Professional jewelers have access to materials unavailable to the general public. They are intimately familiar with gemology enabling them to know which methods are compatible for each specific gem category. High tech devices such as ultrasonic cleaners are now available to the lay person, but reliable information on jewel care can be harder to come by.
Ultrasonic cleaners use sound waves to dislodge dirt and grime. Before using, check your jewelry to make sure the settings and stones are secure and that the piece has no porous or very soft stones that may discolor or develop internal fractures from the process. Gemstones such as emeralds, peridots, tourmalines, turquoise, pearls, apatite among others, are not suited for ultrasonic cleaners as the warmth and sound waves may open filled fractures or create new ones from change in temperature, damaging apparent clarity and making the stones vulnerable to damage.
For stronger gemstones such as diamonds, rubies and sapphires; gem specific methods that involve more powerful chemicals may be effective for cleaning. It’s important to keep in mind any inclusions or other clarity characteristics of the gemstones may not respond well to a drastic temperature change or the chemicals being used. Extreme temperature changes may create new or if already present, enlarge existing clarity characteristics.
Pearls garner a special mention. Between their low hardness and chemical composition, they require more caution and attention as compared to other jewels. Another factor is the popular way of wearing pearls which are strung onto silk or nylon. Submerging strung pearl strands in water or a solution may weaken the silk or nylon making the piece vulnerable for breakage. General wear and use over time can weaken the stringing, therefore, it is best to check your strands from time to time. For this reason, it’s ideal to clean pearls with a damp cloth and never store them in plastic, only soft pouches preferably silk.