Your jewellery will give you many years of pleasure if you look after it well. Here are a few guidelines on how to do that.
Precious jewellery is made from metal, silver, gold and platinum, but those metals are quite soft relative to many things you come into contact with every day. Although both silver and gold are alloyed with different percentages of various base metals to make them harder, nothing is going to stand up to the steel in your dressmaking shears, the steel in the hand weights you use at the gym, or the steel sides of your oven. (Not to mention the corrosive powers of the soil in your garden and the sandpaper you use to strip the paint off your woodwork!) Precious metals, pearls, and many gem stones deteriorate when brought into contact with perfume, hairspray or skin lotions. So make sure that your jewellery is the last thing you put on, and the first thing you take off before tackling house work or gardening.
Over the years I have seen far too many pieces of jewellery, often fine old heirloom pieces, needing major repair work because they haven’t been able to withstand today’s lifestyles. So please, think about what you are likely to come into contact with during the course of the day and, if necessary, take off your jewellery before it comes to grief. Having said that, please don’t put it in your wallet or coin purse – it will just get chewed up, sometimes beyond repair. Your wallet or coin purse may be the safest place for your money but it’s not good for your jewellery! The alloy coins are made of is much tougher than gold or silver, and the two just don’t mix.
A lot of jewellery is set with precious or semi-precious stones, and these stones vary a great deal in composition and strength. Gemstones like diamonds, sapphires and rubies are the hardest and stand up to the most wear, though they can still be chipped or shattered under stress. Greenstone, though hard, can break easily, as can many other semi-precious stones.
Emeralds and opals are very brittle and can be damaged easily, even by being exposed to extremes of temperature. Solid opals can dull or crack if they become too dry - a dunk into a glass of fresh water from time to time won’t hurt them. The opposite applies to doublet and triplet opals - they are made up of layers adhered together, and become opaque and lusterless if exposed to moisture. The process is irreversible, so try and make sure of the composition of your opals so that you know how best to care for them.
Pearls, paua shell and mother of pearl are organic and very soft and if worn too hard have a short lifespan. They should be treated with care - never wear pearls together with metal chains, and keep them away from perfume, hair spray and make-up (see above). If they become soiled wipe them with a clean soft cloth, slightly damp (not wet). If you wear your pearls often have them restrung once a year, or as soon as you notice gaps appearing between the pearls. Jewellery set with pearls is generally put together with adhesive so keep these items out of water as the adhesive can loosen and you will lose your pearl(s).
Some semi-precious stones, like turquoise and lapis lazuli, are soft and absorbent, and don’t like coming into contact with modern soaps and chemicals. Some jewellery “dip” cleaners can be extremely damaging, and I don’t recommend them. Any brand name “Foaming Silver Polish” is excellent for cleaning silver jewellery - it comes in the form of a paste with a sponge and is rinsed off with water so there is no residue. A little warm water and a drop of mild grease-cutter (like dish washing detergent) is fine for soaking gold rings set with diamonds, sapphires or rubies. A very soft brush, like an old toothbrush, can be used to shift stubborn dirt from the settings. If your gem set jewellery is very dirty it may pay you to take them to a reputable jeweller to be professionally cleaned. Please don’t hesitate to contact me should you need advice on how best to clean your stone set jewellery.
All jewellery, particularly pieces set with stones, should be checked and cleaned professionally on a regular basis - at least once a year for jewellery worn constantly, particularly rings.
There are lots of jewellery cleaning hacks out there on the world wide web, but remember that if it seems just too easy it probably is, and could damage your jewellery permanently.
I hope you find this useful, although many of you probably know most of this already. If you would like any further information please feel free to contact me: I’ll be glad to help.