JEWELLERY CARE

When it comes to keeping your jewels clean, there isn’t unfortunately a one-size-fits-all rule.
Each metal and gemstone need its own special attention, what might work perfectly well for one, could cause some serious damage to another. Here you can find a comprehensive guide of advice for keeping those jewels clean and sparkling.


How Often?

It really depends on how often you wear your jewellery and how careful you are whilst wearing and storing. It goes without saying the more you wear something, the more often it will need to be cleaned. It is strongly recommended to avoid applying creams, lotions and perfumes whilst wearing jewellery, and to remove when doing any tasks that have the potential to cause damage, such as cleaning or swimming.

We think it’s best to clean your jewellery as and when you feel is best. If you can visibly see a build up of dirt around any settings, or maybe the metal or gemstones are looking a bit dull, it might be time for a clean.

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Ultrasonic Cleaners

Ultrasonic cleaners are a form of mechanical cleaner, using shockwaves in a bath to loosen and remove dirt from jewellery. A microscopic frequency is shot through a bath which your jewels sit in, vibrating so that any dirt and grime lifts off.

Many jewellers, including bench jewellers have this machine available, but they can also be bought for home use.

As you would expect, not all gemstones or adornments are suitable for being cleaned this way - Because of the high pressure, unseen inclusions and loose settings could be aggravated and cause damage to your jewel.

The risk with using equipment without prior gemstone knowledge can be quite catastrophic, this handy list at the bottom should guide in what gemstones are suitable to be cleaned in this manner, and which are not. 

Please be aware some gemstone have treatments which can mean that this method of cleaning while usually suitable, should be avoided.

Soapy Water

A tried and tested method which most gemstones can be cleaned with is using mild soapy water.

Simply fill a bowl with cold to lukewarm water and a splash of washing up liquid, and use a super soft bristled brush such as a bamboo toothbrush, to gently buff away any dirt. A soft bristle is extremely important as even though gemstones appear hard, some may still scratch easily.

Once cleaned, gently pat dry with some kitchen roll, and lay flat away from direct sunlight until completely dry, a final clean using a jewellery cleaning cloth will help bring extra shine back to your pieces, but do so gently, especially around the gemstones. Most gemstones can be cleaned using this way, however, check our guide below as there are
some which should avoid this method.
 

Gemstone settings

How the gemstone is set into the jewel will heavily determine how it can be cleaned. Anything open-backed will be fine to clean, then referring to the list to see the best method for cleaning.

If a gemstone has a closed back such as a foiled back setting, it must be kept as far away from water as possible. Whilst it is closed backed, there is still a risk of water getting in behind the stone and damage the backing.

Any water damage could ruin the foil and cause the gemstone to appear dull and dark. This can also be applied to opal doublets, as their backing can become damaged when in contact with water.

Before cleaning any gemstones, it is a good idea to give it a once over to make sure the stone hasn’t loosened in its setting, to protect it from any damage.

Cleaning metals

Jewels that are only metal are less high maintenance compared to gemstone jewellery, however it is still important to know the dos and don’ts.

Platinum – is hardwearing but can still scratch, soapy water and a soft brush, followed with a cleaning cloth to remove any patina that will have developed over time.

Gold – any gold with a higher carat is more likely to scratch but won’t tarnish as it doesn’t contain any oxides. Again, natural patina will build over time which can be buffed off using a cleaning cloth. It is important to take off any gold jewellery when swimming, as chlorine can have an adverse effect on the metal.

Silver – soapy water and a cleaning cloth will beautifully clean silver. It does tarnish; however, it is less likely to tarnish when being worn frequently. Silver is also affected by chlorine, so it is important to remove when swimming.

Storage

In an ideal world, we would recommend that jewellery should be stored individually. Keeping everything separate from each other prevents any scratching – harder gemstones can scratch softer gemstones and cause them to dull.

Traditional, soft jewellery storage will always work fine, as long as anything precious aren’t at risk of bumping next to each other.

