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How to Clean Your Jewelry:
Washing at Home vs. a Jeweler's Steam Clean

Clean your jewelry at home every three months and take your treasured pieces to a professional jeweler's once a year for an in-store cleaning and visual inspection. Many jewelry stores will clean your jewelry for free while you wait on the premises, probably because it's a great way to let people browse for new jewels while their old ones are being bathed.

DIY Home Jewelry Cleaning Products

No everyone has enough jewelry to warrant buying an ionic or ultrasonic jewelry cleaning machine: in fact, some jewelers say that these at-home versions of professional cleaners can cause gemstones to crack or become discolored. Money saving tips for jewelry cleaning include the fact that you can clean your jewelry safely and effectively without buying machines or expensive cleaners, and that it's better to clean as gently as possible with common household products.

Cleaning Gemstones and Precious Metals

In general the harder the stone, the less likely that it will be injured by attempts at cleaning. Metals are also forgiving: for silver jewelry, use an ordinary silver polish you can buy at the grocery store and follow the instructions. Wipe polish onto the piece, rub it, wipe it off and buff the silver to a shine. If you have silver jewelry with stones, they are most likely semi-precious or soft gems like turquoise, opal, pearl, lapis or coral. These softer stones can be injured by abrasion, heat or chemicals. In fact, they can absorb perfumes, so it's better to apply your perfume first and then put on your jewelry to prevent it from being stained by perfume oils. To clean these soft stones, just wipe them with a soft piece of leather called a chamois or chamois cloth. You can find them in automotive sections of the hardware store: car lover like to buff their chrome with them. Make sure and get a chamois that hasn't been treated with anything else: sometimes they are impregnated with metal polish that can ruin your semi-precious gems.

Before cleaning jewelry set with gems or semi-precious stones, make sure the stones are still solidly set. Over time, prong and bezel settings can loosen, and stones can fall out. Shake or tap your jewelry near your ear and listen for a rattle, which would tell you it's loose. If it rattles in its setting, don't clean it: you risk losing the stone. Put the piece in a ziplock bag and take it directly to your jeweler to have it reset and cleaned.

Home Jewelry Cleansing Remedy to Bring Back the Sparkle

Harder stones like diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires can be cleaned with a weak solution of ammonia (1 part) and water (10 parts). In fact, many of the commercial jewelry cleaners you see in stores are just ammonia and water with a little scent and coloring added. Plain household ammonia, diluted with water works equally well and only costs a few cents. Dip a soft toothbrush in the solution and scrub the stone with the liquid, making sure to get underneath the stone wherever possible, since that's where the majority of dirt, soap residue and skin oils can accumulate. Rinse it off and dry it with the tip of a soft cloth.

Cleaning Tarnished Jewelry Items

Gold, white gold and sterling or tarnished solid silver jewelry can be cleaned with old-fashioned toothpaste. Don't use gels, and avoid the tartar-control and anti-plaque pastes: look for something like the old versions of Crest or Colgate; simple, white pastes with no added silica that could scratch your jewelry. Load up an old toothbrush with toothpaste, and rub it on the jewelry, making sure to get in all the crevices. Rinse it with tap water and dry with a soft cloth.

When cleaning rings, make sure to do the underside of the ring as well as the part that shows. Necklaces and earrings need gentle treatment, as they may be made of delicate wire or chains that could easily be broken by rough handling.

Caring for Pearls & Opals

Pearls and opals require special storage. These stones need moisture, so they need to be placed in containers where air can freely move. If pearls or opals are deprived of a natural amount of humidity, they dry out, lose their iridescence and eventually crack.

When in Doubt About How to Clean, Ask Your Jeweler

If you're nervous about DIY home remedies or homemade recipes, you can buy jewelry cleaning kits containing supplies of chamois cloth, a cleaner, a brush and sets of instructions for the care of your jewelry. Make sure to buy your kit from a reputable company, and be wary if it contains harsh chemicals or rough abrasives. Remember, professional jewelers recommend highly diluted ammonia, basic toothpaste and soft cleaning cloths: you don't need anything more.

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