Most people treasure their jewelry. They wear it proudly, pass it down to loved ones and even insure it. But do they care for it properly on a daily basis?
Jewelry gets dirty with simple daily wear. It is exposed to the elements, rubs up against oily skin and gets smudged by makeup, food bits, etc. That is why, at the very least, you should regularly wipe down your jewelry with a clean, smooth, 100 percent cotton cloth. This is especially true with jewelry you wear often – like a wedding ring or watch.

Sterling silver jewelry tarnishes quickly when exposed to the air and light. You can retard the tarnish by wrapping it in tissue paper and placing it in a sealed plastic bag. If the jewelry is dirty, wash it in warm water and mild liquid soap, leaving it to soak for a couple minutes. If the tarnish is already built up, you’ll need to clean it – carefully. Remember that silver is soft and can easily be scratched or dented. If it’s badly tarnished use a soft cloth and a nonabrasive silver cleaner. When you’re finished using the polish, rinse the jewelry thoroughly with clean water. You don’t want to leave any residue on the silver or any gemstones. Always dry the jewelry thoroughly before storing it in the plastic bag.

Gold jewelry also requires care. Never wear your rings when you’re cleaning or using a product that contains bleach, which can break down the metal and damage the finish. Other products that damage jewelry include turpentine, ammonia and denatured alcohol. Instead, try using a fresh jeweler’s cloth to buff your gold rings back to their original shine. If that doesn’t work, take it to a jewelry store for a professional buffing. It can come back looking brand new.

An ultrasonic cleaner is a great option for some gemstone jewelry set in gold. These cleaners do a great job with diamonds and harder stones, but should not be used with pearls, opals and other softer stones. According to the Mohs scale, which jewelers use to measure the hardness of minerals, diamonds are the hardest stone and rate a 10. Rubies and sapphires are a nine; emeralds and topaz are an eight; and garnets, tourmalines and quartz rate a seven. The softer stones, those rating six or lower on the Mohs scale, include coral, lapis lazuli, opal, turquoise and pearl.

Speaking of pearls, try to avoid getting perfume or hairspray on them as it could cause a change in their color. You should wipe down pearls or wash them in mild soapy water. Do not use an abrasive cleaner on them as they scratch easily – and never store them in a sealed plastic bag. To ensure you don’t lose any of your pearls, you should have them restrung every few years as the thread stretches and can break.

If you have vintage costume jewelry that is special to you, it also requires special care. Store it in a soft pouch to keep it dust-free, as even dust can cause it to deteriorate. If a vintage piece is dusty, wipe it down with a common window cleaning solution – or simply mild, soapy water. Never put costume jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaner or submerge it in liquid as the backing on some of it was not designed to get wet. For instance, the foil backing on some rhinestones can be damaged by liquid. If the costume piece has nooks and crannies, use a soft toothbrush or a cotton swab with window cleaner. As with silver jewelry, make sure your costume jewelry is completely dry before you put it in the soft pouch as moisture can harm it.

If a stone pops out of your costume jewelry while cleaning or wearing it, you can probably reaffix it yourself. You’ll need a tube of H-G Hypo Cement with its needle-nose applicator. Clean out the cup where the stone popped out, making sure all the old glue is gone. Using tweezers, make sure the stone fits the empty cup. Take out the stone and put a small bit of the cement in the cup. Let it set a minute and then reinsert the stone. (Of course, if a gemstone falls out, you should take it to a professional jeweler for repair.)

Another way to keep your jewelry looking new is to store it properly. Don’t just throw your jewelry in a drawer or even a jewelry box where it will bump up against other pieces. Jewelry boxes with various compartments are best. They help protect each piece. But if this isn’t possible, store the jewelry in the box it came in or wrap it up in jeweler’s tissue paper and placed it in a small pouch. If you take care of your jewelry, it will last you more than a lifetime – and can look as good as the day you got it.

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