Summer days are full of fun with days at the pool, barbecues with friends, and travel to beautiful beach locations. But all this fun can lead to your jewelry losing its sparkle as it becomes dulled by the oils in your sunblock, butter dripping off that cob of corn, or caked with sand from building a prize-winning sandcastle.
So, when you want to return your jewelry to full sparkle, you may be tempted to use one of your mother’s or grandmother’s tricks of the trade. But these “old wives’ tales” range from ineffective to dangerous. Here are the top eight jewelry cleaning tales to avoid.
#1 – Toothbrush and Toothpaste
They are great for your pearly whites, but not your pearls or any other type of jewelry. The abrasives in toothpaste will scratch the surface of metals and softer gemstones, while a toothbrush’s long handle places to much pressure on the piece you are cleaning.
#2 – Ammonia, Windex®, and Mr. Clean®
Ammonia, Windex, denatured alcohol, acetone and other harsh cleaning agents can dull or pit the surface of softer gemstones. While ammonia or a cleaning agent like Mr. Clean can be safe on harder gemstones in small concentrations, it is difficult to determine the correct ratio, making them a risky choice.
#3 – Hydrogen Peroxide
While many of us know hydrogen peroxide to be an effective disinfectant, it is not really designed to be a cleaner. In some cases, it can actually react with sterling silver and through a chemical reaction, harm the finish. Professional products are a much better bet.
#4 – Bleach
Bleach is not safe for cleaning jewelry, as it damages metal alloys in gold, irreparably damaging the piece. In fact, this is why it is not a good idea to wear your jewelry while swimming or in a hot tub because both bleach and chlorine are often used to clean them.
#5 – Vinegar and Lemon Juice
The old wives are big fans of vinegar and lemon juice, and they are great cleaning agents for many things. Just not for jewelry. Both are too acidic and abrasive, which is damaging to metals and softer gemstones.
#6 – Coca-Cola®
Yes, some (Do it Yourself) DIY sites suggest using Coca-Cola for cleaning jewelry, but like vinegar, the acids in Coke can damage metals and softer stones. But to cool off on a hot summer day? There’s nothing like it.
#7 – Baking Soda
Baking soda, also known as bicarbonate of soda, is another popular DIY cleaning agent. However, it is too alkaline for cleaning jewelry safely. Just leave it in your fridge to soak up unpleasant odors.
#8 – Boiling Water
Although steam is an excellent way to clean jewelry (most jewelers use a steamer), placing your jewelry in a pot of boiling water is not a good idea. Your piece will come into contact with a hot metal surface, which can weaken or misshape the metal.
While the old wives’ tales are not the way to go, you can clean your jewelry at home. Visit your jeweler for professional jewelry care products formulated especially for cleaning jewelry. Be sure to ask what formulation is best for the jewelry you need to clean. For example, you will want a gentle jewelry cleaning formulation for pearl and other delicate gemstones.
About the Author
Kristie Nicolosi is the President and CEO of The Kingswood Company, the industry’s leading manufacturer of private-label jewelry care products. Since Nicolosi’s acquisition of the business in 2005, The Kingswood Company has earned a reputation for its advanced jewelry cleaning formulas, innovative and customer-centric design skills, and never-ending commitment to customer service. The Kingswood Company have been members of the American Gem Society for more than 25 years.
Why should you insure your engagement ring? Doesn’t homeowners insurance—or the jewelry store’s warranty—cover it? Who has the time to figure all of this out?
Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company—with the help of Wedding Inspirasi—created an excellent infographic to help break down what’s covered with specialized jewelry insurance in comparison to other options.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the complex information in our lives were broken down into one user-friendly image?
Buying finished jewelry is so different than buying loose diamonds, mainly because our diamond buying is a year-long process. We are constantly searching for diamonds, whether it be something specific that a client has asked to see or just something that we need to meet our day-to-day inventory needs.
Because of this never-ending search for perfect diamonds, our ability to spot the good ones remains pretty sharp. I’ve always said that a really well-cut diamond has a sort of “it factor,” meaning after you’ve seen enough of them, you just know the special ones with a glance. When it takes your breath away—right away—that’s the one.
