Jewellery is very valuable to everyone, both for financial and sentimental reasons. Most people keep pieces of jewellery all their lives, regardless of whether they wear them every day or not. You may not wear the Claddagh ring you were given as a child anymore because it no longer fits on your finger, but that doesn't mean you won't eventually give it to someone special in years to come. Jewellery that is worn every day such as wedding rings and engagement rings runs the risk of dirt and dust building up over time, which can dull the piece eventually. The same can be said of jewellery that is not worn on a daily basis, especially pieces that have embellishments, gemstones or other details. So either way, it pays to keep your jewellery in good condition – and here are the best ways to do just that.
There are plenty of jewellery cleaning products available from various jewellers, and many outlets will also take your jewellery away and clean it for you. While this will nearly always make your wedding ring sparkle as much as the day you first wore it, there are also plenty of home remedies that do the job just as well. This will also save you the expense that comes with professional cleaning and the inevitable worry that always comes with not having your ring on your person – no matter how safe you know it is.
Why should you keep your jewellery in good condition?
Over the course of any given day your hands pick up a phenomenal amount of dirt and germs – especially if you don't keep your hands as clean as you should. Imagine how much of that gets trapped underneath your ring, in between its facets and lodged inside the setting of the gemstones. So if you have no other reason to keep your jewellery in good condition, at least do it for the sake of good hygiene!
Over the course of your wedding ring's life the natural oils on your fingers can build up on its surface, and although this may not damage the ring itself, you will definitely notice its shine dulling and its colour not being as bright. Furthermore, daily wear and tear leaves its mark on the surface of your ring too. Over time each tiny scratch adds up and will become noticeable if you examine it up close. Therefore, it makes sense to keep your ring in as good condition as possible for as long as possible, and take protective measures to prevent those tiny scratches dulling the ring.
A final - and arguably the most important - reason to keep your jewellery in good condition is financial. Jewellery is always valuable, but if kept in good condition, older pieces can be worth quite a sum once they've passed down a generation or two. The value of precious metals increases and decreases according to supply and demand, so if the time is right, you (or rather, your children or grandchildren) could have a significant asset to their name.
How to Clean your Jewellery
Precious metals used in jewellery making are usually very soft and malleable by nature – that's how they're made into such beautiful pieces. Silver, for example, is a very soft metal, so when used to make a piece of jewellery it is always mixed with metals to make it more durable. Because of this it naturally tarnishes over time. If worn continually, sterling silver develops what is known as a 'patina', or a dull glow with darkened areas around the edges. If you keep your silver jewellery well maintained, however, this tarnishing may not be noticeable at all. To restore it to its original appearance, you need either silver polish or a low abrasive cleaner. The latter does the job the best, but runs the risk of dulling your piece in the long run as too much abrasion leaves lots of tiny scratches. A popular home remedy for removing tarnish is by brushing your silver with toothpaste, however, experts caution against this as toothpaste is usually too abrasive and will strip an entire layer off of the silver, leaving it completely dull. The essential thing to remember is that whatever cleaning product you decide to use, it must be phosphate free.
Similar rules apply with gold, although since it is somewhat more durable than silver, you can get away with more home remedies without risking damage to your piece. If it is a simple gold ring without a gemstone or other elements, you can use a soft bristled brush to clean in any facets or engraved parts. For smooth surfaces, use a soft cleaning cloth to polish it and make it shine. If you really want your gold to come up sparkling, you can drop it into a small amount of boiling water with a pinch of baking soda. Take it out after no more than 30 seconds and immediately wipe it dry. The results will dazzle you, but remember to only do this very sparingly.
Like silver, platinum is another metal that develops a patina over time. Many people prefer the effect this has on the metal to the shiny, polished look it has when new, but if you're not one of those people, the best course of action is to take it back to a professional jeweller for cleaning. They will use a mild solution of 50% ammonia and 50% water, which doesn't sound too complicated, but if placed in the wrong hands the effects can be disastrous – so leave it to the professionals!
Certain gemstones are extremely delicate and special care needs to be taken around them; not everything is as tough as a diamond. Gently wipe them clean with a moist cloth, without using any cleaning products – not even soap. This is because many of these gemstones, because of their natural qualities, are extremely porous and so absorb chemicals very easily. Try your best not to let them come into contact with perfume, moisturisers, etc. After cleaning, allow them to dry on a moisture observing surface, i.e. a towel.
How to Store your Jewellery
So many people are guilty of just putting all of their jewellery in one box, leaving chains to get tangled and rings, earrings and bracelets all jumbled up in one pile. A little chaos every now and then makes life more interesting, but your jewellery box is not the place for it! It's too easy for things to get lost of damaged in a sea of precious metal. Here are some tips on how to store your jewellery.
Silver: Store your sterling silver jewellery in a cool dry place, not touching other metals. If possible, use cloth specially treated to prevent tarnishing to protect it from further dulling.
Gold: Store your gold jewellery in a clean dry box, preferably lined with satin or velvet. Gold of differing carats should never be kept together, as they will rub against each other and wear away over time. If whatever storage container you use to store your jewellery is moved around a lot, consider wrapping each piece in tissue.
Platinum: Platinum is one metal above all that needs to separated from others, as it is so tough and hardy that it easily damages softer metals like silver and gold. It will last best in a chamois bag.
How to Maintain your Jewellery
Inspect your jewellery periodically for any new scratches, looseness in settings, etc. Pay particular attention to the claws and settings, as this is the first sign of trouble for ageing pieces. If your piece has claws, it is well worth spending money to get the claws re-tipped every once in a while, as they are often the first element of the piece to weaken and break – this can and often does lead to the stone falling out of the setting and getting lost if you don't keep an eye on things.
Many jewellers will polish your jewellery for free and it only takes a few minutes, so if you have time to spare, consider dropping into your local jeweller for a quick visit. If your piece is particularly valuable, it will be worth the money if you have it professionally inspected every so often too. This doesn't have to be as often as the piece is cleaned or polished by any means – once every few years is plenty. Remember that any adjustments such as resizing or resetting should only be done by a trained bench jeweller. Don't be afraid to ask about the jeweller's credentials! The jeweller will be able to give your piece a 'deep clean', or in other words an ultrasonic cleaning in between all the hard to reach areas – a lot like going to the dentist!
Other Tips and Tricks
Never wear jewellery into a swimming pool; chlorine erodes soft metal. It's even risky wearing your jewellery into the shower or bath, especially if your water supply is known for having added minerals. If in doubt, take it off.
Take off your rings when doing housework, or any other work that involves exposure to chemicals (no matter how mild and harmless they are). This is especially true of gold, as any exposure to harsh chemicals makes it lose its lustre.
Don't wear your rings if you're engaging in any particularly vigorous activity where there is a possibility of injuring your hand – the last thing you want is for your fingers to swell up, as then you'll have to have your ring cut off.
Abrasive cleaning products and chemicals should never be used on gemstones, so take extra special care if you do attempt to clean your jewellery with these materials yourself. Avoid any contact whatsoever between the cleaning product and the stone or the setting around it.
Try not to expose your jewellery to extremes of temperature. In all likelihood this won't happen, unless you spend a lot of time hopping between polar ice caps and erupting volcanoes several times a day, but you know what I mean!
Never store any jewellery in an airtight container or in wrapped in plastic. Avoid submerging jewellery, especially those with gemstones, in any form of liquid for long.
There you have it, lots of helpful hints to keep your jewellery sparkling!