All things bright and beautiful…and how to keep them that way.
Many aspects of jewellery care get ignored, simply because they don’t seem especially important or because we “don’t have the time”. In the long run, however, adhering to these simple rules could save you time, money and potentially a lot of heartaches.
As with almost anything else the most important thing to remember is that if in doubt, always seek professional guidance.
- Get to know a local jeweller.Identify a local jeweller you can turn to for help. Many jewellers offer valuation and repair services, cleaning and servicing as well as being able to offer advice and guidance.
- Put jewellery on last and remove it first.This is to avoid catching clothing on your jewellery which minimises the risk of damaging a precious ring or your favourite top – or both! In addition cosmetics, skin care products and ointments often contain chemicals which will, at best, take the shine off your jewels, so try to minimise how much of these products end up smeared on your jewellery each day.
- Handle your jewellery as little as possible.Sweat, skin and natural body oils can easily transfer onto jewellery dulling the finish and when putting on/removing items try to avoid touching stones and settings at all.
If in doubt play it safe.
If you’re going on holiday, do you REALLY need to take your finest jewels with you? Looking and feeling great may mitigate the risk to some degree, but lost (or God forbid stolen) property is difficult enough to deal with at home, so think ahead.
Avoid chlorine at all costs, if you’re going swimming or using chlorine-based cleaning products keep your jewellery well out of harm’s way and remember that although your watch might be water resistant it can still be damaged by chemicals. Take care with things like hair dyes and tanning solutions as these can cause discolouration and cleaning materials, especially abrasive ones can be an absolute death knell.
More physical activities such as sports, gardening and DIY also put jewellery at an immediate and obvious risk of loss or damage both physically and because of the increased damage from sweat, so for each of the above it makes sense that a moment taken to stow your engagement ring or favourite watch safely in its box for a couple of hours may prove to be worth far more than you think.
Regularly check that clasps and fasteners are working properly and that charms and pendants are secure to avoid loss.
Ensure and insure
As tedious as it may be, ensuring your jewellery is adequately protected is vital. If you aren’t certain how much something might be worth taking the time to get it valued professionally. Whilst the sentimental value of an item can never be replaced, you should at least be insured against any financial loss.
By and large, it is best to keep each piece of jewellery separate, ideally in its own box to avoid one item rubbing against and potentially damaging another. If you do keep everything in
one box, maintain as much separation between pieces as possible and don’t allow pendants, bracelets and earrings to become entangled.
Direct sunlight can bleach colour from stones and metals especially over an extended period, so leaving that lovely glass fronted jewellery box sitting on the bedroom window sill is really asking for trouble!
Excessive moisture can also be a major factor in causing our jewellery to deteriorate, as it helps the build-up of acids which will damage any surface with which they make contact. Small bags of silica gel can help absorb moisture and reduce the build-up of sulphur, as can the use of acid-free tissue or very soft cotton wrappings.
Metals like silver are prone to oxidise or tarnish and whilst this is relatively easy to keep at bay with regular cleaning, the airtight packaging is another way overcome this.
Be wary however as not all gems fair well in an airtight or dry environment, indeed certain stones such as pearls and opals actually draw moisture from the air so will dry and crack if starved of natural moisture.
Extreme cold or heat and sudden temperature changes should be avoided too, many materials become brittle when cold and soft if heated, causing them to break or lose shape and a sudden change in temperature or pressure can cause gemstones to crack and shatter.
Even a diamond can be chipped, cracked, split, scratched or shattered so when storing your jewellery it is vital that you treat it with absolute care.
Again, the best resource for keeping your jewellery in tip-top condition is to have it cleaned regularly by a professional. Whilst this can prove expensive, it does circumvent any chance of a DIY disaster and most reputable jewellery stores offer ongoing aftercare.
In addition, most jewellery retailers sell specialised cleaning products such as soft cloths, brushes and cleaning fluids and can give guidance on how and when these should be used.
Small ultrasonic and steam-cleaning machines are now widely available for home use, however before investing in one of these you should always make sure that they are suitable for your needs, ultrasonic cleaners use heat and vibration and involve immersing the jewellery in a cleaning fluid whilst steam based cleaners employ heat and water at pressure so both have limitations in terms of their safe application to jewellery.
If you really must clean your jewellery yourself, the simplest approach is often the best.
Use warm water with a very mild soap solution, (Not detergent) and a very soft cloth or brush to clean the piece, ideally, after the initial wash it should be rinsed in distilled water and gently rubbed dry with a separate soft cloth. Most jewellery will develop a patina with age, so don’t overdo the polishing in an attempt to return that showcase gloss!
DO NOT attempt to clean cracked or damaged items yourself. In addition, the likes of pearls, coral, ivory and amber or heat treated gems such as tanzanite, moonstone, opal, topaz and lapis lazuli all need specialist cleaning as these can all be very easily damaged if not handled correctly.
Finally, if you are not sure what a piece of jewellery is actually made of, get it assessed properly first, the last thing you need is to damage a family heirloom!