How Often Should You Clean Jewelry?

 

Jewelry comes in a wide variety of materials, from plastic to gold. Each jewelry material needs to be cared for appropriately so that it can continue to look beautiful and last a long time. One of the most important things to remember when caring for your jewelry is remembering how often you need to clean it. A too-frequent cleaning schedule could damage it forever, while the right one could make it sparkle like new. The following guide will help you determine how often you should clean your different types of jewelry.

 

WHEN TO CLEAN JEWELRY

 

Here's how to clean your jewelry without damaging it. First, determine whether or not your jewelry needs cleaning; you might be over cleaning it. Often, a quick rub with a soft cleaning cloth is more than enough to clean any slight dirt or smudges that may have settled on your piece.

With that said, cleaning your jewelry is an important part of maintaining it. Here are signs that indicate when your jewelry might need a more thorough, deep clean:

 

  1. Visible discoloration or tarnishing, as well as streaking, is a sign that you need to clean your jewelry.
  2. Over time, exposure to elements and other environmental factors will cause your jewelry to develop a slight haze that makes it appear less shiny. This cloudiness happens when oxidation occurs at high temperatures.
  3. Your diamond or gemstone has lost its luster. This is due to air pollution, dust, lotions and other environmental conditions that affect the stone's ability to shine.
  4. Slight scratches indicate that your jewelry needs cleaning and a slight polishing. It may even require replating.

 

ESTABLISH A CLEANING SCHEDULE

 

Different types of jewelry require different care; therefore, the schedule for cleaning your jewelry will depend on the type of jewelry material you are working with (metal, stone, etc.) and how it is used.

For example:

  1. Pearl jewelry should be wiped down with a soft cleaning cloth after every use to prevent the buildup of oils.
  2. To maintain the look of diamond jewelry and keep germs at bay, you should gently clean your diamonds every two weeks with soap and water.
  3. Frequently worn pieces require more attention than seldom worn pieces, and as a result they require more frequent cleaning.

 

JEWELRY CLEANING TIPS

 

Once you've established a regular cleaning regimen, make sure to clean your precious metals carefully to prevent damage. There are several different ways that you can clean jewelry.

A. Ultrasonic Cleaning

If you prefer a more powerful approach to cleaning, consider using jewelry cleaning equipment such as an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner, which uses steam and sound waves to clean jewelry. While cleaning your ring makes it look beautiful and sparkly, using powerful jewelry cleaning equipment like an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner on a daily basis will inevitably damage your jewelry. Daily steam and sound waves coming from an ultrasonic cleaning will cause unnecessary wear on your ring and even make side stones loose inducing them to fall out. We recommend cleaning your ring and other gem-set jewelry pieces once every two to ten weeks.

Cleaning gemstones is a delicate task. Some gems are more brittle, porous, and softer than others. Avoid exposure to harsh chemicals, heat or vibrations (ultrasonic sound waves). This includes many gems, like emeralds (which are oiled) and opals (which dry out and shatter), pearls (they absorb the liquids, expand, and become brittle), colored diamonds (they can fade and lose their bright colors). Avoid an ultrasonic cleaning for these soft gemstones. Instead, cleaning gemstones by hand with mild, all-natural soap and water is totally fine.

Here’s a quick list of what not to clean in a ultrasonic cleaner:

  • Organic, porous jewelry and soft gemstones. Pieces with emeralds, turquoise, opals, lapis lazuli, malachite, tanzanite, corals, amber and pearls can not be cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner. Likewise, gems that are coated with oil, plastic or wax should not be cleaned this way.

 

  • Loose gemstones. The ultrasonic vibrations generated by the jewelry cleaner sometimes shake gems loose or chip gems that are set with their girdles touching. A loose gemstone may come out of its setting and then chip in an ultrasonic cleaner.

 

  • Watch heads. Even if a watch is advertised as waterproof, it should never be immersed in an ultrasonic cleaner. The ultrasonic sound waves, that usually clean appropriate items, will damage movement mechanisms and weaken rubber seals in watch heads.

 

  • Enamel Jewelry. An ultrasonic cleaner does a great job of removing enamel paint. Unless you’re trying to remove paint, don’t place your enamel jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaner.

 

B. Jewelry Steam Cleaner

As the name suggests, a jewelry steam cleaner is a machine that uses steam to clean and restore the luster of jewelry. Water from the reservoir is heated to produce high-pressure steam, usually about 50 to 55 psi, during the cleaning process. To reveal gleaming, clean jewelry that appears brand new, the high-temperature and pressure combine to rapidly blow away any dirt, oil, or grime on a jewel.

There are so many gemstones on the market that it's difficult to know which ones to steam clean without harming or damaging them. Some gemstone treatments may be damaged by a jewelry steam cleaning. Check to see whether your gem has been subjected to any type of gemstone treatment before beginning a jewelry steam cleaning.

