Jewelry Care: Tips & Tricks for Cleaning and Caring for your Collection

Hi there from Sparkles!

As fellow jewelry lovers, we know how it feels to own and wear fun, sparkly pieces. But as they say, with great jewelry comes great responsibility! (Do they say that? Is it canon?)

We’re just kidding – the responsibility’s not THAT daunting, but proper care of your jewelry prolongs its life, enhances its look, and ensures more happiness in both the short and the long term.

At Sparkles, we’re all GIA-trained, so we know about metals and gemstones and their relative strengths and limitations. We want to pass on this knowledge to you so you can put it to good use with your own pieces!

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for taking the best care of your jewelry. 

DO bring in your engagement rings (or any rings worn on a daily basis) for a check-up with your jeweler every 6 months. That way, we can check your mounting(s) – are any stones loose? Do any prongs need tightening? – and keep a professional eye on the condition of your rings to prevent stone loss or damage. Normal wear can eventually cause prongs to loosen over time, but with regular check-ups, jewelers can detect any needed maintenance and make any touch-ups or repairs as necessary. Not only does this keep your rings in great shape, but it keeps them clean and looking their most beautiful as well! 

DO perform at home checks for loose stones. Hold the piece up to your ear and gently tap it. Hear any movement? If so, a stone is loose. Immediately stop wearing this piece and bring it to your jeweler so they can tighten the loose stone. A loose stone can quickly turn into a lost stone. 

DO take off your jewelry before you shower, swim, clean house, or apply anything to your skin or hair that can come in contact with your jewelry (think lotions, sunscreens, hair product, perfume, bug spray, etc.) The chemicals/ingredients found in body products, swimming pools and cleaning supplies can damage or discolor both metals and stones, sometimes permanently. Gems like turquoise and pearls are especially porous and require extra care.

DON’T work out or perform otherwise manual types of labor in your rings and jewelry. You’ll want to avoid wearing jewelry during any activity that could make it more likely for you to knock your pieces into things or catch them on hard surfaces or edges. Even simply gripping the handles on an elliptical machine routinely over time can misshape a ring.

DO take your jewelry off before you sleep. Prongs can catch on the sheets or blankets and loosen stones in your mounting (or rip your 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets!). Your body changes as you sleep – fingers can swell quite a bit making a ring mighty tight (and not to mention bad news for blood flow!) The same goes for necklaces – chains can tangle, catch and rip on bedding, or even get crushed if slept on. Earrings can come undone and get lost. 

DO place your jewelry in the same place every time you take it off, which will help you remember exactly where you put it and aid in establishing good caretaking habits.

DO store your jewelry individually in a pouch or box; this protects it from the potential damage and debris from just lying out, and it also prevents close contact with other pieces of jewelry, with which it might tangle or scratch.

DO avoid excessive light and heat as well as sudden temperature changes, as these elements can cause your gems to fade, change color, or even crack and shatter.

DO feel free to gently clean your jewelry at home with warm water, dish soap and a small, soft brush, like a baby toothbrush or makeup brush. We carry a great foam cleanser here at Sparkles that comes with its own brush and is safe to use on all fine jewelry. We also carry silver polishing cloths and a liquid silver cleaner for your sterling pieces. 

DON’T put any other metal other than silver in liquid silver cleaner and only leave your silver pieces in the solution for 30 seconds or less. If your piece has stones, use a cotton swab to dip into the solution and clean around the stones. Rinse thoroughly with water. 

DON’T leave your jewelry sitting in water or cleaning solution to soak. 

DO leave ultrasonic cleaning to your jeweler. Ultrasonic cleaners are widely used in the jewelry profession to clean jewelry. They utilize gentle vibrations and heat to deep clean pieces. However, not all gemstones are safe in an ultrasonic; stones like opals, pearls or emeralds should never go into an ultrasonic cleaner as the vibrations can damage them. A trained jeweler will know which pieces are safe and which should be hand-cleaned. 

DON’T assume all gemstones are equal! There’s a reason beyond appeal and tradition that makes diamonds the most widely used stone for engagement and wedding rings – because of their hardness, diamonds are extremely durable and thus ideal for every day, long-term wear. Sadly, not all gems can measure up to the same level of strength!

For your reference, here is the Moh’s Scale of Hardness:

10 – Diamond – absolute hardness of 1600

9 – Corundum (ruby, sapphire) – absolute hardness of 400

8 – Topaz – absolute hardness of 200

7 – Quartz (amethyst, citrine, ametrine, etc) – absolute hardness of 100 – scratches window glass

6 – Feldspar (moonstone, labradorite) – absolute hardness of 72 – a steel file will scratch it

5 – Apatite – absolute hardness of 48

4 – Fluorite – absolute hardness of 21 – a knife will scratch it

3 – Calcite – absolute hardness of 9 – a penny will scratch it

2 – Gypsum – absolute hardness of 3

1 – Talc – absolute hardness of 1 – a fingernail will scratch it

As you can see, diamonds win! Moving just one step down the scale, we see a 75% drop in hardness between 10 (diamond) and 9 (corundum)! This doesn’t mean that diamonds are your only safe option, but that if you should choose another stone (sapphire, topaz, etc), it’s helpful to realize the differences in toughness so you can take the best care of your ring.

If you’re interested in a softer stone, like an opal (rated 4.5-6 on the hardness scale) or a pearl (2.5-4.5), please be aware that, simply due to their own delicate nature, these gems are less than ideal for the everyday, lifelong wear expected out of an engagement or wedding ring. 

And finally, DON’T be afraid to ask your jeweler questions. That’s what we’re here for! We feel it is part of our job to properly educate you on the best ways to care for your jewelry, and we’re definitely committed to helping maintain your pieces so they last for generations to come!

Thanks for visiting! See you here at Sparkles soon! 


The Sparkles Team