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Most gemstones were buried underground for millennia before they were mined and set into jewellery. Most of them won’t have come into contact with light and air before being unearthed, so it’s important to make sure that jewels are kept in just the right conditions to keep them looking at their best. Different gemstones like different conditions, so the first thing to know is exactly what your gemstones are and what treatments they may have had.
All gemstones can be susceptible to damage. It is important to have a good look at them over every now and again, checking for damaged prongs or loose gemstones. Always take jewellery off when you’re going to be doing activities that may damage them – housework, sports or car mechanics – whatever it is, make sure you take your jewellery off. The chlorine in swimming pools can damage gold and household cleaners can damage many gemstones.
We supply our jewellery in cloth pouches for a good reason – these are the ideal way to store gemstones. However, we realise that many people prefer jewellery boxes. If you decide to store your jewellery in a box, make sure that the box has slots or compartments to stop gems rubbing against each other. At 10 on the Mohs’ scale, a Diamond will be able to scratch every other item in the box, including gold or silver bands. Similarly, a Ruby will be able to scratch anything at 9 or lower. Be especially careful of Apatite and Fluorite, as these are the softest gems to regularly be set into jewellery.
The other important thing to remember with storage is to keep jewellery away from strong light, which can fade many gems. Amethyst, Ametrine, Aquamarine, Aventurine, Beryl, Citrine, Kunzite, Rose Quartz and Smokey Quartz are all particularly at risk of fading in strong sunlight. Heat can play a factor too, so be aware of storing items too close to radiators – Pearl, Opal and Morganite are all susceptible to sudden changes in temperature.
Be sure to remove rings by the shank rather than the stone, and make sure you put jewellery on last, after lotions, perfume or cosmetics. Fingerprints, oils and lotions can all contribute to a gem looking dull. This is because the layer of oil will change the angles of refraction through the gem, meaning that it will not sparkle as it should.
There are many different ways to clean jewellery. If you take your jewellery to a high street jeweller, they would probably use one of two ways to clean your items – an ultrasonic cleaner, or a steam cleaner. Although these are perfectly safe for most Diamond jewellery, they aren’t safe for everything. If in doubt, wiping jewellery with a moist cloth is safe for any gem, or a soft brush and water is safe for any gem over 7 on the Mohs scale. Opaque or organic gems are often porous, so it is best to only clean these with a moist soft cloth and to avoid any chemicals which might discolour them.
Gems which have been treated in some way can sometimes need a little more care than others. Coated gemstones, such as Mystic Topaz might be more prone to scratching, so take extra care with them. Oiled or filled Emeralds shouldn’t be cleaned with an ultrasonic or steam cleaner. If your oiled Emerald is losing some of its liveliness, you can easily re-oil it at home. Place it in a shallow dish of lukewarm baby oil and leave it overnight.
Opals have a very high water content and so need a little more care than other gems. Avoid exposing them to heat and strong sunlight. If an Opal loses its moisture, it can lose colour, or in exceptional circumstances, suffer from ‘crazing’, where tiny cracks appear across the surface. If you are storing an Opal for some time, it is best to put a moist cloth or cotton wool alongside it in a sealed plastic bag to keep it hydrated. Check on it every now and again and replace or dampen the cloth if it has dried out. Clean your Opals with a damp cloth and do not use an ultrasonic or steam cleaner.
Pearls are another susceptible gem. Pearls are soft and porous, so need special care. Pearls like to be worn – the body’s natural oils keep Pearls looking at their best. It is vital to store Pearls so that they won’t be scratched by other gems or metal. Do not allow Pearls to get too hot as they will dry out and might crack. Pearls are very susceptible to chemical cleaners, avoid contact with ammonia and bleaches. Do not use an ultrasonic cleaner, rather wipe them regularly with a soft cloth. They can also be cleaned every now and again with mild soapy water and left to dry naturally before being put safely away. Do not store Pearls in an airtight container as you might with an Opal, they prefer to be kept in a soft pouch or lined jewellery box. Lastly, don’t forget that a Pearl necklace will need re-stringing every few years to replace the thread.
For more information on keeping your jewellery clean and different cleaning methods, including tips for other gemstones, click here.