 

C. All-Natural Soap + Soft Brush

A tiny brush with micro-fine cleansers and polymers in the bristles work like magic on diamonds and other precious stones to make them shine like new. Because diamonds are the hardest natural substance on earth, no amount of scrubbing, rubbing, wiping, brushing, or polishing can harm them. That is what makes diamonds so special. They are highly durable.

 

D. Jewelry Polishing Cloths

A jewelry cleaning cloth is a useful tool for polishing precious jewelry. You don't need to take your jewelry to the jeweler any more. However, there's a critical detail to bear in mind. Jewelry cleaning cloths are not washable. By washing polishing cloths, you will remove the pre-layered polishers (such as red rouge).You don't have to be concerned if your jewelry polishing cloths are filthy. You can continuously use the same jewelry polishing cloth until it becomes black. After using many times, when it gets overly black (completely covered), then it is time to replace it and purchase a new one. Washing jewelry polishing cloths is strongly discouraged.

If you don't replace an overly black cleaning cloth for jewelry, it will hinder your cleaning efforts, leave a gray deposit behind and render a brilliant shine impossible to achieve. With most places charging around $5.00-$10.00 per piece, replacing a jewelry cleaning cloth is reasonably inexpensive. Plus, it is much less expensive than a professional jewelry cleaning, which can cost up to $100 per piece.

 

SHOULD YOU OPT FOR PROFESSIONAL CLEANING SERVICES?

 

Professional cleaning services use buffing wheels to polish jewelry, making it look brand new. However, buffing wheels scour away a little layer of metal every time jewelry is cleaned. In layman's terms, a polishing wheel is a file that files down jewelry metal to make it smoother and ideally scratch-free. Every time a polishing wheel files down jewelry, the pieces become thinner and thinner. Sometimes, this results in unrecognizable thin jewelry. Plus, if the jewelry is polished incorrectly, the pieces may look lopsided.

As jewelry buyers already know jewelry metal, especially one of the more expensive metals like 24k gold, is a pricey commodity. The cost of this precious metal and other similar expensive metals is usually determined by the purity levels (karat weight) and gold thickness. So, if you polish gold jewelry excessively, you are wasting money. Gold metal costs more because it is thicker. Each time you file down gold to "clean it," you are lowering the value of your gold pieces by reducing the gold thickness. This is especially detrimental for jewelry buyers if the gold pieces are slated for resale. So it's best to only polish gold or other precious metals once or twice a year.

Also be aware that most jewelry polishing houses have a lost gem policy. If a loose gemstone falls out of its setting while polishing the piece and the polisher is unable to later find it, the jewelry polishing house is not liable for any missing stones or related damage. This is a personal risk that the jewelry buyer takes on. Thus, make sure all expensive jewelry is insured before handing it off to the polisher.

 

WHY OVER-CLEANING IS BAD?

The act of polishing metal jewelry with a buffing wheel takes away some of the metal every time you buff it. As mentioned, this is because a buffing wheel is essentially a file. So the more you polish your jewelry, the thinner the metal becomes.

The price of jewelry is usually determined by two factors: 1) the quality or karat weight and 2) the thickness of the metal. Karat weight is pretty self-explanatory. It's how much gold, silver, etc. is in the piece. The thicker the metal, the more expensive it is as well. This is because there is more of the precious metal in the piece.

If you over-polish your jewelry, you are slowly but surely removing some of the metal with each buff. This means that you are not only making the piece less valuable because there is less metal, but you are also making it more susceptible to damage. Thin metal is much more likely to bend, break, or otherwise be damaged than thick metal.

Also, If you don't take care when polishing your jewelry, you can end up with lopsided or oddly shaped pieces. This is because it's easy to apply too much pressure to one side of the jewelry while polishing. This may or not may not be corrected when you go to a professional jeweler for repairs or resizing.

Next, over-cleaning can also damage delicate gemstones. Some stones, like emeralds, are particularly fragile. If you clean them too frequently or use harsh chemicals, you risk damaging or even shattering the stone.

Plus, a loose stone can fall out while you're cleaning the jewelry and become lost. Most professional jewelers have a "lost stone" policy, which means that they are not responsible for any stones that fall out of their settings during the polishing process. So if you have an expensive piece of jewelry with loose stones, it's best to take it to a professional setter first before handing it over for polishing. This decreases the changes of losing a stone.

Generally speaking, you should only clean your jewelry when it starts to look dirty. If it's just a light film of build-up, a simple at-home cleaning will do the trick. But if it's really caked on, you'll need to take it to a professional jeweler for a good cleaning.

 

WRAPPING UP

 

How often should you clean your jewelry? It depends. Not cleaning your jewelry often enough leads to issues like dirt buildup and tarnish. Cleaning your jewelry too often could damage it and decrease its value, so jewelry cleaning should be done in moderation. What cleaning method you choose (what cleaning solution and cleaning equipment) depends on your personal preference and the type of jewelry you’re cleaning.

If you have any other questions about jewelry cleaning, feel free to email us at info@bonheurjewelry.com.