Jewelry is one of the most important and cherished items we own, with great sentimental and monetary values. An elegant pair of opal and platinum earrings, for example, makes an individual statement. Yet, according to our experts here at Images, chemicals found in everyday items like hairspray, lotions, perfumes, and other cosmetics can potentially damage jewelry. Understanding how to properly care for your item makes a world of difference and enables one to wear a piece an entire lifetime.
Our Gemologists say that light and heat can affect a colored gem’s durability and color. The same way the sun’s harmful rays can damage our skin over time , it can also fade and weaken some gemstones, such as amethyst, kunzite, topaz. Pearls and other fragile materials, like ivory, will bleach under extreme exposure to light.
Exposure to chemicals can damage and discolor precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum and may harm some colored gems. Fine jewelry should be removed before diving into a chlorinated swimming pool, or before using household cleaners. Many such cleaners contain ammonia, and are only safe for diamonds and the more durable colored gems. Chlorine bleach, another common household solvent, can cause gold to pit.
To clean your pieces at home we recommend cleaning most colored gems with warm water, mild soap (no detergents), and a soft brush. A pulsed-water dental cleaning appliance and a soft, lint-free cloth can also be used. Be sure to stop your sink’s drain in case the stone comes loose from its setting.
Soft gems, such as pearls, on the other hand, can easily be scratched so we suggest using an unused makeup brush instead, and warm, soapy water. Then rest the pearls on a towel to dry. The wet string can stretch and attract dirt ,so don’t touch a string of pearls until they are completely dry.
Jewelry storage is yet another concern. Jewelry should never be tossed into a drawer or on top of a dresser ,that’s a recipe for scratches and fractured gems. Most jewelry comes in a box or pouch from the store, which is a perfect place to keep them. Sterling silver, for example, should be kept in an anti-tarnish bag or cloth.
Jewelry boxes that feature individually padded slots for rings, and posts for hanging necklaces and bracelets, are also wonderful. Like pearls, opals draw moisture from the air. Storing your opal ring or pearl earrings in a dry area, such as a safety deposit box, can actually do more harm than good. Lastly, if you are ever in doubt ask your jeweler and remember most fine jewelry stores, including ours, offer free check-ups and professional cleanings anytime.
Indiana University Alumni : GIA Graduate Gemologist Student