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Dos and Don’ts of Gemstone Cleaning

Emerald Cut blue topaz cocktail ringWhen ultrasonic cleaners first came onto the market, they were touted as the best way to clean jewelry at home. The modern technology involved with the at-home versions was thought to be superior to the old fashioned method of soap and water, or manually scrubbing with a jewelry cleaning solution. While ultrasonic cleaners are indeed a wonderful way to clean silver, gold and platinum jewelry, due to the high heat involved in the ultrasonic cleaning process, the machines can cause irreparable damage to gemstones.

Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner Dos and Don’ts

Since many gemstones were formed under heat, exposing them to very high temperatures can alter the crystal formation inside the gem, causing permanent damage.  Even when some ultrasonic cleaners claim to be safe for gemstones, it is always better to be safe and clean the gemstone by hand rather than sorry and forever ruin a beautiful piece of jewelry. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner Dos –

– Clean solid gold jewelry

– Clean platinum jewelry

– Can clean silver jewelry, but might not remove all the tarnish (for advice on how to do this, see our article on cleaning silver)

Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner Don’ts –

– Don’t ever use an ultrasonic cleaner for amber, opal, tanzanite, topaz, tourmaline, smokey quartz, rubies, peridot, rose quartz, emerald, chalcedony or aquamarine.

-Don’t ever use an ultrasonic cleaner on gemstones that have been heat treated to bring out their color. Many colored gemstones are treated this way, so it pays to be cautious.

– Try to avoid using an ultrasonic cleaner on sapphires, diamonds, citrine and garnet as well. If the gemstones have any fractures, inclusions or are color treated they can also be damaged, depending on the ultrasonic cleaner you are using.

– One last word of caution when using an ultrasonic cleaner is that although many hard gemstones can safely be cleaned in them, the cleaners have a tendancy to loosen gemstone settings, increasing the chance of your gemstone falling out.

Safe Gemstone Cleaning Tips

With gemstones, the best way to ensure your precious jewels will last a lifetime is to baby them and always clean them by hand. Luckily, hand-cleaning gemstones isn’t particularly hard and does not require any special materials.  All you have to do is create a gentle warm soapy water solution in a cup or bowl. Place the gemstone jewelry inside and allow it to soak for a few minutes to loosen the grime on the jewelry. Finally, take the piece of gemstone jewelry out, rinse out the bowl and refill it with cold water. Swish the piece of jewelry through the cold water to rinse off the suds and gently wipe it dry with a soft cloth – voila! Your piece of gemstone jewelry should look as good as new.

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