Cleaning Your Jewellery 101
In this post I am going to throw away some misconceptions about keeping your jewellery clean and reveal the truths about how , when and why you need you keep your jewellery clean, and for a lot less than you might think.
What attracts us as consumers to a piece of jewellery depends on what we enjoy in the piece, some people like the bright colours of enamel, some people fight it out which is better , gold or silver, then there are those of us that just like a big shiny rock on our finger or around our neck. But all in all, we can boil it down to the luster, the play of colour and sparkle that draws us in. So why is it then, that the majority of consumers let their jewellery turn dull, greyed out and void of life?
Cleaning our jewellery often can feel like an extra expense that we really have to push to have done at times, a lot of people have to weigh it up, do I clean my engagement ring, or buy food for the next two days and I get that, after all “the charity starts at home” for alot of us, however turning your dull and lifeless jewellery into a sparkling , squeaky clean oasis on your finger, wrist , neck or ears could actually be closer than you might think and for a lot cheaper.
Getting a piece cleaned professionally
Now it’s worth noting before I begin, that some jewellers put in a lifetime cleaning policy into the price of the ring, so whenever it’s dirty, take it back to the jewellers you bought it from and ask if this is something they do. Most jewellery stores should be doing this, because it gives them a chance to possibly entice you to buy other pieces from them while you wait for your piece to be done though do not panic if your jewellers doesn’t supply this as a feature because there some really good ways to clean jewellery yourself , for free, forever and some which I must warn you about.
If your jeweller's does not supply a free clean, don't worry, if you want to get it done professionally ( Which I suggest doing once every year or so ) you can go to any jewellers and they should have this as a common service which they provide … however WARNING!: Do -not- take your piece to a jewellers which you do not trust or is not apart of a larger jewellery brand to be safe! There are tones of jewellery horror stories out there where people have gone to some random backstreet jewellery store to have their jewellery cleaned for a cheaper price than some of the more established jewellery stores could ever provide just to have the piece handed back to them ruined! A lot of smaller family run jewellers ( though it pains me to say it, because some of them are so so so good ) are not professionals and don't know a single thing about gemstone or jewellery maintenance.
I once heard a story about a guy who needed to get his Rolex cleaned, wearing it all the time, the oils in his skin had collected muck and grime in all the little crevasses around the crystal, bezel and dial. Turned it into the jewellers to give it a scrub up and was handed back a piece with a scratched up face, all the engraving around the edge had been completely rubbed off and what should have been a £30 job, turned into a few £1000 job because he ended up having to take it to Rolex to get it all redone. So in short, don't take in your jewellery to be cleaned by a jeweller's you don’t trust and if you can, take it back to the shop you originally bought it from the extra few bob might be worth it, or best case scenario you might even get it done for free, you just have to try and not buy another three, five , seven pieces of jewellery while you wait, no matter how tempting.
Cleaning your jewellery yourself
Now we get to the best bit, how you can clean your jewellery for free, yourself , in a very short space of time. There are some specialised pieces of equipment out there that can clean jewellery for you, and very nicely if you want to make that investment, these are called ultrasonic cleaners, it’s like a little bath for your jewellery , you dip them in and the sonic waves clean off all the muck. However, I will bring this up again in a second because you might not want to use this, and for very good reason.
At the end of the day, this is how you should be cleaning your jewellery: Get a bowl of hot water, not boil, just run the hot tap for a little bit and fill up a bowl, I will come onto why you don't want boiling water in just a second. Grab some dish soap, for me it’s fairy liquid all the way, but some of you might not have that in your country but all in all, it doesn’t matter which brand, as long as you have a dish soap, you’re fine. Squeeze a drizzle into the bowl and give it a good mix, your water should turn the colour of the soap you just put in. Next you need to go and get yourself a toothbrush, preferably a baby's toothbrush but an old one that as been used and softened over time works just as well, just make sure it’s clean, the reason we need a baby toothbrush is because the bristles are nice and soft, helps to compensate if you are too rough with your brushing motion.
So we’re going to plop your jewellery gently into the bowl of hot soapy water and leave it to soak for a bit, five minutes should do in all honesty and we are going to pick it out the bowl, be careful though because it will be slippery because of the dish soap, so get away from that evil sink, because it my just gobble up your ring. With the toothbrush, just gently give it a rub over, small circles and a foam should start to froth up, give it a dip into the solution again and have another go at it, if the piece has diamonds or other gemstones, make sure when you are giving it a clean that none of the stones are loose, if they are stop what you’re doing and put it down, dry it off with a paper towel and get it seen to professionally so they can re do the setting for that stone.
