How To Care For Fine Jewelry
We all want our jewelry to last forever. A necklace handed down from your grandmother may go to your children or grandchildren someday. Family heirlooms have a way of connecting generations because you have a physical reminder of the love that you share. Many times these pieces even have stores associated with where they came from. But when you wear that jewelry, you want it to look brand new. And you don't want valuable pieces to get broken, either.
The trick is to maintain your fine jewelry so that it will last as long as possible. Depending on the type of jewelry, there are a few different ways to maintain it properly. These range from quick home cleanings to professional maintenance.
What is Considered Fine Jewelry?
First things first, how do you know if what you have is considered fine jewelry? If you aren't sure which you own, there are a few ways to tell. There are two main categories of jewelry: fashion jewelry (also called costume jewelry) and fine jewelry.
Fashion jewelry is usually made of base metals like brass, copper, or aluminum. Sometimes the bands are plated with gold or silver. The stones on these pieces are generally simulated stones like cubic zirconia. These materials are less durable and are known to break and tarnish easily.
Conversely, fine jewelry is manufactured from precious metals, including gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. Precious and semi-precious gemstones like diamonds, rubies, citrines, garnets, and sapphires are typical in fine jewelry. These materials come together to make beautiful and sturdy fine jewelry. As long as proper care and maintenance are done, fine jewelry is stronger than fashion jewelry and can also be repaired if it is broken. It's more expensive, but fine jewelry is worth more and will last longer.
Fine jewelry will usually be certified and come with papers to prove it. If unsure, you can always take the piece to a jeweler for an appraisal or analysis. They'll tell you what materials it's made out of and how much it's worth.
Best Jewelry Cleaning Methods
Jewelers recommend you take your jewelry in for cleaning every six months to a year, depending on the materials and how often you wear it. But in between cleanings, there are some steps you can take to improve the longevity of your jewelry.
Wipe your jewelry with a soft cloth to remove any oils. This especially applies to pearls, which you should wipe every time you take them off.
Take off jewelry before showering or swimming.
Take rings off before washing your hands, putting on lotion, or applying beauty products.
Apply perfume before you put on necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.
Following these steps will keep the jewelry from getting damaged by oils from your skin or chemicals found in everyday items like shampoo, lotion, and perfume.
Depending on the type of jewelry, several methods for at-home cleanings will help maintain these pieces between professional cleanings. Most methods are simple and only involve a few items like polish, dish soap, or microfiber cloths. Jewelry cleaner kits are also available for purchase.
Cleaning Solutions 101
To clean silver jewelry, you want a good polish. This will remove the tarnish and leave a protective layer on the metal. Polish is available in a liquid and paste form, but that can be a little messy. There are also wipes and reusable cleaning cloths that simplify the job and limit the mess. The cloths generally have one side for cleaning and one side for shining.
You can use dish soap, baking soda, or toothpaste to clean silver in a pinch. However, these are only for emergencies and should be used infrequently, as they can damage the jewelry over time.
To clean any gold jewelry, from white gold to rose gold, you only need a few household items.
Soft microfiber cloths
Soft bristle toothbrush
Mix up a solution of dish soap and warm water (you can also use seltzer water if the piece has precious or semi-precious stones) and soak the jewelry for up to 5 minutes. Gently scrub off the grim with a toothbrush and rinse the jewelry with water. You can buff it dry with a paper towel or soft cloth.
In a pinch, a jewelry cleaning wand will clean up most pieces right away.
There are special considerations for jewelry with pearls or other porous stones. When you clean pearls, it's vital that you do not submerge them. They'll absorb the water and get weak and break. Because they're so porous, they tend to hold dust and dirt.
Cleaning kits and jewelry cleaning solutions are available that work wonders for pearls, turquoise, and opals. But if you want to work with household items, mix mild shampoo with warm water. Lay the pearls on a clean microfiber cloth, dip a small makeup brush in the mixture, and gently wipe it over them. Don't use too much pressure, or you could damage the stones. Wring out a damp cloth to gently rinse the pearls off. Pat them dry or let them air dry, laying flat, so the sting does not stretch out.
Cleaning Methods to Avoid
Because these jewelry pieces are valuable and some are very delicate, you want to be sure you are using the proper methods to clean them.
The biggest mistake is using harsh chemicals in the cleaning solutions. Alcohol and lemon juice seem like good options but will do more harm than good. They damage softer stones like pearls, opals, and emeralds. Denatured alcohol can be used to clean diamonds but is not recommended for other stones. And toothpaste, as we already covered, can be a helpful cleaning solution in an emergency but will cause long-term damage. So it is not recommended for jewelry cleaning if better options are available.
Always double-check how to clean the specific metal and stones on your jewelry to avoid doing long-term damage.
Jewelry repair services are a lifesaver. Many valuable pieces of jewelry have the potential to be passed down for generations and worn proudly, but they need a little work first. There are many common fixes that repair services do:
Prong re-tipping or replacement
Ring head/setting replacement
Ring setting/stone tightening
Polishing and cleaning
Repair services will also inspect pieces for additional damage. So remember to keep up with repairs and cleaning to ensure your fine jewelry will last for years.
Maintaining Your Fine Jewelry
Your fine jewelry is valuable and has the potential to be passed down for generations. So take the time to care for it right. This might include a quick clean every time you wear it or an occasional deep clean at home. And each piece should be taken to a jeweler every six months to a year for a professional cleaning to keep it looking its best.
And keep in mind, for every piece, there are some great cleaning methods, some alright ones, and some bad ones. So do some research into your specific piece before cleaning to ensure you won't end up damaging the jewelry accidentally.
We are here to help if you have any questions!