Some pieces of jewelry are so enchanting that you can’t help but wear them all day. Over time however, you may notice that they don’t shine or move the way they used to. A quick bit of cleaning may be what you need to revive your beloved items.
There is an array of options for the home cleaner, ranging from high tech sonic devices to the humble toothbrush. With an aggressive approach, grease and dirt will melt away, exposing the glory underneath. Be aware though, what may work on one gem may be disastrous for another. Depending on whether your stones are crystalline or organic, its degree of hardness, and its chemical structure, some methods might harm your jewelry.
When it comes to diamonds, sapphires and rubies, a soak in hot water mixed with ammonia won’t hurt. For those who don’t want to work with harsh fluid, a mixture of baking soda, water and dish detergent is also effective at removing debris. Scrubbing with a soft toothbrush helps to remove grime from the crevices around the setting.
For more porous stones such as opals or emeralds, exposure to hot liquid may cause cracking, while cleaning fluids may find their way inside the jewel, increasing the likelihood for discoloration or damage. Wiping these stones with a damp cloth will clean them while keeping them safe.
Organic jewelry like pearls and amber are also vulnerable to many cleaning substances, as well as skin and hair products. To keep them pristine and safe, some people dip theirs in a mixture of water and mild soap, though the cautious may use a damp cloth to keep their items looking neat.
The best approach to keeping your jewelry pristine is a touch of prevention. Remove your jewelry before swimming and bathing to prevent exposure to soap chlorine and other chemicals. When dressing for the day, save the application of your pieces for last, after putting on cosmetics and hair products. Upon undressing for the night, taking off jewelry first will further reduce unpleasant exposure to lotions and similar materials.
Should you desire a professional cleaning, the usual process includes exposure to polishing machines, one to buff out any scratches, and another to add shine to the piece. There’s also a bath in a sonic cleaning device, where the sound waves loosen dirt. Finally the object gets sprayed with a high pressure steam machine to dislodge whatever debris is left, while drying your jewelry in the process.
Buying diamonds and other fine gemstones is an investment and a joy. Jewelry can withstand the effect of time, but only with the planning and care. Before shopping, it helps to know which stones can withstand stress, and how to keep them looking pristine. The concept is known as jewel durability.
The three main aspects of jewel durability are hardness, toughness and stability. Hardness is a gemstone’s ability to resist scratches. Toughness refers to a stone ability to withstand impact. Stability is a jewel’s resistance to heat, light and chemicals. Understanding these terms will help you make informed decisions regarding your jewelry collection.
About the Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness
The Mohs scale of mineral hardness was developed in 1812 by Freidrich Mohs. It is used to determine the toughness of a stone by whether or not it can resist scratching by some minerals while being able to mar others. By this measure, 1 is the softest, with talc as an example. Diamonds by contrast can only be cut by other diamonds, ranking them as a 10.
With an idea of the hardness of their jewels in mind, a proud owner is better able to determine which pieces can withstand frequent wear, and which ones need special attention. When storing pearls, a 3 on the Mohs scale, make sure they stay separate from other jewels to discourage scratching. Likewise, diamond pieces should be worn in a way that prevents them from bumping against other stones.
A gemstone’s ability to resist damage from falls and other blows is known as toughness. Unlike mineral hardness, there is no formalized measure for this form of stability. Gemologists use ratings poor, fair, good, excellent and exceptional to name a jewel’s toughness. For example, amber is poor, peridot is fair, corundum is excellent and jadeite and nephrite have exceptional toughness.
While some stones may have the same level of hardness and toughness, the opposite is also true. Just like a glass bottle is difficult to scratch but scatters after a fall or jeans soft enough for wear can last for years, stone durability has many faces. Knowing the difference between the two may help you when you purchase jewelry.
A stable gemstone is one that resists damage from heat, light and chemicals. This factor of gemstone durability effects how jewelry is stored, cleaned, and worn. Some stones can be worn day and night, or cleaned with blasts of steam. Others are best handled in specific circumstances. While many jewels are stable, it’s best to exercise caution.
