Some of the best and most important historical object’s left over from history is jewelry. Jewelry tells us stories of monarchs ruling kingdoms, it’s been used as offerings to the gods, it’s taught historians the capabilities of past societies’ and has encapsulated entire cultures. Just think, you can make your own ring/necklace/bracelet/earrings become an integral part of history – they just need to be maintained.
There is a lot to know about jewelry care and maintenance. Most sources only give you minimal and basic information. While useful, there is actually a lot more information out there. The more you know the better you can take care of your jewelry and make sure that you don’t cause any unnecessary damage that will result in you spending more money. With this article we will explain everything you need to know about how to properly care for and maintain your jewelry so it will shine through the ages. It may get a bit dense from here on out, but bear with us, because this is stuff you will want to know.
One of the easier and simpler methods used to understand the needs of a stone is knowing its level of hardness. The Mohs scale of hardness is not just a fun fact, it’s actually a very important means of understanding the structural integrity of a gemstone, thereby telling you almost everything you need to know about the stone.
To be exact the Mohs scale of hardness roughly measures the level of resistance of a smooth surface to various forms of damage (i.e. scratching, cracking, chipping etc.). The level of hardness of a stone is defined by its rank on the Mohs scale, with 1 being the softest and 10 being the hardest. For example, talc is one of the softest minerals out there, resting at 1 on the Mohs scale of hardness, that means it is very easy for the mineral to be scratches and carved with just your fingernail. Diamonds, on the other hand, sit at a solid 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This means that a diamond is one of the hardest minerals and can scratch virtually anything. Diamonds are so hard that they are often used to cut and design glass, metal and other stones. Now keep in mind a level 10 does not mean the mineral is indestructible, nothing is indestructible. Diamonds can still chip and crack, it’s just doesn’t happen very often. When it does happen its usually indicative of very rough handling or a setting that is way too tight.
Knowing the level of hardness can tell us a lot about cleaning methods. For example, common and somewhat softer stones that are a level 7 or lower (ie. garnets, amethysts, citrines etc.) are too soft for heat treatment cleaning and can result in severe cracking. They should be cleaned with a soft bristle toothbrush under lukewarm water with gentle fragrance-free detergent. Very soft stones like pearls (level 2) are extremely sensitive to all kinds of materials and should really only be wiped with a soft cloth.
Another characteristic of a stone that comes into play when cleaning and maintaining it, is the stone’s porousness. Some stones are actually more porous than others. Porousness is different than hardness but does relate. I.e., not all soft stones are porous, but all porous stones are soft. Porous stones like opals, pearls, jades, emeralds and ammolites are very susceptible to heat, chemicals, and dryness. This means that these stones should not be worn with perfumes and shouldn’t be cleaned with any detergents. To clean these gems, we recommend just using cool water and a soft cloth. Because porous stones are actually predisposed to drying out, we also recommend applying a thin layer of clean oil (i.e. vegetable, olive or coconut) to the surface of the stone once to twice a month. This will keep the stone shiny, supple and saturated.
During these tough times we’re of course more inclined to purchase heated gemstones because they are cheaper and are still a genuine precious or semi-precious stone. They’ve simply been altered to appear to be of a higher quality for a lot less the price. However, when purchasing and maintaining a heat treated stone bear in mind that because of the alteration the stone is now that much more vulnerable to damage. The heat-treating process dissolves away inclusions, but also cripples the structural integrity of the piece leaving it severely weakened, thus demands higher maintenance.
One more thing to keep in mind when it comes to stone jewelry is maintaining the pigmentation of coloured stones. Stones that have any sort of colour, including the colour white, need to be kept in a dark place when they aren’t being worn. To understand why let’s break it down like this: all stones are minerals that are composed under intense pressure, in pitch black, under the surface of the earth. Up until we excavated them, these stones have never seen the light of day. It is only natural that after being continually exposed to light the colour of the stones, developed in darkness, will fade over time. Thus, when we aren’t using these gemstones, we need to keep them a dark space to make sure they remain well saturated. Jewelry boxes may seem like a somewhat frivolous trinket, but when you have valuable commodities like rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and aquamarines it becomes a much-needed asset.
When it comes using chemical liquid cleaners on your jewelry you must bear in mind that not all stones can be put in chemical liquid solutions. This is because the chemicals used in the cleaning solutions are acids. Most soft and porous stones are too weak to be exposed to such harsh chemicals. The chemicals in the solutions can strip the stones of their lusters and completely dry them out causing the gems to become brittle and crack. Always be sure to read the instructions of any liquid cleaning solution. They will tell you how long to leave your jewelry in for and what stones you should not put in the solution.
We talk more about the care and maintenance of specific stones in our monthly stone of the month blog posts. So, if you want to learn more stay tuned.
To start, never sleep with your jewelry on. We have no control over ourselves in our sleep so it’s very easy for things to bend and break while we unconsciously move around. As mentioned before jewelry boxes aren’t just frivolous things. They not only keep your colour stones from fading in the light, but they also keep your jewelry organized and safe, so that nothing gets tangled and damaged.
We also recommend taking your jewelry off when doing any form of manual labor. It’s hardly fair for businesses to be liable for damaged cause to their jewelry when someone is sticking a ring in the stink doing dishes, working out with bracelets and necklaces on and doing any form of construction while wearing any piece of jewelry. If you put your precious and delicate jewelry in the line of fire of course it’ll get damaged. Trust us, you’re much better off taking the time to remove it and put it in a safe place. The most common items we see coming in for repairs are rings and bracelets, typically due to people working with their hands that don’t remove their jewelry.
Removing dirt in general from all areas is actually really important, not just for general hygiene and clean appearances, but to help maintain the structural integrity of your piece. Take a diamond ring for example: it’s completely natural for dirt, and sweat, and grime to build up in and around the setting. However, if that dirt, sweat, and grime continues to build without ever being removed it will actually apply pressure to the stone and loosen the setting overtime. The cost of tightening a setting is at least twice than that of just buying a jewelry cleaner or having it cleaned.
The absolute best preventative measure you can take to maintain your jewelry is getting it inspected by a professional jeweler once to twice a year. Like how we go to the doctors to maintain our health, take your jewelry to your local jeweler for a checkup to maintain its health. No matter how hard you work at caring for your jewelry a professional can foresee any and all issues within your piece. They have been specially trained to do so. We are here to help you, so take advantage.