So you finally have the precious gem of your dreams, but how do you clean and maintain it? This can feel like a daunting task, especially if the item is a fragile antique brooch with gemstones or pearls. How can you clean it safely? I am asked this question frequently and rest assured there are some simple solutions that will keep your precious gems clean and shiny!
First, assess the piece. How old is it? What metal is it made of? Does it have precious, semi-precious or non-precious gems? Once you have determined this, you can proceed with the appropriate cleaning process.
Lightly tarnished silver can be cleaned and shined easily with my personal favorite, silver wipes. I like to use Connoisseurs silver wipes, which come 10 sheets to a box. You can cut them to size for small jobs, which makes them go a long way. They really remove tarnish and give the piece an excellent shine. They also clean and shine fine gold and gold plated items. I can't live without these!
For heavily tarnished silver, old fashioned silver cream such as Wright's does a good job. If there is still residual tarnish after using the cream, Tarn-X works well, but it has a strong odor and you must use gloves. Since it is so strong, I only recommend using it on sturdy silver pieces without stones.
Fine gold and gold with diamonds can usually be cleaned in a liquid jewelry cleaner, just as you would use for a contemporary gold piece. If the item is a fragile antique and/or has gemstones or pearls, you can use the small brush that comes with the liquid. Just apply a small bit of cleaner to the brush and gently and carefully scrub the gold areas avoiding the pearls or gems and rinse with cool water. Then just dry the piece with a soft cloth.
For natural pearls, less is always more. I use a dampened cloth on them first, rubbing each pearl gently and then gently dry them with a soft cloth. If they appear to need more cleaning, I would put a drop of mild dish liquid in the water and clean them again using the same process.
Crystals can be cleaned with a mild dish detergent and water. This works well on crystals with gold plated, sterling or gold findings and they come out sparkly and clean!
If you come across some really dirty or gunky jewelry, you'll need to pull out your entire arsenal of tools! Q-tips, small head brushes, toothbrushes and the occasional needle can all be used to remove gunk on and inside tiny spaces. Use care not to rub too hard if you are uncertain about the item's finish. A magnifier and light will help with this tedious process!
You can avoid future cleaning and extend the life of your favorite pieces by simply wiping them down after you wear them. Use a soft jewelry polishing cloth to wipe down gold and silver and store them separately from one another to reduce scratching. There are also black silver tarnish tabs available that can be used to reduce tarnish buildup on silver. Just store the silver inside a bag with the tab to preclude tarnishing. You can find polishing cloths and tarnish tabs at most jewelry supply sites. Pearls should be wiped with a damp cloth and dried completely before storing, and store them separately. And it should go without saying, never use hairspray or apply make up with your jewelry on! It can really cause some irreversible damage.
If you take a little time maintaining your jewelry, it will serve you well for years and years to come. Remember to treat them like the future family heirlooms that they are.