrub it thoroughly with a toothbrush. Make sure it has soft bristles.
- Air dry the item or carefully wipe with a towel, paper towel, or cloth.
If some areas are especially hard to reach, you can use a toothpick. Unwaxed dental floss can be effective as well.
Another cleaning option is baking soda:
- A mixture of three parts baking soda to one part water helps clean heavier tarnish. First, wet the silver, and then use a soft, lint-free cloth to apply the paste, working it carefully into the crevices. Turn the cloth as you go and then rinse and buff dry.
*Only use baking soda if you have to. It can be harsh on some metals and delicate finishes
Best Way to Clean Gold
The solution of water and dishwashing liquid works well for gold. You can also add a ½ teaspoon of ammonia. Dip the jewelry in the solution and remove residue with a soft-bristled brush before rinsing in water and patting dry.
For small jewelry, place items in a strainer before dipping them in the solution. You can place larger pieces directly into the bowl for about five minutes, swishing them around to dislodge dirt. Then lay the items on a soft cloth. Use a small, soft brush to remove trapped grime. Before rinsing small pieces under running water, return them to the strainer; then use a soft cloth to dry.
Additional Guidance on Cleaning Silver
Another way to clean sterling silver is to use silver dip. It can remove tarnish from silver chains, which are hard to clean with just a polishing cloth. Silver dip is sold in supermarkets, pharmacies, and hardware shops; or, you can find one in a local jewelry store. But be aware that silver dip can cause more damage if your jewelry is designed with darker areas or soft gemstones.
You can also soak silver jewelry using a mixture of ½ cup white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Then rinse under cold water. Dry thoroughly and the piece should have its original shine.
How to Clean Gemstones
If you have a diamond, ruby, sapphire, or emerald set in gold, mix some dish soap and seltzer water. The carbonation can loosen dirt and remove trapped debris. Use a soft toothbrush to get around stones and settings; then dip in clear water to rinse the piece. You can also place it in a strainer if you prefer running water. Buff it with a cloth to dry.
Pearls require special care since they’re porous. They can lose their luster quickly as dust and dirt can easily coat them. Soaking pearls is not recommended.
To clean strung pearls without damaging the piece, lay the strand on a soft cloth and mix warm water and mild shampoo. Dip a small makeup brush into the mixture, shake off excess solution, and lightly brush the sides of each pearl. Use a clean, damp cloth to rinse. Lay the strand flat to dry.
A no-soak approach also works for other porous stones like opals and turquoise.
Cleaning Diamond Earrings
For diamond studs or larger earrings, place them in a bowl of warm water, add unscented soap or washing liquid, and move the earrings around in the solution. Leave them for 30 minutes. Then rinse the earrings and use a clean cloth to pat them dry. If any residue is left, remove it with a small toothbrush.
Importance of Proper Storage
For the most part, diamond jewelry should be washed at home once or twice a month, and cleaned professionally twice a year. No matter what kind of jewelry you have, be careful how you store it. Proper storage will avoid having to clean it more often.
Precious metal jewelry should not be stored in humid places, where it can be tarnished. It should also be stored away from free-flowing air. This can prevent the buildup of dust. Ideally, it should be stored in a small jewelry box or pouch. Avoid storing metal items in contact with one another as scratching can occur. Metal jewelry with bands, beads, or chains should be stored individually.
Schedule Cleaning and Maintenance Today
We hope you benefit from our guide on how to clean jewelry. At Jeweler’s Touch, we provide complimentary jewelry cleaning and inspection every six months, and also provide high-quality jewelry repair by expert goldsmiths. To schedule an appointment, or learn more about cleaning and caring for fine jewelry, browse our online resources or call 714-579-1616 today.