Ask a Jeweler: How Do I Clean My Diamond Jewelry?

Having worked in the jewelry industry for nearly 10 years now, some of the most common questions I am asked by my customers deal with the proper cleaning of their jewelry in between visits to my store. This simple answer astounds them every time:

Windex. That's correct, plain old ammonia. In fact, many of the commercial cleaners on the market are primarily ammonia, but at a higher price. Other types of soap will leave a film (think about your shower), and never use bleach or chlorine.  Bleach and chlorine will break down the alloys in your metals, making them brittle and prone to fracture (never wear your jewelery in the pool for this reason).

For really dried up and stuck on grim, allow the jewelery to soak in an airtight container full of ammonia for at least an hour, though most chose to leave it overnight. Ammonia will not harm your diamonds, cubic zirconias or other gemstones, but take care with organic and treated substances. Pearls, wax impregnated semi precious stones, treated emeralds and plastic synthetics should not be left unattended. When in double, ask your jeweler! If they will not use an ultrasonic cleaner or steamer on it, don't use ammonia either.

Once your jewelry has soaked, use an old soft bristle toothbrush and scrub the surfaces generously to loosen up the debris. Place under running water and repeat your scrubbing until you have achieved a clean surface.

This is also a great time to check closely for signs that your rings may be in need of maintenance. Jewelry can only be made from metals that are soft enough to work into the intricate shapes designers produce. The down side of this principle is that those same metals will wear down in time with use. Using magnification if needed, check your prongs for any fibers or hair that may be stuck between the prongs and the stones. If you find fibers, it is definitely time to stop by your trusted jeweler for a check up. Most of the time, they can remove the fibers and compress the metal while you wait. If cracking or excessive thinning has occurred, they can also recommend repairs at this time. Metal wear will vary greatly from person to person, but most owners can expect to change their engagement ring's center prong head once every five to ten years. To ensure that your jewelry gets a thorough inspection, avoid weekends and holidays when possible, or schedule an appointment. Remember, it may cost a little bit to repair your prongs now, but replacing your diamond is far worse.

While nothing is going to beat the ultrasonic cleaner and steamer that your local jeweler has, this simple method will keep your gems looking great and protect against loss.

Have more jewelery questions? I'll be happy to answer them.

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Posted on May 26, 2010