When I closed Part I of this blog, I promised you that we would discuss exactly what goes into making a diamond an AGS Ideal® cut. How do you tell the difference? And is it worth the extra money? I stressed out so much about living up to my promise that I reached out to my good friends at American Gem Society Laboratories to make sure I kept it all straight. So here we go:
What exactly is “cut” as it relates to diamonds? The American Gem Society (AGS) and AGS Laboratories say, “The cut of a diamond refers to how well the facets of a diamond interact with light, the proportions of the diamond, and the overall finish of the diamond.” (Source: americangemsociety.org/diamond-cut)
Facets, light interaction, proportions, and finish may seem like small things, but their influence on the beauty of a diamond is enormous. AGS makes it really easy to understand with their 0 to 10 grading system, with zero (0) being the highest cut grade (ideal) a diamond can receive and 10 being the lowest. However, this apparent simplicity is deceptive because it requires very careful analysis of all things that make up that diamond.
It used to be that diamonds were “cut graded” primarily by their proportions, but AGS revolutionized diamond grading in 2005 when they released their long-awaited Light Performance Cut Grading System.
This method uses patented software technology to measure the attributes that are most important to the beauty of your diamond: Brightness, Fire (spectral color), and Contrast. The combined impact of these factors is what breathes life into your diamond and makes it sparkle! In other words, they are the secret ingredients of the “it factor” that I mentioned above.
The AGS Grading Scale, based on a 0 to 10 scale, makes grades easier to understand; 0 means the cut grade is the best it can be.
Because every facet is considered, every cutting mistake and design flaw can impact the final Cut Grade. Consequently, the AGS Performance Cut Grade system is the most technologically advanced and scientifically rigorous system in the world and represents the highest standards in cut grading.
These ranges make it easier to understand, but I’ve seen more than my share of clients get caught up in these numbers, and they forget to ask themselves one thing: how does the diamond actually look? Is it bright and sparkly with a lot of life? Yes? Then don’t let one number encourage you to cast a pretty diamond onto the scrap pile.
What’s really cool from a gemologist’s point of view is that the same technology used to compute the Cut Grade also produces a color-coded image of the diamond which allows you to understand its light performance.
The above is called an ASET image. ASET stands for Angular Spectrum Evaluation Tool. (There will be a test later, haha.) For customers like you, this is a crucial piece of technology because it demonstrates the way light interacts with your diamond. It’s much easier to see and understand a diamond’s beauty through this image than to listen to a scientific explanation, right? We can show you your diamond’s ASET image right at Jack Lewis, and you can even snap a picture of it to carry around with you or share on social media.
Additionally, The ASET shows the “optical symmetry” of your diamond. For example, in the image above, the eight symmetrical arrows prove that the diamond was cut with a high degree of craftsmanship and artistry.
The simple fact remains that while what we do isn’t the most complicated job on the planet, it really does take a scientific approach and an educated eye to do all of the above. A life spent in the diamond business can teach the right grader, gemologist, or diamond buyer the skills they need to be able to make proper decisions and assign the right grades which determines the right price.
The average consumer looking to find just the right diamond for the love of their life does not have the time to become an expert during their brief shopping experience. They can Google, research, and look at hundreds of diamonds, but they will still need to seek out a properly credentialed and trustworthy diamond professional to help them find what’s right for them. That’s the real dilemma when you’re looking for a jeweler isn’t it….trust?
I once had a client at the diamond counter who told me that Jack Lewis Jewelers was the 15th jewelry store he had visited! He was so confused and so frustrated with the process that he was almost in tears. I can understand why. One jewelry store will tell you one thing, and then another will explain it another way, and on top of it, they are all trying to sell you whatever is in front of them. Just about all of them mean well and are honest, but it can be a lot to process.
I asked if I could give him some advice and he reluctantly said, “Sure.” I said, “Just stop. Stop looking. Pick the place that makes the most sense with as little sales talk as possible. Then trust that person to walk you through the process with an education along the way.” I went on to say that I hoped that was me, but if not, he needed to find the person he could most relate to and trust.
I could tell when I gave him that advice that I had lifted a great weight off of his shoulders. The process can be overwhelming and the diamond grading scale can be a large part of why. I understand that retailers don’t always do a good job of explaining the process, so it is really important to find one who takes the time to do just that. I’ve found it’s the best way to establish a relationship with my clients—and dare I say it—a friendship. I’m happy to say that client did choose me! This occurred over 10 years ago and over the course of a few years, he even sent me several of his friends.
You can see we’ve taken this from an explanation about Cut Grade to the importance of establishing a relationship with someone you can trust. My journey to this destination was no accident. So let’s cut to the chase: at some point, buying a diamond becomes a leap of faith, and Cut is the most complicated part of the buying process as well as being the most essential characteristic in determining beauty. I believe it’s an understatement to say that it pays off to have an expert help you with that part. And at Jack Lewis, we’re ready to walk you through it.