Comprehensive Guide

As we are mostly concerned with antique and vintage pieces within this jewellery care guide, we are going to provide a simple yes or no list of which gemstones can and cannot be cleaned by the methods above. This list has been written using the guidance from the Gemmological Association, and our experience with the pieces we sell. 

Ultrasonic cleaning method

Gemstones suitable 

Always err on the side of caution using this method, and we would always recommend using an experienced jeweller to assess before using this machine.  

Alexandrite
Amethyst
Citrine
Diamond
Garnet
Ruby
Spinel
Sapphire

Settings suitable 

Open reverse settings. Anything with a closed reverse should not be submerged
No enamel present
No foiling present

Metals suitable 

9ct through to 24ct Gold in yellow white & rose
Anything with a patina should avoid this method unless the desired outcome is removal
Platinum

Pinchbeck

Silver
 

Soapy water cleaning method

Gemstones suitable 

Varieties of Quartz including Amethyst, Citrine, smokey Quartz, rose Quartz
Varieties of Beryl including Emerald*, Aquamarine and Heliodor
Varieties of Corundum including Sapphire & Ruby
All varieties of Garnets
Diamond
Jade
Lapis Lazuli
Moonstone
Opal
Peridot
Paste
Spinel
Tourmaline
Tanzanite
Topaz
Zircon

Settings suitable 

Open reverse settings. Anything with a closed reverse should not be submerged
No enamel present
No foiling present
 

Metals suitable 

9ct through to 24ct Gold in yellow white & rose 
Platinum
Pinchbeck
Silver
Tungsten

 

A Damp Cloth & Polish To Shine

When your jewellery is not suitable for ultrasonic methods and soapy water submerging, a good way to give your gemstones and piece a refresh is using a soft damp cloth and a jeweller's polishing cloth. 

While most stones can take being submerged in water, their settings may indicate this is not a suitable option. Closed reverse settings, anything with a foiled reverse should never be submerged in water. The reason is a simple one; Water will be able to move behind the gemstone, becoming trapped within the piece and ruining any foil at the reverse, or pushing out delicate pearls, building up in areas unreachable to cause tarnish and destruction.

We like to take a soft cloth, wrung out to ensure it is only damp and not dripping, gently wipe over the stones and any areas that need a clean. Next we dry the piece using a very soft jeweller's cloth, or any other soft cleaning cloths to hand. 

NO SUBMERGING

Pearls, they are too soft and porous for submerging. Often pearls are set into antique jewellery with glue, or a closed reverse which makes contact with water very unsuitable.

 

Agate varieties can be porous and should avoid submerging, this includes carnelian. 
 

Coral, a porous gemstone that should avoid being submerged. This gemstone is quite soft and sits at a 3 1/2 on the MoHs scale of relative hardness.
 

Malachite, this gemstone can be toxic on contact with water. While polished malachite is safe to handle, we still advise as minimal contact with water as possible to be on the safe side. A quick wipe with a damp cloth and dry immediately.
 

Turquoise, a porous gemstone that should avoid being submerged.

Hematite, the iron oxide content of this gemstone means its best kept away from water.

*Emeralds require extra care. They are often treated and filled which can make them unsuitable for submerging. Its best to always be cautious and if you are unsure of any treatments, avoid submerging. We check our emeralds thoroughly before cleaning, to carefully inspect for any evidence of filler used, and to be sure that we are not going to run the risk of removing a treatment in soapy water.

Enamel, because enamel can be showing signs of wear from it's age on older pieces, its best to avoid water and submerging.

Hair jewellery, any pieces containing hair work should never get wet.

Organic material, any pieces featuring teeth, bone, or any variation of organic matter should not be submerged.



 

Care Inserts

While its always handy to have an in depth info guide to refer to, we have made it easier for you when shopping with us for your jewellery. Each Charlie Luxe order will arrive with it's own dedicated care indication sheet, to help guide you with what methods are suitable for caring for your jewellery.

The gemstones in this guide are always being updated, but these are the ones you are most likely to encounter in the world of antique and vintage jewellery.