How to Clean Your Jewelry like a pro!
Jewelry needs to be cleaned for many reasons. First, you wear it on your body, so it’s exposed to your body oils and any lotions you may use or any pollutants you may encounter. Second, you wear it on your body, and anything that sits against your skin (or even inside your skin like an earring) should be clean!!! Third, jewelry is beloved because of its flash and sparkle, its particular sheen or finish-- it just doesn’t look good when stones are dusty, when fine details are hidden under a film-- you wear it to look good, so make your jewelry look its best.
At Secrète Fine Jewelry in Washington, DC, and Bethesda, MD, we have decades’ experience in hand-crafting custom high-end jewelry, from lovely diamond engagement rings and wedding bands to haute couture earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and cocktail rings, so we know a thing or two about how to care for your jewelry. When you’re cleaning your jewelry, you want to first and foremost preserve the integrity of the materials, and second, you want to get a thorough clean.
This aquamarine, tourmaline, sapphire, and peridot ring from Secrète's catalog is an example of a perfectly cleaned ring. Want to learn how to do it like a pro? Read more!
Important: The directions for cleaning your jewelry depends on the composition of each piece. You wouldn’t clean a soft, fragile opal the same way you treat the super-hard diamonds. If you’re not sure what your stones are, it’s best to take your piece to a jeweler for a professional opinion.
There are many jewelry-cleaning solutions available on Amazon or at box stores, but you don’t necessarily have to use these products to get the best results.
How to Clean Silver:
If a piece of jewelry is all silver, no stones, we recommend using a gentle silver-cleaning product like Wright’s Silver Cream. Some harsher chemicals that advertise instant tarnish-removing may be fine on the metal, but the fumes are a little much for us. Silver should never be left wet after it has been cleaned because moisture causes tarnish. A soft cloth, like a piece of flannel, is also a great way to polish silver. You get a great satisfaction watching the cloth blacken as you rub your silver to a nice shine. My mother taught me never to store silver in plastic, and never to keep it in the same drawer as anything made of wax (think candles and candlesticks in the same drawer) because the wax releases a little moisture and plastic traps it in. Instead, keep your silver wrapped in a flannel pouch or another soft, cotton, cloth.
This custom engagement ring features an F color, VS1 GIA certified center oval diamond flanked by two heirloom stones provided by the bride's father, set on a custom white gold twisted rope setting handmade in Secrete's Bethesda workshop. This is the easiest type of jewelry to clean.
How to clean gold, platinum, and/or diamonds:
Cleaning jewelry made of gold, platinum, and diamonds is very easy. We recommend filling a small bowl with warm water and a capful of regular Mr. Clean. Mr. Clean contains ammonia, and when it’s diluted, it’s a go-to for cleaning jewelry because it really helps you restore the shine of favorite pieces. Soak the jewelry for a minute or two, then use a soft toothbrush to gently scrub it. If the underside of the stones are dirty, giving them a good scrub can make your diamonds shine! Make sure to dry your piece completely to avoid water spots.
This custom South Sea pearl necklace by Secrète Jewelry on display in our DuPont Circle store is an example of how pearls should be strung-- the knots are clean, white, and even. They're not so tight that they hang at weird angles, nor so loose that they pull in one direction.
How to clean pearls:
Pearls are actually organic matter, not stones. They are formed when a piece of sand gets in an oyster, and thin layers build up around it like the layers of an onion. To clean pearls, don’t ever submerge them in water-- simply use a soft cloth that has been moistened in warm water with a little mild soap in it. We recommend something like Dr. Bronner’s baby soap-- something you can find at most health food stores-- because it’s very gentle, unscented, and has no harsh chemicals. Dip a soft cloth in the soapy water, wring it out, and run it over the pearls. Dry the pearls with another soft cloth.
If the string holding the pearls together is discolored or loose, it’s best to bring them into a professional for a professional cleaning and restringing. Secrète Fine Jewelry has a professional pearl stringer on staff-- it’s such a specialized profession, restringing is actually all she does! Definitely choose a dedicated stringer.
This black Tahitian pearl, diamond, and white gold ring at our DuPont location of Secrète combines beautiful colors and textures with the glossy pearl and glittery diamonds. It's ok to take a soft toothbrush to the diamonds to clean them, but don't scrub the pearl!
This sapphire and diamond ring handmade by Secrète Jewelry can be cleaned easily! You'll want this gem to sparkle to its fullest potential once you see it at our Washington, DC store.
How to clean sapphires & rubies:
Sapphires and rubies are generally very hard and very durable, and the same method used for diamonds will also work for most sapphires, whether they’re untreated, unheated, heated, natural, or synthetic. According to GIA, the only caution you need to take is if your sapphire is fracture-filled, cavity-filled, or dyed; these treatments basically use a solution to fill in crevices in a stone or to dye it to change the color. If your sapphire has been treated with one of these treatments, just wipe it clean with a damp cloth.
