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How to Clean and Care for Your Jewelry

There’s nothing more beautiful than watching the light dazzle from the diamond ring on your finger, or vintage watch on your wrist, or silver pendant settled on your chest. Over time, however, those pieces can lose their sparkle. What’s the best way to clean jewelry?

Different metals and stones require different methods of treatment. While there are consistent guidelines across the board, we’ll take you through a more nuanced set of instructions to cleaning and maintaining your jewelry collection. This way, you can bask in that glittering shine of your popular gemstones and jewelry for years to come!

Why Jewelry Care is so Important

Our jewelry is more than just possessions. Rings, watches and necklaces handed down from generations before us take on significant sentimental value. They remind us of our relationships with loved ones.

All jewelry is vulnerable to deterioration over time. Gold, for example, is corrosion-proof but so soft that it’s easily dented. Diamonds? Hard, yes, but chemical exposure can corrode them.

It’s important to care for jewelry to preserve its precious value. In a way, cleaning your pieces is almost like paying homage to the person who gave it to you, anchoring your thoughts to them through the act of maintenance.

Cleaning jewelry that’s only slightly less bright than usual is easy and simple versus jewelry that’s got buildup, tarnish, scratches or other damage. Depending on the level of deterioration, it might be impossible to fully restore it.

Metal, for instance, can literally corrode away. Stones can be broken, lost or damaged. If you start by taking proper care of your jewelry early, you can make it last for generations! Let’s get into exactly how you can do that!

How to Best Clean and Care for Your Jewelry

Jewelry care is important. While there is a deluge of information about it online, not all of it is accurate and can contribute to harm. First and foremost, do not let your jewelry get dirty or damaged.

Store metals separately

Separate your silver and gold from any costume jewelry with a low, precious metal content. If you stash them all in the same box, the cheap stuff can damage the quality of your fine jewelry.

Keep Jewelry, Dry, Cool and Dark

I recommend felt-lined boxes to block out UV light. Believe it or not, light can trigger chemical reactions kickstarting the first signs of decay. The felt within the jewelry box itself is hygroscopic, meaning it soaks up moisture and trace amounts of water from the air to keep your collection dry. That being said, the ONLY exception to this rule is for pearls; which thrive on moisture. All in all, I think the felt-lined jewelry box itself has a classiness or elegance about it. So use one! It’s cheaper than paying a pro for restoration.

Separate the Stones

Pieces with large or prominent gemstones can scratch the metal of rings, the glass of watch faces or other, neighboring gemstones. Keep them in separate pouches or drawers in your jewelry case. If you don’t have pouches, you can wrap them in tissue for safe storage.

Clean Every Cranny

Gently clean your jewelry after wearing it. This helps prevent the buildup of dirt or chemical residues inside tiny crevasses that can tarnish your jewelry over time. It’s also an opportunity to take an inventory of your jewelry. Inspect for new damage or tarnish early. It’s best to tackle the problem while it’s still small.

As Soft As Gold

Yup, despite seeming hard to the touch, consider all of your precious metals and stones to be extremely soft, i.e. vulnerable to damage. There are ultrasonic cleaners and other jewelry cleaning products on the market these days that promise efficient cleans, but what they don’t promise is a guarantee that they won’t seriously damage the jewelry.

Skip the product promotions and opt for a polishing cloth and a chamois leather. If that doesn’t buffer your silver right up, it might require professional cleaning.

Last but not least - NEVER wash jewelry in the sink. You risk losing it down the drain! If you are determined to “wash” it, use a small bowl with warm, soapy water. Scalding hot water will damage it. Lukewarm only, please.

Cleaning Gold Jewelry

Personally, I love designing in gold. The good news about gold is that it is extremely resistant to corrosion. Even when other metals are mixed with it; say white gold mixed with a lower karat gold, is quite tarnish-proof. That being said, the downside is that gold is very susceptible to scratches. You’ll have to be mindful while wearing it not to hit or slam it against anything.

Start by cleaning gold jewelry with a chamois leather or a lint-free microfiber cloth.

You may also wash in a small bowl of warm water with a drop of dish soap. Soak for a minute, then scrub gently with a new toothbrush or cloth. Finish by drying the piece as well as you can and store in its felt-lined jewelry box.

How to Take Care of Rose Gold

Rose gold is the hardest type of gold. This is because the copper - that gives it a rosy hue, is much tougher than gold or silver. *Trend Alert* Rose Gold is gaining popularity for engagement and wedding rings.

I think it’s lovely and feminine. Rose gold was most popular in the 1930’s. This is why it suggests a vintage look.

As a jewelry designer myself, I appreciate the durability of rose gold the most. I mean, you have to really work to scratch this metal!

The more copper added, the harder it is (and the redder it appears). When combined with gold, it becomes resistant to tarnish as well! It’s a win-win!

Never use abrasive chemicals to clean rose gold. Just a cloth, or warm water and toothbrush.

How to Maintain Silver Jewelry

Unlike gold, silver IS vulnerable to chemical damage. Most retail silver is sterling silver. It is mixed with other metals like copper, rendering it likelier to tarnish.

Silver jewelry is a common choice for women seeking feminine, casual design. Sterling silver can be cleaned regularly with a polishing cloth or a light piece of felt. Fine silver is more tarnish resistant but should be cleaned even more carefully, because it’s softer.

Most importantly: keep it dry.

Pure water is unlikely to damage sterling silver, but the water in our homes is laced with fluoride, chlorine, salts and other chemicals that corrode your jewelry. I recommend that you remove your silver before going into the shower, pool, hot tub, lakes or oceans.

Take Care of Pearls

The first line of defense is to clean your pearls with a dry cloth after every wear. If that doesn’t work, advance to a damp cloth. If they need a serious, deep clean use diluted dish soap. Do not submerge pearls in water because that weakens the thread they’re strung on.

The rule for pearls is ‘last on, first off’. Don’t wear them under other jewelry. Pearls are physically delicate and easy to scratch. Use all perfume, hairspray or cosmetics prior to putting them on to avoid unnecessary damage.

Remember, pearls have a very soft surface. They should be stored in their own pouch or drawer of your jewelry box. Lastly, unlike silver, pearls prosper in a moist environment.

How To Clean Gemstones

Opaque gems include lapis lazuli, malachite and turquoise. Together with coral, amber and opal, these are some of the most vulnerable gemstones you’ll have in your collection. They’re soft and porous. Never use abrasive chemicals to clean them.

How do you clean opals? The best way is to wipe them with a soft cloth, and if necessary a soft, damp cloth. Use lukewarm water, and err on the side of caution whenever you clean them. Store them away from other stones, especially diamonds, which can easily scratch them.

Clean and Care for your Lisa Leonard Jewelry

Keeping the jewelry you already have in great condition doesn’t have to be hard. The best way to clean jewelry is to use a soft polishing cloth often. Whether or not to use a lukewarm water solution depends on what type of metal it is. When in doubt, refer back to this article!

If you’re looking for something new to celebrate or commemorate a special event, I’ve been working to create beautiful jewelry that speaks to the important moments in our lives. Most of my designs can be personalized with names and dates, birthstones and more — allowing you to speak your truth through my designs. Shop online now and always hashtag #lisaleonarddesigns when you share a pic of your new piece!

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