Once you have given it a scrub around the outside and inside behind the back of the stone ( You won't believe how much gunk can get under there ) Your stone should be all shiney and just like new! But it’s still all slimy and covered in dish soap, so we’re going to run it under some warm water to get that all off and then give it a blow with a hairdryer, DO NOT use a high heat, we’re going to just tickle it clean with a warm blow, this will help get rid of water marks so your piece turns out spotless, it will even dry the places you could never reach with a normal cloth.
Now you’re done! With some warm water, dish soap and a toothbrush you have just done what a jeweller could have done for £10-£30. If your piece of jewellery is still a bit mucky, perhaps there is still much under the gemstones which you can get out yet, perhaps it’s really old and seen a lot of wear and hasn't been cleaned before, try putting a tablespoon of bicarbonate soda into the warm soapy water and leave it to soak a little more, this should loosen up that grime! This is also the safer option to cleaning any kind of jewellery, which is another thing you must pay attention to when wanting a piece cleaned, what type of jewellery is it?
Types of jewellery and cleaning methods to steer clear from
Here is where I am going to talk about keeping your jewellery safe from damage, this all might sound a bit confusing and might even scare you to even touch your jewellery in case you do something wrong, but remember, if you are not sure how to clean a specific piece, have not been consulted on it or anything, always do as I just described, soapy warm water and a toothbrush and you can't go wrong, just don't you boiling water. If you put jewellery ( or anything for that matter ) into a really hot solution like boiling water, steam etc you run the risk of what’s called thermo-shock, this can build pressure in gemstones and make them crack, or even turn the most amazing, clear diamonds a foggy white colour, so just be careful- I like to think, if you wouldn't dip your finger in it and hold it there for five seconds, you shouldn't dip your jewellery in it either.
Now , let's talk about those ultrasonic cleaners and other branded cleaning products that you can find on the shelf! Ultrasonic cleaners are amazing for diamonds jewellery , cubic zirconia , that sort of thing but you should NEVER ever ever never ever never ever ever ...ever use these machines to clean pearls, emeralds, rubies and sapphires to name a few. You see , a lot of these kind of stones on the market are treated, emerald especially because of the amount of cracks and inclusions they have, they often get dipped in things like lead glass or epoxy to fill up the cracks so that the stone gets a better apparent clarity, making a £500 stone look like a £150,000 stone. But because of the amount of feathers (cracks) and other inclusions , the ultrasonic waves from the machine might do more even more damage to the stone because of these internal weaknesses. The worse thing is, the companies that sell these machines often do not educate the consumer on this fact at all which is terrible, because without you knowing, you pop in your beautiful emerald necklace into the machine ready for tonight's date , you come back all dressed up and ready to go, only to find out the machine has completely ruined your jewellery...and your night.
Cleaning solutions are another option the market offers to its consumers, however these can also do more damage than good if you are not careful. Ammonia is a common chemical in jewellery cleaning solutions, it’s used in a lot of cleaning products all over the place, but for jewellery, it’s not such a great idea, no idea why they use it. Ammonia if not used with experience can discolour or even damage gold. So if you buy a wedding ring/band and then up-sell a cleaning solution to keep your piece all nice and lovely and it has ammonia in it, do not fall for this trap, it’s not the person behind the counters fault, it’s just a poor choice of chemical to give the public to clean their jewellery, knowing some people , they wont read instructions properly and leave their piece to soak in it, completely ruining their sentimental ring and if you clean your jewellery too often with it, even if you are careful, you very well might damage the ring , this time from an over time effect instead of an instant one.
So what should you take away from all this? If you need to get your jewellery cleaned, it’s always worth checking if the jewellers you bought it from also give you lifetime free cleaning or a policy similar to that! If they don't, pay the extra bit of money to get it done professionally, don't scrimp and save and go to a cheaper low end jewellers because they very well might not know what they are doing and cost you more than an arm and a leg. If in doubt , always clean your jewellery yourself with a bowl of hot soapy water and a soft toothbrush, for that extra cleaning power, dump a tablespoon of baking soda into the water and leave your piece to soak for a good five or more minutes ( especially if you are using baking soda, I would say half an hour or so ). Always use the hot soapy water method over any of these products that try to make your life a lot easier, because if you are not careful, they will ruin your jewellery if you are not careful and don't know what you’re doing. I suggest you do the hot soapy water method about once or twice a month for pieces that you wear constantly, makes sure they sparkle nicely, look and feel brand new. ✨💍✨