This intriguing antique two-stone engagement ring from Secrète Fine Jewelry's estate collection features a 1.01ct F color VS1 Old Mine cut diamond and a 1.75ct vibrant green emerald set in platinum. Special care should be taken when cleaning emeralds!
How to clean emeralds:
Since many emeralds are fracture-filled treated, according to GIA, it’s safest to use diluted mild soap (like Dr. Bronner’s Baby) and a soft toothbrush to clean your emerald jewelry.
Secrète Fine Jewelry made this fantastic black opal, white gold, and diamond pendant in our Bethesda workshop. This fragile beauty should be treated with respect-- its amazing colors and flashes of light come from the soft, fine layers of the stone.
How to clean opals:
Opals are soft, fragile stones that actually are partially made up of water. Their delicate composition gives them their ethereal glow but also makes them a cleaning challenge. We recommend using a very soft cloth dipped in warm distilled water to gently wipe opals clean. No chemicals, no detergents, no bristles.
This dainty pink tourmaline and diamond pendant from Secrète Fine Jewelry is a great example of a piece you might want to wear every day. The more you wear a piece of jewelry, the more often you should clean it!
How to clean semi-precious stones like amethyst, garnet, turquoise, topaz, etc:
For most semi-precious gems, you’re safe using mild soapy water and a toothbrush. Very soft stones like Chrysocolla, Amber, and Rhodochrosite may scratch with a toothbrush, so you should use cool soapy water and a soft cloth for those stones.
How to clean gold-plate or silver-plate:
If your jewelry is gold-plated (sometimes marked “vermeil” which means gold plated silver or “GF” which stands for gold-filled) or silver-plated, be very gentle when you clean. You may be trying to take off layers of tarnish only to find you’ve scrubbed all the gold off! Plated items may lose their finish over time, but a jeweler should be able to replate it for you periodically to keep it looking its best.
Costume jewelry can be really fun, but never assume it’s built to last. Often, the jewelry you find at even high-end clothing stores can be made with foil-backed rhinestones or held together with glue. These pieces can be stylish and even sentimental, but clean with caution. Often, a little glass cleaner and a paper towel can do the trick on rhinestone pieces without damaging the glue or any of the rhinestones.
What about DIY steamers and ultrasonic cleaning kits?
There are a variety of jewelry cleaning machines available for home-use. These can be really helpful, but there are some drawbacks. Some gemstones aren’t steam-safe, and the ultrasonic machine also has its own complex list of what can and cannot be put in it. If you’re interested in using these, we definitely recommend doing your research on the machine and about your jewelry and the care of it before getting started.
This imperial topaz ring from Secrète's DC store has lots of open space behind the stone. The sparkle of a stone is a result of how the light gets in, so make sure you clean underneath stone settings where oils and hand-creams may accumulate to get really satisfying results!
Always dry your jewelry after you’ve gotten it wet to clean it.
Never boil your jewelry on the stove to clean it1 We have heard horror stories of people cracking 12 ct sapphires, partially melting gold, and generally just ruining their precious jewelry by trying to cook it like a bowl of soup.
Always double check your materials before you start to clean. You may think it’s a diamond capable of withstanding a little elbow grease, only to realize it’s a soft imitation after it’s too late.
Never resort to harsh chemicals like paint-thinners, acetones, or other industrial solutions. If your jewelry is really dirty-- like if you wore it to paint your house-- please bring it in to let a professional do it for you. It’s not worth destroying an expensive heirloom to save a trip to a jewelry store.
Never use hard tools to try to get stubborn dirt out. If great-grandma’s ring has been collecting dust for half a century, it may be tempting to use a paperclip or tweezers or some other thing to “poke out” some of that dirt, but even diamonds can be chipped if hit at just the right angle. It’s better to be patient and go a little at a time, or simply take the tough jobs to the pros.
Definitely clean your jewelry! We know when people have a favorite piece, they want to wear it all the time, like diamond studs or a simple gold necklace-- but you should never say, “I never take them off.” Not only does cleaning jewelry make it more beautiful and more hygienic, it also is part of maintaining an item’s value. We have witnessed horror stories of weird rashes caused by dirty jewelry and literally having to cut the earrings off a woman’s ears because the backs were basically cemented on with debris. It really is necessary to take basic, simple steps to make sure your jewelry stays healthy, safe, and beautiful.
This rhodolite garnet and diamond ring in hammered 18k gold is an example from Secrète's catalog. How do we get our jewelry so clean for displays and photoshoots? We treat each piece with respect, patience, and expertise!
For more advice about caring for your jewelry, or to have a beautiful piece of jewelry custom-made for you,contact ustoday or visit us in Bethesda, MD, or our DuPont Circle Washington, DC store.