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How to Clean Jewelry

Keep your silver, gold, and baubles sparkling—sans tarnishes—with these practical tips.

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Photography by: Thayer Allyson Gowdy

From your everyday jewelry to those stately pieces you only wear on special occasions, chances are, all of your jewelry could use a good polish. Some people clean their jewelry excessively while others rarely clean their jewelry at all. Since baubles are wearable items and can be fragile, it's best to take a moderate approach when cleaning your jewelry. Rinsing and rubbing it too much can cause unnecessary damage and premature wear and cleaning it too little can degrade the jewelry over time. There are a few factors to consider depending on the type of jewelry. Here, a few of the tried-and-true techniques and tips to keep your jewelry protected and looking great.

 

Prevention and Care

Frst, designate a spot in your home to place your rings and other jewelry while doing tasks like washing dishes, gardening, or cleaning the house. Most people are guilty of keeping their wedding rings on all the time, but they should be removed when there's a chance they could get wet or dirty. You should even take your jewelry off in the shower or when applying hand lotion. If you don't, soap residue and moisture can get trapped in the crevices of your jewelry and cause issues. Prevent premature tarnishing on silver by storing it in felt away from other jewelry and metals. Keep gold jewelry in a jewelry box that is also lined with felt to prevent moisture build-up and tarnishing.

 

Maintaining Jewelry

Next, assess the type of jewelry you want to clean. All fine jewelry should be cleaned with care, but some gemstones require a more gentle approach, so that they dont crack or chip. Fragile materials like pearls, and cameos made from shells, emeralds, opals, or turquoise should be handled with extreme care. The frequency of cleaning jewelry matters, too. Most fine jewelry should only be cleaned everyone other month or so to prevent unnecessary exposure to liquids. If you find yourself needing or wanting to clean your jewelry more often, be sure to use a gentle method and avoid ultrasonic cleaners or steamers. Excessive use of at home ultrasonic machines can eventually loosen stones, wear down the metal, and cause even more significant damage. Have your jewelry checked by a trusted professional jeweler twice a year to ensure they are secure and properly cleaned. 

 

RELATED: How to Detangle Your Jewelry Once and for All

 

Cleaning Fine Jewelry

The most tried-and-true, gentle way to clean fine jewelry is to do so at home using a dish, lukewarm water, a soft bristle toothbrush, and some mild dish detergent. The milder the soap, the better. Mix a drop of dish soap in a bowl with some lukewarm water. For extremely soiled fine jewelry that does not have fragile gemstones, soak the jewelry in the mixture for a few minutes. (Always remember that delicate gemstones should never be saturated for more than a few seconds.) Next, use the toothbrush to buff away any dirt and residue gently. For dirt in hard to reach spots, carefully use a toothpick to dislodge it. As you're cleaning the jewelry, take note of any loose stones or damage that needs to be repaired. If gemstones are loose, stop wearing the jewelry until it can be fixed. Finally, pat the jewelry dry and allow it to air dry completely before putting it back into storage.

 

Cleaning Silver Jewelry

To clean silver jewelry, pick up some silver polish or make your own concoction using tinfoil, baking soda, salt, and water. Line the bottom of a large disposable pan with aluminum foil with the shiny side up. Next, place the jewelry in the pan so that it is touching the foil. Sprinkle on some baking soda and salt into the pan. The amount of salt and baking soda will depend on how much water you are using, estimating about one tablespoon for every cup of water. Next, pour boiling water into the pan until the jewelry is completely saturated. Let the jewelry sit in the solution until the tarnish starts to visible disappear. Then, carefully remove the jewelry and pat completely dry with a lint-free cloth.