Many gemstones are treated to improve their color and to make them look clearer. While the stone may be stable, the treatments may not be, leading to jewels with cracked or discolored portions. A number of stones such as kunzite and amethyst are vulnerable to light in their natural state, their colors fading with exposure to strong lights. While jewels with low stability are less than optimal for daily wear, reserving them for special occasions lends them an air of romance.
Gemstones and Light
A handful of jewels and gemstone treatments don’t react well to strong light. An amethyst that glows deep purple may fade over time if it’s constantly worn under the noonday sun or halogen bulbs. Dyed jewels such as pearls may also fade under certain circumstances, leaving uneven coloring.
If you’re concerned that your pieces may be light sensitive, please consult your favorite jeweler. In the event that your gemstones are sensitive to sun and artificial light, you can still enjoy them for night time events. One jewel, kunzite, is even celebrated as an “evening gem”. Though stability is ideal, some connoisseurs may find the ephemeral quality of a light fragile jewel.
Heat and Jewels
Part of a gemstone’s stability is its reaction to temperature changes. Heat is sometimes used to enhance a gem, such as giving tanzanite its distinctive blue-violet hues or deepening a ruby’s red. Other times, heat is a concern, leaving a jewel at risk for cracking or discoloration.
Organic gemstones such as pearls are particularly prone to heat damage, though there are mineral gemstones like opal and turquoise that are also temperature sensitive. Excessive heat may dry out a gemstone, causing it to fracture, melt certain jewel treatments, or cause liquid inclusions to expand, breaking the surrounding stone. Thermal shock, the rapid shift from cold to hot or vice versa, may damage gemstones.
Chemicals and Jewels
It’s not unusual to start the day with lotion or hairspray. It’s also common to forget to remove jewelry before doing chores. Organic jewels are vulnerable to harm from everyday substances such as cosmetics and cleaning solutions. Mineral jewels may have more resistance, but can still fade or corrode when exposed to the wrong chemical. Even gold may develop pits if exposed to chlorinated swimming pools.
To make sure your jewelry remains pristine, wait until the end of your dressing routine to put them on. At the end of the day, make sure they’re the first items removed. It’s also important to be aware of the chemicals used to clean your jewelry. Strong substances such as ammonia may clean resilient stones like diamonds and corundum, but harm other gemstones.
When a jewel breaks, frustration and sadness tend to follow. What was once a pretty stone is now two or more, with edges that don’t have the polish or faceting of the original gem. Not all fractures are alike. A break along the atomic planes of a stone creates a smooth or stepped surface called cleavage. Conchoidal fractures by contrast are untidy, consisting of curved jagged edges. The majority of accidental breaks are conchoidal.
In the right circumstances, fractures can be used constructively. Before the advent of the diamond saw, diamond cutters relied on cleavage to divide a stone. Instead of a large diamond that could only be ground into shape, there would now be two or more diamonds that could be cut, polished and set into jewelry. Today, jewelers still use cleavage to determine how to best shape a stone so the finished product isn’t too delicate.
Storing Your Jewelry
Even stored away, jewelry requires special attention. Placing your pieces in a box may protect the stones from dust and light, but there are other factors to consider. Some gemstones fare better with moist air and others are prone to heat. Hard jewels such as diamonds and sapphires may damage their neighbors in the box if there are no precautions.
One way to protect your jewelry is to place individual pieces in separate pouches or compartments to discourage scratching. Long items such as necklaces may be wrapped in tissue paper to discourage self-damage. Keeping jewelry boxes in locations away from excessively hot or dry area such as a radiator also helps to keep them pristine.
Choosing the Best Jewelry for Your Lifestyle
Beautiful jewelry is meant to be worn. Some designs are too enchanting not to wear. As wonderful as adorning yourself in your favorite jewels may be, so is having them for a long time. Some jewelry is better suited for specific occasions.
For the active person who engages in manual activity, an opal ring may get cracked or dulled. Wearing the jewel as a short necklace or a brooch will keep the stone out of harm’s way. Another possibility is wearing jewels with exceptional hardness or toughness in places likely to get bumped round. Someone with a more relaxed lifestyle may find a pearl bracelet just the thing to brighten their daily activities, removing it only for sleep, chores and their toilette. Other types of jewelry, just as 24 carat gold confections, are best saved for special events to keep them looking their best.
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