This post is a follow up to my previous article on the topic of Jewelry Care and Maintenance. The first in this series discussed the idea that wear is normal since jewelry is worn on the body or clothing and has continuous contact with the environment that surrounds it. I focused mostly on the wear of metals in that article and will shift my focus now to gemstones, cleaning, and what I’ll call “field maintenance”.
The cleaning, care and maintenance of your jewelry may vary depending on several factors. Materials, both metal and gems, and geometry all play a role. I’ll give some general guidelines first and then some material and geometry specifics.
Jewelry Care: Gemstones, Brilliance and Cleaning
It doesn’t take long for jewelry that’s worn every day to begin to lose that showroom look, especially if gems are involved. Soap, hand cream, and all sorts of things can build up within the design and especially under gems. It may not seem intuitive that it is better to have the back of a gem open and exposed to this stuff. But it’s important because every set gemstone (at least gems that allow light to pass through the stone) should have adequate access to the back of the gem is so we can get in there and clean! No matter how tight one secures a bezel around a gem with a closed back, nasty stuff will still work around and underneath the gem, making it dull if the gem is transparent or even translucent. See the top picture below for a great example of a dirty gemstone.
With no clean-out access, the gem stays dull. This is because of the way light works with the cut of your gemstone. Facets are placed to take maximum advantage of light reflecting off the pavilion (the back side of the gem) and back to you out the top of the gem as brilliance. Dirt on the back changes the angle at which light is reflected from those pavilion facets so brilliance is lost. Un-faceted (cabochon) transparent or translucent are also effected by this build-up of haze as the color and beauty fades. If you are interested in the science of gemstone appearance, I’ll suggest this great article!
Get the Vibe
Even opaque gems, which many people wear for attributed metaphysical effects, may derive some benefit from an open back in that those “vibes” have access to the body wearing them.
What to Do
My first recommendation is to keep an old, soft-bristle toothbrush in your bath or shower. Every week or so, or whenever you think of it, take your jewelry off and use the brush to gently scrub, paying particular attention to the backside of your gems, with warm, soapy water. Rinse well and puff a little air to blow away residual water to prevent water spots. Let it dry before putting it back on if possible. This will likely be all you’ll ever need to maintain brilliance of your gems.
The above two pictures were taken with identical lighting!
If you have a buildup that’s difficult to remove, a soaking in a mild solution household ammonia (see below for cautionary statement) may help to loosen persistent dirt. Then rinse and scrub as above. If you have an accumulation of really difficult-to-remove substances you can boil some types of jewelry in a mixture of TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) but again, see cautions directly below!
Be aware of the following…
Remember, many jewelry stores will clean and inspect your things free of charge.
If your jewelry is mostly solid, with little variation in geometry, you may not really need to clean it, see previous article. If it has detail, nooks and crannies, then cleaning it the same way as detailed above should help to keep it free of debris.
Next up, basic repairs…what to expect over time and brief explanations of the professional maintenance you may eventually need.