The Easiest, Cheapest Ways to Clean Your Jewelry
At-home tricks for all your baubles
Like your boots, bras and makeup brushes, your baubles gets dingy, too. But before you dump your whole jewelry box into a bucket of ammonia (or shell out a gajillion dollars at the jeweler), read up on a few tricks for treating your treasures right.
PRECIOUS STONES (DIAMONDS, EMERALDS, RUBIES AND SAPPHIRES)
Soak wedding bands and engagement rings in a solution of 1 cup hot water and ¼ cup ammonia for 30 minutes. Transfer ring to a bowl with warm water and a little dishwashing soap and swirl it around. Scrub around the stone’s settings with a soft toothbrush, then rinse under warm running water. (PSA: Close the drain first!) Pat dry. Repeat if necessary.
SEMIPRECIOUS STONES (EVERYTHING ELSE)
Follow same steps as above, except DO NOT add ammonia to the hot water. Your amethysts, lapis lazulis, turquoises (basically, every gem that’s not an actual diamond, emerald, ruby or sapphire) are too soft and porous to handle it. Good ol’ liquid dish soap is just fine.
GOLD and GOLD-PLATE
Squeeze an inch of toothpaste into the palm of your hand and add a couple drops of water to make a foamy paste. Scrub with a soft toothbrush (the softer the better, to prevent scratches). The mild abrasive quality of the paste loosens up grime to polish your gold, and the toothbrush lets you get into the small crevices. Rinse under running water (again, closed drain!) and pat dry.
Make a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water. Wet the silver, and apply the paste with a lint-free cloth. Scrub in circular motions and make sure to get in the little crannies. Rinse clean and buff dry. Important to note: Make sure not to soak your silver in liquid, as this encourages tarnish.
Believe it or not, pearls actually look better the longer they’re worn. Your own body oils create that soft sheen--but the same cannot be said for your lotions and hairsprays. If you must clean your pearls, use only a drop of the mildest detergent in a bowl of lukewarm water. Dip a clean makeup brush in the solution and wipe pearls clean. Most importantly: Lay flat and dry thoroughly, then buff with a chamois.
Follow the above steps, but instead of a makeup brush, use a soft cloth. Lay flat to dry to prevent the string from stretching.
Glued-on gems and stones (rather than secured in a setting, like your fine jewelry), should avoid being submerged in liquid, lest the adhesive starts to loosen. Dab a cloth in warm water with a few drops of a mild detergent, then gently wipe away smudges and grime. Soak a clean cloth in fresh water (no detergent) and wipe away soap residue. Pat dry and lay pieces upside down so moisture doesn’t soak into the setting.
Mix equal parts water and vinegar, dip a soft cloth into mixture and polish your pieces to remove surface grime. Then make a paste with baking soda and water and polish with a clean dry cloth. Rinse clean and dry completely. Lastly, take a dab of polymer car polish, scrub it on, let sit for five minutes and buff it off entirely. This prevents future tarnishing (and creates a coating which protects folks who are hyper-sensitive to nickel).
Typically made from shells, the surface of a cameo is delicate and prone to scratching. Run it under lukewarm water and gently scrub cheap toothpaste on with a soft toothbrush. Don’t overdo it, though: A little dirt gives it that cool vintage feel. Rinse clean and pat dry.