Monday, April 4, 2011

Caring for Gems & Jewelry

Caring for Gemstones

Men and women buy gemstones to set in jewellery to be worn and flaunted on special occasions. The brighter and more pure these are, the more they will enchance the beauty of the whole piece and, naturally of the wearer, too. Great care should therefore be taken to store and clean precious jewellery after wearing them. Gems and gemstones set ornaments therefore need to be carefully chosen and carefully worn, cared for, properly stored, and cleaned with caution to keep them valuable and in good condition for as long as possible.

Choosing Jewellery

Rings and bangles are used constantly and do get knocked around even if worn only for festive occations. Gemstones for these pieces should not be brittle or soft. Such stones, as for example, pearls and opals are better set in earrings, pendants or brooches. They can be set for special rings, but even then the stone should be in a closed setting fpr protection.

Diamonds are often held by four prongs or claws but this is not as safe as a six-prong setting. If one of the claws of a four prong setting breaks, the stone will fall out. When the claws get weak after constant wear, the stone should be reset instead of repairing the claw. Even during setting, the goldsmith should be warned not to overheat the stone, especially where platinum jewellery is concerned. A strong tap with a hammer can break or ship a diamond.

In the case of pear shaped or marquise diamonds, the pointed ends should be covered by the setting, or else the stones may chip off during wear. Closed setting are always safer, but the stone could ship 01 crack when the jewel is brocken up for resetting or redesign. Soft gold such as 22-karat is better for losed settings or else the design should allow the stone to be removed without too much effort by the goldsmith.


Generally speaking, the best and simplest way to keep gem set jewellery clean is to wipe it with a soft damp cloth after it is taken off. Perfume, perpiration, nail polih, polish removers and other beauty products leave a deposit that is hard or remove after they dry out.

The harder a gemstone, the more brittle it is. Diamonds and sapphires therefore often chip or crack and should be carefully protected, cleaned and maintained. Coloured gemstones like tanzanite, kunzite, topaz, feldspar, moonstone and sunstone are fragile and can aplit or crack if hit. Amethyst, turquise, red tourmaline, opal, malachite, kunzite, chrysoprase, citrine, flurite, rose and smoky quartz and emerald fade and discolour in sunlight. Opal, turquoise and malachite may crack if exposed to heat. These stones close set in a ring can crack when the temperature drops abruptly as for instance,when going from 40C weather into an air-conditioned building of 20C temperature.

Pearls need special care. They should be wiped and dried before storage in a silk pouch, never in a plastic bag. They should be cleaned regularly, at least once a year and re-strung ith silk or polyester thread with knots between each pearl. Any necklace strung with silk thread should never be under tension to prevent the thread from stretching. Pearls are sometimes dyed to give various colours but these dyes fade in patches with use. Once this happen, the dyes cannot be rejuvenated. Pearls, coral, and porous stones such as opal, turquise, or malachite should be kept away from dirty water and oils to avoid discoloration.

Rings should be removed by pulling on the gold and not on the gemstones. As a general rule, all jewellery should be handled as little as possible, and should be picked up by its edges.

Storage of Jewellery

Jewellery should be stored individual soft cloth bags in a strong box with compartments. It pieces are thrown one on top of the other, they may be bent, and may be scratched or dented by other pieces. Jewellery that is worn regularly should be examined to see if the setting have become loose. Even if it appears to be tight, a loose setting causes the stones to rattle when the piece is taken.

Loose gems of any kind should be stored in tissue paper packets that are folded in such a way that the stones do not fall out when inspected. Jewellers store their loose gemstones in specially lined paper packets that can be bought from the jewellery market. Pearls should be treated with great care and kept in soft chamois pourches or tisssue papaer. They should be cleaned before storage. Pearls, opal and emerald jewellery should be stored in cotton or silk cloth and never with other jewels as they are easily cracked and scratched.

Diamonds may scratch rubies, sapphires, or emeraldss or even other diamonds. They get easily coated with oil and grease, so much so that this property is used to sort diamonds out of other stones in the mines. A diamond coated with oil collects dust and loses lustre. One should therefore never touch clean diamonds with fingers.

