Proper cleaning and maintenance are important to making quality jewelry last a lifetime. After all, what’s the point of buying beautiful jewelry if you let it get dirty, tarnished or damaged? Failing to clean or maintain things like engagement or wedding rings could result in lost diamonds, tarnished metals, scratches and more. Preventing damage and keeping your jewelry shining like new, no matter the metal or stone, is easy.
Protecting Your Jewelry and Preventing Damage
Protecting your jewelry is fairly simple. It only takes a bit of thought and attention to what you will be doing and where you will be going. For example, going to the gym or doing household tasks can cause stress to your ring. A bent prong while handling heavy luggage during travel means a lost stone. A trip to the beach could produce scratches. In times like these, it’s probably best to take off your jewelry and store it in a safe place. An important note for tungsten carbide jewelry: Because it is a very hard metal, store it separately from other jewelry, or it could scratch your other pieces.
It’s best to regularly clean out your jewelry box to check your jewelry for damage. This helps prevent a catastrophic failure, such as a band breaking or a stone going missing. Cleaning your rings, bracelets and more should be done once a month if worn regularly. Once per year, you should bring it to a professional jeweler for cleaning. During this cleaning, they will look for any damage to the structure of the piece.
Which Metals Need Polishing and How to Do It
Metals such as gold, white gold, silver, platinum, titanium and tungsten all need polishing. They might simply get dirty, or they could tarnish. Anything from doing the dishes to putting lotion on your hands can cause dirt and grime to accumulate, which can also foster germ growth. There are different methods for cleaning metals, depending on what your jewelry is made of. When in doubt with a colored stone, consult a local jeweler for the best method of cleaning that will not affect the color or finish of the stone.
How to Polish Silver
While there are plenty of chemicals and cleaners you can buy at the store, you can also use items in your pantry to clean your silver. All you need is a small bowl lined in aluminum foil, filled with a tablespoon each of salt and baking soda, a teaspoon of dish detergent, and a cup of hot water.
Let your jewelry sit in the cleaning solution for 10 minutes. As PopSugar notes, the interaction between the salt, baking soda and aluminum foil creates a chemical exchange called an ion transfer. After 10 minutes, remove your jewelry and clean it with an old toothbrush.
This method can work with gold, sterling silver or diamonds and gems.
Another method is a half cup of vinegar and two tablespoons of baking soda. Let the baking soda completely dissolve in a shallow bowl. Soak your silver in the solution for two to three hours and rinse under cold water, drying thoroughly with a soft cloth.
Alternatively, you can use dish soap — like Dawn — and warm water. Let the jewelry soak for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on how dirty it is, and rinse under warm running water. This should work for most types of metal jewelry.
To sanitize a ring, whether silver or gold, make a one-to-one mix of Windex and hydrogen peroxide. Soak the jewelry for 10 to 15 minutes and gently scrub with a toothbrush. Rinse in lukewarm water and dry with a soft cloth.
Finally, for an out-of-the-box method to making a tarnished silver ring shine, dip it in a bowl of ketchup for a few minutes. Use a toothbrush to work the ketchup into crevices, and then rinse with lukewarm water and dry with a soft cloth. Do not leave silver in ketchup for more than a few minutes.
How to Polish Gold, Even After It Turns Black
Your first option is the same as one mentioned above. Use the Dawn and warm water solution, soak and rinse.
For a deeper clean, which should not be used every time, use ammonia. Because it is caustic, it is not good for frequent cleanings. If there are any pieces of platinum or pearls, do not use ammonia at all. Otherwise, mix one part ammonia to six parts water, and soak for no more than one minute. For easy removal, keep the piece of jewelry in a kitchen strainer. Then, rinse under running water and dry with a soft cloth. If there are glued-in stones, use a cloth to wipe the jewelry so as not to dissolve the glue.
The same sanitizing solution from above, using Windex and hydrogen peroxide, also works on gold jewelry.
How to Polish Titanium, Tungsten and Platinum
For titanium and tungsten, follow the Dawn and water method described above. Let the jewelry soak for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on how dirty it is, and rinse under warm running water.
Titanium should be polished using a cream metal polish, except for colored titanium. You should also wax the titanium, using the same wax or polish as you would for steel. You can find both of these at hardware stores. The ammonia method will also work on titanium.
For tungsten and tungsten carbide, wipe the jewelry with rubbing alcohol before using the soap solution. Do not use the ammonia, bleach or chlorine, as these will damage the metal, causing blemishes.
Because tungsten carbide is so hard, to polish it, you will need the same polish that is used for loose diamonds.
Cleaning platinum uses nearly the same technique as silver described above. Line a container with tin foil and combine a cup of boiling water with one tablespoon each of salt and baking soda. Mix thoroughly. Put your jewelry in the container, pour the solution over and make sure your jewelry is flat. Then, add a half cup of vinegar. Leave the jewelry in the solution for five to ten minutes, then rinse in lukewarm water and dry with a soft cloth.
Basic Care for Jewels and Precious Stones
While each precious stone is slightly different, using warm, soapy water is the universal way to clean gemstones. You can find more information on each stone at our Colored Gems 101 page.
Getting Diamonds and Jewels Checked Regularly
Just as you get your jewelry checked regularly, you should also get gemstones and diamonds checked. They might be coming out of their settings or need cleaning. You might find you need a ring resized as well. For pieces of jewelry that are often worn, get the stones checked every six months.
Cleaning and Caring for Diamonds
We return to the trusty soap-and-water solution for cleaning your diamonds. Soak the diamond for 20 to 40 minutes, brush with a toothbrush, and rinse and dry. You can also buy diamond polisher, usually in a cream, to polish your diamonds to a high sparkle.
Protecting Your Pearls
Protecting and cleaning pearls is much different from everything else on the list. To protect your pearls, make sure to put them on after applying cosmetics, lotions, perfume and hairspray. Wearing your pearls regularly will allow your body’s natural oils to maintain the pearls’ beauty. The silk holding the pearls may also become dirty, and depending on how often you wear them, you will want to restring the pearls every two to five years.
When storing pearls, keep them in a slightly damp cloth so they don’t dry out. This necessitates keeping them separate from other pieces of jewelry. Do not store or wear pearls with metal jewelry, as they may become scratched. Avoid contact with salt water, chlorinated water such as swimming pools, and perspiration.
Utilizing Your Jewelry’s Maintenance Plan and Warranty
Your jewelry may come with a maintenance plan, or a warranty that also includes a plan. For example, a Shane Co. Free Lifetime Warranty offers free maintenance and repair work, free resizing, free cleaning and polishing, free inspections, and free lost stone replacement. The plan remains active so long as the jewelry is cleaned at a Shane Co. location every six months. Pieces can be mailed in as well.
Depending on where you bought your jewelry, you may have a similar plan. Taking advantage of these plans can greatly ease the burden of cleaning your jewelry yourself. Shane Co. will also clean jewelry bought elsewhere for free.