I want to thank my friends at the American Gem Society (AGS) and AGS Laboratories for helping me with this blog. In particular, Jason Quick, who is the Laboratory Director and a mad genius who understands diamonds in ways I can only imagine. Jason and the team at AGS are on the forefront in the jewelry industry because consumer protection is at the very heart of everything they do.
Like the young man in my story, I hope you also choose Jack Lewis Jewelers, but we realize we can’t sell everyone a diamond. If you’ve ever wondered how you can find a jeweler you can trust, start with us if you can…but if not, AGS has you covered. Visit Find a Jeweler at www.americangemsociety.org/find-a-jeweler, type in your zip code and visit a great store. Every retail member of the American Gem Society adheres to a strict code of ethics that help them remain dedicated to the education of their clients.
If you store your fine jewelry safely, clean it regularly and take it to the jeweler to be inspected when you can, it will likely stay in excellent condition.
Diamond engagement rings, however, require special consideration.
Fine jewelry often stays in storage until a special occasion comes along that calls for its glittering presence. Given that most engagement rings are worn daily, additional cleaning and care habits should be ingrained in order to have a diamond that really lasts forever.
Jewelers Mutual used their 100-plus years of jewelry protection expertise to create a guide specifically filled with time-tested advice for diamond engagement ring wearers. Get your free guide here: How to Clean & Care for Your Diamond Engagement Ring. Your beautiful diamond will thank you.
At the American Gem Society, we love sharing blogs with you about gemstones, diamonds, fine jewelry and new fashion trends. When it comes to jewelry care, we strive to give you the best jewelry care knowledge so your keepsakes will last for generations. That’s why in this blog, we teamed up with The Kingswood Company. For over 60 years they have been the leading innovators in high-quality, private-label jewelry care products. So this week’s blog is completely dedicated to keeping the jewelry you already have, or are looking to purchase, in the best possible care.
Routine home care of fine jewelry combined with regular inspections by a professional jeweler is essential to maintaining its beauty and allowing for a lifetime of enjoyment. For daily home care and cleaning, we recommend using professional jewelry cleaners and polishing cloths formulated especially for cleaning jewelry. Our descriptions below can help identify which trade-secret formulas is best suited to each piece in a jewelry wardrobe.
Note: Use extreme caution when using in-home sonic or ultrasonic machines, as they can cause stones to loosen or fall from their settings.
Immerse jewelry in jewelry cleaner each day for two minutes. Agitation and rinsing are not required. Blot dry.
Gentle Jewelry Cleaner
Pearls, Fashion Jewelry, Beaded or Strung Jewelry, Sterling Silver with designer antiquing
Best Used On:
All pieces listed as safe for Fine Jewelry Cleaner above,
PLUS Sterling Silver (with designer antiquing or set with gemstones), Fashion Jewelry, Amber, Cameo, Coral, Emerald, Ivory, Lapiz Lazuli, Opal, Pearls (Cultured & Freshwater), Tanzanite, Turquoise.
Immerse jewelry in jewelry cleaner each day for two minutes. Rinse carefully and blot dry. To clean strands dampen a soft cloth with solution and wipe pearls. Pearls should be professionally restrung annually.
Silver Jewelry Cleaner
All types of Sterling Silver Jewelry.
Best Used On:
Tarnished Sterling Silver Jewelry without any set stones.
Immerse jewelry in silver cleaner for one minute. Remove and rinse. Repeat as necessary. Blot dry, and polish with a polishing cloth to restore shine. Formulary can remove designer antiquing if kept in solution for too long.
Do Not Use On: Aluminum, Brass, Turquoise, Pearls, Emeralds, Opals or other Porous Gemstones
Immerse jewelry in jewelry cleaner each day for two minutes. Agitation and rinsing are not required. Blot dry.
All types of Gold, Silver, Platinum Jewelry & Watches. The perfect finishing touch after using any of the cleansers.
Best Used On:
All Gold, Silver, Platinum & Palladium Jewelry and Watches that require buffing, polishing or tarnish removal.
Using the inner white polishing cloth, rub surface until desired luster occurs. Buff with outside polishing cloth as desired.
As you can see, there are many different kinds of methods to use to keep your well-loved jewelry looking sparkling and new. If you are ever unsure how to clean a piece of jewelry, find a local AGS jeweler in your area and ask them for help! They’re your go-to resource for jewelry and jewelry care.