Gems and gem quality items, improperly stored, can damage each other. Gem set jewellery should be stored in soft lint free cloth or soft tissue paper to prevent any such harm. Elaborate pieces like necklaces and bracelets should not be tangled together in storage.


When rings are never removed, as with engagement or wedding rings, they accumulate dirt within the setting. The gemstones, be it diamond or any other stone, gets coated with a grease and dust film that obscures the beauty of the jewel. For this reason, periodic cleaning of jewellery is a must. It is wise to remove all hand jewellery, rings and bangles before starting on heavy household work like dusting and washing. Other jobs like gardening, playing sports and repairing cars or bicycles may also damage a gem, even diamonds, set in a ring or bangle.

Stones such as lapis, turquoise, coral, onyx and malachite are soaked in dye to increase their colour. Emeralds are treated with oil to fill cracks and so increase their glitter. These dyes and oils will dissolve in detergents and chemicals such as nail polish remover. One should therefore remove such jewellery whille going to bathe or swim, or when working with detergents and chemicals. Opals in particular are very sensetive to heart and cold. Chemicals presennt in hair sprays and perfumes may damage organic gemstones and in particular, cultured pearls. Each time any pearls are worn they should be wiped with a soft cloth to remove any oil film. Some gemstones, even treated sapphire and kunzite, may fade in sunlight.


Diamond studded jewellery should be cleaned using warm water in which a few drops of liquid detergent is dissolved, and then dried with a soft cloth or tissue. Pure alcohol or better, isopropanol removes all the grease that abheres to diamonds, Soaking the item in cold water and ammonia and brushing with a toothbrush cleans dirtier settings. The piece should then be washed thoroughly and dried. This method works for alexandrite,amethyst, andalusite, aquamarine, citrine, garnet, iolite, moonstone, ruby, sapphire, spinel, tanzanite, topaz, tourmaline, and zircon. However, this treatment is not suitable for emeralds as jewellers sometimes fill cracks and holes with oil and when this oil is removed the emerald becomes very dull and hazy. Do not scrub amber, coral, jade, kunzite, lapis, lazuli, or turquoise with soap and water.

Opals, emeralds and tanzanite require far more care than other gemstones and should never be put into very hot water. Pearls never take to washing thought they were born in water. The silk thread often comes apart when soaked in detergent and water. The pearls should be gently wiped and put away wrapped in soft tissue or silk. Opals contain some water and so they should not be dried in sunlight. They should be merely wiped dry and stored.

Ultrasonic cleaners are sometimes recommended for deep cleansing. While these are good for cleaning pure gold jewellery, they may damage amber, coral, emerald, kunzite, lapis lazuli, tanzanite, opal, pearl, ruby, or turquoise. Organic gems like pearls, coral, amber can get damaged by ultrasonic cleaners. Tanzanite has been known to shatter and opals to craze under ultrasound. Ultrasound also removes the oil or resin that may be in emeralds and expands existing fractures.

Gold Jewellery

Gold jewellery is easily scratched and distorted. The 24 karat pure gold jewellery that was once so common in south India was so soft that after a year or two of wear it had to be reworked. As the ratio of gold decreases, the metal becomes hairder. Bangles and rings made of 22 karat gold are still liable to be dented and scratched. Presently 18 karat gold is recommended for everyday wear, but even so these articles lose their shine in a year or two of normal use.

To preserve these pieces, remove all gold jewellery before bathing, swimming or cleaning the house. Soap leaves a dull film on gold jewellery, while chlorine attacks gold to a small extent. Once in six months gold bangles and rings and earrings should be cleaned with a soft toothbrush and detergent. Rubbing with silver polish followed by polishing with a soft cloth improves their appearance considerably. Finally, one could soak them in a solution of baking soda in boiling water and dry with face tissue or soft cloth.

Silver Jewellery

Siver tarnishes very rapidly in the polluted almosphere of cities. Traditional Indian silver is almost pure blackens very quickly while sterling silver is ninety-two percent pure and resists tarnishing somewhat better. Silversmiths recommend ordinary cleaning powder for restoring heavily tarnished pices, afterwhich polishing is done with a soft tissue and silver polish. Jewellers also dip silver in a zinc chloride solution before scrubbing the pieces. A soft toothbrush removes dirt and blackening from within embossed designs.

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