How to Care for Fine Jewelry

Fine jewelry is often a most cherished accessory, and can represent the deep commitment of a marriage, evoke the memory of a grandmother’s elegance, or simply indicate your style, taste and values. Regardless of what it means to you, your fine jewelry deserves proper care. Even though a treasured piece can and should last a lifetime or more, all jewelry is subject to wear and tear. Some basic care can both minimize potential damage and keep your jewelry looking as striking as it did the day you first wore it.

In addition, proper cleaning and storage will help maintain the value of your fine jewelry as a luxury asset should you ever decide to sell your items to an estate jewelry buyer.


Wearing Fine Jewelry

The first bit of preventative maintenance for you fine jewelry is to consider the way you wear it. Some simple planning and guidelines can help you avoid damage and potentially costly repairs.

First of all, remember that cosmetics of all types, including hairspray and lotions, can contain chemicals that may damage jewelry, so always put your jewelry on after applying these products to avoid any potential contact. Be sure to remove earrings and other jewelry when having your hair styled, especially if you are having your hair colored. Pearls are particularly susceptible to damage from the alcohol and other chemicals used in the process, and can be permanently damaged.

If you do accidently get lotion on your rings, for example, do your best to remove it with warm water and mild soap as soon as possible. While even the worst lotions won’t ‘melt’ your gold ring, the longer your ring stays dirty, the more likely the chemicals are to damage the finish. And be sure to take off your jewelry when you bathe. Soap can leave a film on your jewelry and leave it appearing dull and lusterless.

You should always remove your jewelry when performing manual tasks as well, especially any that put you in touch with cleaners or detergents, like washing the dishes or cleaning the house. Jewelry should also be removed when performing any manual labor or contact sports, as a ring or bracelet could easily catch on something and be damaged. Gems, even diamonds, can be chipped or cracked by hard impact, so by all means take off your jewelry before the Thanksgiving Day football game!

Finally, never wear your jewelry into a chlorinated swimming pool or spa. The chlorine can react with the metals in the jewelry and cause permanent color changes or even structural damage.


Cleaning Fine Jewelry

While it is best to have your jewelry professionally cleaned by a reputable jeweler, there are a few ways to help keep your jewelry looking great between professional cleanings. Cleaning your jewelry regularly will help keep it looking good, but make sure to clean carefully, and know how to care for different gems and metals.

While you can use an old diaper for polishing, it’s best to use a professional jewelry polishing cloth to polish silver and gold. Avoid using tissue or paper towels as these contain fibers that can cause scratches. Professional polishing compounds are available as well, but be sure to follow your jeweler’s recommendation, and be sure to read the label. The same polish that might restore luster to your platinum ring might severely damage pearls or soft corals. And never mix cleaning agents, as potentially hazardous fumes could develop.

Diamonds can be cleaned with commercial jewelry cleaners, or a mix of ammonia and water. A soft bristled, non-metallic brush can be used to dislodge dirt and dust from under the setting and around the prongs. After cleaning, avoid touching the diamond as much as possible as oils from even clean hands can dull its fiery brilliance.

Colored gemstones can generally be cleaned with warm, soapy water. Soaking the piece for a few minutes will help remove any dirt or grime, but use a bowl and NOT the sink–many plumbers have stories of well-intentioned jewelry cleanings gone awry. Some colored gemstones are treated by oiling or surface diffusion, and can be easily damaged. Diffused stones can appear lighter if scrubbed too hard, and the oil in an emerald can be stripped away by cleaning. Ask your jeweler about these special considerations.

Pearls are made from layers of nacre secreted by oysters, and this beautiful, lustrous organic compound is notoriously easy to damage. It is easily compromised by even diluted chemicals, so pearls should only be gently washed in mild, soapy water. Use an unused makeup brush if necessary to loosen dust and debris, and allow the pearls to dry completely on a towel before handling them as the wet string can stretch and attract dirt.


Storage for Fine Jewelry

Fine jewelry should always be treated with care, including when it is stored. Lined jewelry boxes are probably the best option, with individually padded slots for rings and posts for hanging necklaces and bracelets. The important feature of this option thing is to keep the pieces from touching each other.

Diamonds are the hardest substance on earth, and can not only scratch softer stones and metals, but they can scratch other diamonds as well. However you choose to store your jewelry, make sure each item is properly isolated. Wrap individual pieces in cloth, and be extra careful with pearl jewelry as it is soft and scratches more easily than most gems and metals.


Repairing and Servicing Fine Jewelry

The best way to avoid having to repair your fine jewelry is through preventative maintenance, but accidents can happen, and sometimes a piece may require professional service. If you do discover a loose stone in a setting or a bent clasp or chain link, it is best to have it serviced immediately by a professional. Small problems can become big ones later, so to avoid costly repairs, or even the possibility of losing a precious stone, seek professional help.

It is a good idea to have your jewelry professionally cleaned about once a year. The yearly cleaning will not only keep your fine jewelry looking its best, but a reputable jeweler will perform a complete inspection for signs of wear, and fix them before they become a major problem.


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