A High Hardness Doesn’t Mean a Gem Resists All Types of Exposure
Don’t assume a gem’s resistance to one type of exposure is the same for all types of exposure. Hardness is a commonly referenced physical quality for gemstones, and those that rank high on the Mohs scale, such as diamonds, rubies, and sapphires, are prized choices for jewelry. However, a high Mohs score doesn’t make the gemstone indestructible. Hardness is the ability to resist scratching and nothing more. For example, diamonds have the greatest hardness of any natural material. However, they can have inclusions and incipient cleaves that might have unfortunate reactions to heat or mechanical cleaning.
Recommendations for At-Home Gemstone Jewelry Cleaning
Most commercially prepared jewelry cleaners are safe, but beware of those that contain ammonia or chemicals that can damage sensitive gems like pearl or amber.
As a first step, let your jewelry piece soak for a few moments in a solution of warm water and mild detergent or cleaning solution.
Use a soft brush to gently scrub your jewelry.
A shaved matchstick or toothpick is quite good at picking out accumulations, but don’t be too harsh. Patience pays off.
When you’ve finished scrubbing, dip the jewelry piece back into the solution for one last wetting. Then rinse in warm running water, preferably about the same temperature as your solution. Radical temperature changes are dangerous and should be avoided.
Shake or blow on the jewelry piece to remove excess liquid, then gently polish with a soft lint-free cloth or chamois.
What Kind of Brush Should You Use to Clean Gemstone Jewelry?
Nowadays, you can easily purchase toothbrushes with bristles designated “soft” or “extra-soft.” These are fine for cleaning most jewelry stones at home. However, avoid using any brush with hard, inflexible bristles or any toothbrush with bristles designated “medium” or “firm/hard.” Toothbrushes with “medium” or “firm/hard” bristles can potentially scratch tooth enamel, which has a Mohs hardness of 5. While most gems typically used for jewelry have a hardness greater than 5, gold and silver alloys commonly used for settings only have a hardness of 2 to 3. Platinum has a hardness of 4.5. A toothbrush with medium or hard bristles could easily scratch jewelry settings made from these metals
Caring for Your Gemstone Jewelry Before You Clean
Cleaning your gemstones after they get dirty is only part of proper care. Pre-use care is also important.
Apply your perfumes, colognes, and hairsprays before you put on gemstone jewelry. Not only will these chemicals reduce gem brilliance, the ability to return light, they can be highly destructive to some gems, such as pearls, which react violently to acid and alcohol.
If possible, wear your perfumes and colognes in areas that won’t touch your gems. In the case of pearls, try to keep them out of contact with skin, whether you’re wearing perfume or not.