Monday, October 12, 2009


Keeping your jewelry clean is very important to its longevity whether it is fine or costume. For this month's Splendor Sidebar outlined below are inexpensive, at-home treatments for cleaning both fine and costume jewelry.

In cases of deeply set, stubborn grime or tarnish, fine jewelry in particular should be taken to a professional jewelry cleaner.

Though jewelry can be cleaned at home with store bought jewelry cleaners, it is important to read the product's ingredients. Harsh, abrasive components like ammonia, vinegar, acids, and alcohol can severely damage jewelry items.

In using homemade cleaning solutions, the first thing to keep in mind before cleaning fine jewelry is whether any fragile or porous stones are a part of the design. Turquoise, opals, and pearls are very delicate requiring individual attention.

It is best to know how to clean the stones and use the specific cleaning technique on the metal as well. For example, a warm solution of mild, soapy water is recommended for cleaning pearls and this same solution can be used to clean gold accents of which the pearls are a part.

It is best to either immerse a jewelry cloth or soft, toothbrush into a gentle, soapy solution and clean individual stones by carefully wiping or brushing the stone.

The stone should then be rinsed and buffed dry with a dry jewelry cloth. Warm, soapy solutions are recommended for use on diamonds and most other gemstones.

For solid gold jewelry, dust should first be carefully removed with a clean, soft jewelry cloth, cotton or flannel cloth. Afterwards, soak the piece for 1-3 minutes in a solution of warm water and baby shampoo.

While still wet, remaining grime can be removed using a soft, toothbrush, rinse thoroughly in warm water and soak up excess moisture with the jewelry cloth. If the items are not completely free of moisture, the finish will look dull.

To remove tarnish from unembellished sterling silver jewelry requires a little bit more elbow grease. First, make sure you follow the next steps in a well-ventilated area. You will need a large bowl, aluminum foil, baking soda, and hot water.

Line the sides of the bowl with foil. Place the jewelry pieces inside the bowl and cover the items with a layer of baking soda until almost covered. Pour hot water over the baking soda and jewelry making sure not to breathe in fumes then wait for the baking soda to stop bubbling. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a jewelry cloth.

If your silver is heavily tarnished, you will have to repeat these steps 5-6 times, or use a silver cleaning paste. For more info on cleaning silver jewelry with paste, check out the how-to video at

It is trickier to determine the best form of cleaning for costume jewelry. Unlike fine jewelry, many jewelers believe costume jewelry should not be cleaned with soapy water solutions; but according to my research, there is some debate on whether to use store bought jewelry cleaners.

As stated earlier, it is imperative to check the label for harsh ingredients as well as usage recommendations. Jewelry cleaners suited for specific metals like chrome, stainless steel, or aluminum should be used on that item.

As a rule of thumb, if your costume jewelry contains a combination of stones and metals, and you know which of the stones or metals is most fragile, use a jewelry cleaner that is safe for this specific part. The cleaner can then be used to clean the entire piece.

However, some jewelers believe it best to clean gold-plated and gold-filled items with a dry jewelry cloth only. Some jewelers say that items plated with 24-karat gold are more durable and requires only dusting with a soft cloth. In the end, when in doubt it is best to consult the company that manufactured a costume piece or its designer for cleaning instructions.

The next question is, how often should jewelry be cleaned? This will depend on how often you wear a piece. If you wear the same piece of jewelry daily, it should be cleaned weekly. Jewelry worn only on occasion, for special events, should be cleaned after each use.

It is also important to store jewelry properly after cleaning. It is best to keep pieces separate in separate boxes or pouches to keep from scratching.
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