Gem Cleaning: Do it Safe and Thoroughly

Gemstone jewelry is a beautiful accent to any outfit. But if you want to keep up the brilliance of your stones, you need to occasionally clean and care for them. 

Many people are worried they might damage their jewelry if they clean it. Unfortunately, this means some avoid cleaning it or don’t clean it in the best way possible. Still, others are less careful when cleaning and damage their gems.

So what’s the best way to safely and thoroughly clean your gems? Keep reading to learn the best approach to take toward gem cleaning.

Related: Got A Tarnished Heirloom? Here's How To Clean Vintage Jewelry

Know Your Gems

It’s very important that you accurately identify what kind of gemstone you are working with before trying to clean it. Since different gemstones have different properties, they will all react differently to the cleaning process.

One point to understand is that different gems have different hardness levels. A harder stone will have a higher rating on the Mohs scale. This would include diamonds, rubies, and sapphires.

But just because a gem is hard doesn’t mean it’s indestructible. While these stones will be more resistant to scratching, they are still vulnerable to heat or mechanical cleaning damage.

Certain gems might also have treatments or enhancements to improve their appearance. For example, some emeralds have tiny fractures filled in with oils to improve their transparency. Unfortunately, an emerald that has been oil-treated is vulnerable to damage from heat or ultrasonic cleaning.

You probably have some idea of what kind of gemstone you are working with. But if you are unsure, it’s quite easy to ask a reputable jeweler. They will be able to identify the gem and any treatments it has. A gemologist can also assess inclusions and other factors that might impact how you care for the stone.

Once you know what the stone is, you can ask about the best care routine for your gems.

Many gemstones make beautiful beaded jewelry! Take a look at our selection of beaded bracelets!

At-Home Cleaning

Luckily, cleaning your gemstones and jewelry at home is quite easy. Simply find a commercially prepared cleaner or mild detergent. Some people even choose to use simple dish soap.

Let the jewelry soak in a mixture of warm water and your cleaner for a few minutes. Then, scrub the piece with a soft brush.

If there is any accumulated debris, use a toothpick or shaved matchstick to pick it out. But make sure to be very gentle and patient at this part. Rushing at this step has the potential to damage your jewelry. 

Once you’re done scrubbing, dip the jewelry back into your detergent solution. Rinse the piece in warm running water. Make sure the temperature of the water is about the same as that of your solution. This will help prevent damage due to radical temperature changes.

Remove excess liquid by shaking or blowing on your jewelry. Gently dry and polish it with a chamois or soft, lint-free cloth.

If you have a large gem and want to avoid liquid stains, a trick is not to use the cloth to polish it. Instead, place the jewelry in a bed of dry maple wood chips. Once the piece has dried, blow the chips away.

Related: How To Clean Costume Jewelry: 3 Easy Ways

What Brush to Use

For many gems, a toothbrush will be a great brush option to clean your jewelry. Many people like this option because it uses something they probably already have sitting around their house. However, you do need to be careful about which kind of brush you choose. Opt for a “soft” or “extra-soft” toothbrush to avoid any damage.

You should avoid “medium” or “firm/hard” brushes and those with hard or inflexible bristles. These kinds can scratch tooth enamel, which has a 5 on the Mohs scale

Many gold and silver alloys only have a hardness of 2 or 3, and platinum tends to be around 4.5. While these kinds of brushes may not damage your gem, they will potentially damage your settings.

It is also important to remember to be careful while using a brush. The brush’s bristles are soft and are exactly what is needed to clean jewelry. However, these bristles are attached to a much harder base. If you push hard while cleaning, you could rub the base of the brush against the jewelry. This has the potential to damage it more than the bristles ever would. 

Special Care For Faceted Gem Settings

If you look at the underside of many gems, you’ll notice facets that usually move down to a point. These facets are called pavilion facets and have an important role in how well your gem reflects light and colors. 

Unfortunately, these facets tend to accumulate dirt and are difficult to reach because of how most prongs are positioned. 

To prevent the buildup of debris here, you’ll need to clean around the prongs of your jewelry carefully. Use a fine camel hair artist’s brush to get into the nooks and crannies without damaging your piece.

Related: How To Clean Beaded Jewelry: Clean Beads Easily

How to Care For Your Gems

Properly caring for your gemstone jewelry goes beyond just cleaning it every so often. There are a lot of steps you can take to prevent damage as well.

Perfumes, colognes, and hairsprays contain acid and alcohol that can destroy certain gems, such as pearls. In addition, a coating will reduce the brilliance of most gems. To avoid this, make sure to apply any of these before you put on your jewelry.

Pearls are particularly sensitive to certain kinds of damage. Whenever possible, try to keep them away from your actual skin, whether you are wearing perfume or not. A simple fix is to wear them over your clothes. Even perspiration can damage pearls. Make sure to wipe your pearls down with a damp cloth as soon as you are done wearing them.

In addition, avoid putting your jewelry in risky situations. If you are going on a long hike on a muddy trail, you’re exposing yourself and anything on you to the elements. Anything jewelry you are wearing has the potential to be damaged. In these situations, it is usually best to leave your best pieces at home.

Keep Your Gems Safe with Proper Gem Cleaning

Following proper cleaning protocols is important when you have gemstone jewelry. There are some cleaners and tools that can damage them. Luckily, by taking a few short steps to clean your jewelry occasionally, you’ll be able to enjoy its beauty for many years to come.

Want to change up your gemstone jewelry options? How about checking out our newest necklaces?