What to Know About Caring for Jewelry: Expert Advice

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Daily wear and improper storage take a toll on your prized pieces. See what industry experts have to say about DIY jewelry care.

A piece of jewelry is more than a fashion statement. It can be a precious family heirloom, a sentimental gift, a symbol of commitment and a financial investment. With the right jewelry care, your prized pieces can last for generations. Here are some expert tips on cleaning and caring for jewelry.

How to Prevent Jewelry Damage

Preventative jewelry care is crucial for long-term sparkle. The wrong light, temperature and moisture conditions can fade or damage gemstones, says the Gemological Institute of America. So your jewelry storage space shouldn’t be a bathroom drawer.

When you’re not wearing your jewelry, keep it in a soft, dry place, such as a designated jewelry box, and try to store pieces separately. Jumbled jewelry can become tangled, and some pieces may scratch others. Silver jewelry, in particular, is prone to tarnish. Keep silver jewelry polished and store it with anti-tarnish strips to make its polish last. Jewelers of America suggests storing silver jewelry in an air-tight plastic bag, although this method is better for infrequently worn pieces.

When you are wearing your jewelry, avoid contact with chemicals or perfumes. Marci Bailey of Bailey’s Fine Jewelry advises removing rings when cleaning, because household cleaners can degrade jewelry. Hand sanitizer can damage your pieces, too. Bailey says that “soap and water is all you need to get your jewelry sanitized.”

DIY Jewelry Care and Cleaning

While professional cleanings are usually only necessary once per year, jewelry often becomes dull or dirty from everyday wear. That’s where home cleanings come into play. Yasemin Mutlu, founder of Canadian luxury brand Hestia Jewels, shares some expertise for DIY jewelry cleaning.

Diamonds & Precious Stones

“When stones like diamonds dull, the result is visible,” Mutlu says. “These are pieces that are important to clean professionally, but once a year is often enough.” To maintain the stone’s shine between professional cleanings, use a non-abrasive jewelry cleaner.

Pearls

Pearls are soft and especially sensitive, so take care to keep them away from damaging substances, including perspiration. Some jewelry can handle hairspray, chlorinated pools and marathons; pearls are not it. When they do need cleaning, Mutlu says that “a gentle wipe with a slightly damp, clean cloth is enough to do the trick.”

Gold

Gold jewelry is popular for daily wear because, Mutlu explains, “pure gold is quite resilient, and it won’t oxidize or discolor on its own.” To get the most from your favorite gold pieces, polish them with a jewelry cloth and wash them with warm water as needed.

Sterling Silver

As mentioned above, silver is vulnerable to tarnish, so it requires more cleaning than gold. Mutlu’s silver jewelry cleaning routine is quick and easy. Place a little silver jewelry cleaner on a soft cloth, rub the piece, rinse it with warm water and dry it carefully and completely. “With this kind of care, the pieces can be worn for years without losing any shine, shape or durability,” Mutlu adds.

When to Get a Professional Cleaning or Inspection

Jewelry industry experts advise annual cleanings and inspections for two reasons: to keep jewelry looking good, and to find and repair damage before something is lost.

Vivalatina Jewelry Brand’s Nicolas Tranchant says “gemstones get to be clouded by time, and it is very difficult to clean them alone at home as an ultrasonic bath is required to clean them well. Every jeweler can do that easily — and often for free.” Ultrasonic jewelry cleaners are available for purchase, but they aren’t needed regularly, and the professional inspection is worth a yearly trip to the jeweler.

Like the ultrasonic bath, an annual inspection is fine for most. However, “if you have already lost several gemstones in your life, having your jewelry checked more often should be considered,” Tranchant cautions. Some settings are more secure than others, so you may want to take your piece’s design into consideration when setting a home maintenance schedule.

Is Jewelry Insurance Worth It?

Before purchasing a piece, check if the brand provides a warranty. Hestia Jewels, for instance, covers buyers for two years, so manufacturing defaults are not a worry. Beyond a manufacturer’s warranty, there are several ways to protect your cherished items.

Regular homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies typically cover jewelry along with other personal belongings. But it isn’t always enough to cover the cost of replacement.

Think Safe Insurance President Greg Martin explains that “one of the most common ways to expand this coverage is to ‘schedule’ your valuable jewelry pieces so that they are specifically listed on the policy.” Specifying jewelry coverage in your homeowner’s insurance policy may be worth the cost and effort, but “to determine if it makes sense, you’d want to get a quote from your insurance,” Martin says.

Some insurance providers, like Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group, specialize in jewelry insurance. There are also jewelry floaters for particularly valuable items. As Mutlu says, “good coverage comes at a cost, but it covers almost everything — loss, theft and damage, even during travel.” Whether an additional policy makes sense depends on the value of a collection, both sentimental and monetary, as well as the value placed on peace of mind.

If you do get jewelry insurance, annual cleanings and inspections are still necessary. Martin points out a common exclusion: “wear and tear, gradual deterioration or inherent vice.” In the event that you need to make an insurance claim, proper jewelry care shows that you’ve done what you can to prevent a loss due to gradual deterioration.