by Staff Writer
Dazzling diamond necklaces, shiny gold rings and luminous pearl brooches are often sentimental and always valuable. Rare gemstones and metals have enchanted mankind, and womankind, for millennia. Jewelry symbolizes love and commitment, and fashion jewelry diversifies your collection of accessories. Owning jewelry requires an emotional and monetary investment, whether you choose fashion jewelry or fine jewelry. You'll want to protect all your jewelry -- wedding rings, special occasion earrings, simple silver chains -- and keep it in like-new condition for a lifetime. This jewelry care guide outlines the basics of cleaning and storing these treasures.
Protecting jewelry: The first step in jewelry care is to prevent damage. Each gemstone, metal and piece of fine jewelry has its unique properties and care requirements. It is best to avoid wearing jewelry anytime it can be damaged. You don't want to dig up the newly planted daisies to find your lost rings. Put on jewelry after you've finished applying cosmetics, perfumes and hair products, including hairspray. Don't overexpose jewelry to the oils, chemicals and dyes found in many household products and beauty products. Store each piece of jewelry in a separate compartment in a jewelry box or in the pouch that came with the piece and don't overcrowd the jewelry box when it becomes too small for your collections; clasps and prongs scratch gemstones and metals. Following these simple guidelines will help you keep your jewelry in pristine condition.
Diamonds and gemstones: Use a solution of water and a few drops of mild dish soap to clean diamond and gemstone jewelry. Clean the settings with a soft toothbrush; brush gently to avoid scratching the metal sections. Rinse with fresh water and dry the jewelry with a soft cloth. Alternatively, diamonds, sapphires and rubies can be cleaned in a solution of six parts water to one part ammonia; however, do not use this method on other gemstones.
Pearls: Pearls are very vulnerable to damage by the chemicals in cleansers and cosmetics. Chemicals can damage the surface and dull the beautiful luster. To keep your pearls in good condition, wipe them with a slightly damp, lint-free cloth after every wearing. Clean pearls with a solution of water and mild dish soap, but never immerse the jewelry; simply wipe the pearls with a damp cloth and rinse the same way. Don't clean pearls in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner.
Porous gemstones: The organic gemstones -- pearls, coral and amber -- and certain opaque stones like turquoise and lapis lazuli cannot be soaked for cleaning as they are porous and absorb water. Clean this jewelry as you would pearls and avoid exposing it to chemicals and harsh cleansers.
Metals: Metal jewelry is usually quite durable, but most of it is easily scratched. Clean metal jewelry and watch bracelets regularly with a dry, soft cloth to remove dirt and oils. Use a solution of warm water and mild soap for occasional cleaning just as you would for gemstones. Rinse with fresh water and wipe dry. Use this method for maintaining gold, platinum, silver, stainless steel, titanium and tungsten. Avoid using abrasive detergents, brushes and rough cloths that can damage the surface of metals. If the metal jewelry has gemstones and pearls for decoration, use the safest cleaning method described for those materials.
Polishing silver: Silver jewelry must be cleaned occasionally to remove tarnish. There are many commercial silver polishes and polishing cloths available, and they are suitable for cleaning silver jewelry. Tarnish is easier to remove when its layer is thinnest, so be sure to polish silver as soon as the tarnish appears. Wear your jewelry often to help prevent tarnish build up.
When to see a professional jeweler: Even the finest jewelry, made by the best craftsmen, can wear down over the years. This leaves the owner faced with the unhappy possibility of never wearing beloved jewels again. However, jewelry damage can often be repaired by a jeweler who can replace clasps, clean tarnish and buff out scratches and replace lost stones. Even if your jewelry seems to be in good condition, you may want to visit a jeweler occasionally:
Settings: Have the settings on pearl, gemstone and diamond jewelry checked every couple of years for loose stones and have the setting tightened and repaired if necessary.
Gold plating: Plating on metal jewelry rubs off with wear. If you have expensive gold-plated items, such as gold over sterling silver jewelry, consider having it re-plated when it starts to lose its luster.
Pearls: Have your pearl strands restrung when the cord starts to fray.
Outdated jewelry: If you have some jewelry that has lost its glamour due to a dated style or a look you just don't care for, turn it into something else. With good materials and a decent frame, a jeweler can often update old pieces with new designs. Replace the gemstones with your personal favorites or have good stones from an old brooch placed in pretty earrings. Jewelry enhances your personal style, and the design possibilities are endless.
Be very careful when rinsing jewelry under running water to avoid losing it down the drain. Place a wash cloth or a colander over the drain in case you accidentally drop the piece into the sink.
Body jewelry requires special care, as do new piercings. Be sure to follow the advice of your piercing professional or doctor when taking care of a new piercing and the accompanying jewelry.