Cleaning Your Jewellery At Home

When it comes to cleaning your jewellery, you can take it into a professional jeweller's to get that sparkling gleam back (and to be honest that's our top recommendation for your really priceless and valuable pieces), or you can try these simple 'at home' recipes for a quick result. But take note; not all recipes are as suitable as they claim to be!

Cleaning Jewellery with Aluminium Foil

We could get all technical and tell you about the ion exchange process, but all you really need to know is that when jewellery is left to soak for a couple of minutes in foil, some magic happens to lift tarnish from silver jewellery.

To try it, line a small bowl with aluminium foil, pour in some warm (not boiling) water and stir in one teaspoon of a bleach-free laundry liquid (important that it's liquid, not powder) like the ones suitable for woollens and silks. Let your jewellery soak in this bowl for one minute before rinsing thoroughly and air-drying on a soft towel.

Instead of laundry liquid, you can sprinkle a light dusting of baking soda over your jewellery pieces before slowly pouring in the warm water. We tried this with silver plated jewellery and the tarnish lifted instantly, like magic! Tip: don't leave jewellery in the solution any longer than necessary. If the tarnish hasn't lifted within the first minute, it isn't going to – take your jewellery for a professional clean instead.

Points to note:

  • Laundry powders can contain harsher chemicals that may abrade your jewellery.

  • Some jewellery gemstones, particularly in costume jewellery, are held in place with glue. Water that is too hot can dissolve the glue and loosen stones.

  • This method is not suitable for porous stones such as pearls.

Cleaning Jewellery with Baking Soda

Baking soda is something of a miracle product in the cleaning world. It can remove odours, lift stains, remove limescale ... and clean metal! Baking soda is great for gently removing built-up tarnish from real gold and silver, but be aware that it works because it is slightly abrasive, so it may scratch softer metals. These methods are for metal jewellery with no gemstones.

To use on silver, make a thick paste from 1/4 cup of baking soda and two tablespoons of water. Use a damp sponge to apply this paste to your silver jewellery, rubbing gently, then rinse and buff dry with a soft lint-free cloth.

To use on gold, apply a light dusting of baking powder to your gold jewellery, then slowly pour a little white vinegar over it. It will fizz and dissolve the tarnish. Rinse in clean water until you are sure all vinegar has gone and buff dry with a soft lint-free cloth.

Points to note:

  • Do not apply the vinegar method to jewellery containing gemstones or pearls - vinegar will actually dissolve real pearls, and may loosen the glue holding gemstones in place.

  • Porous gemstones may dull after the application of baking powder. If you are not sure of your gemstone, use another method or take your jewellery in to a professional jeweller's.

  • Be very careful if you are considering using these methods on gold or silver plated jewellery. Thin plate may accidentally be removed!

Cleaning Jewellery with Laundry Liquid

Probably the safest home jewellery cleaning method is to simply use a mild laundry liquid, suitable for wool and silk, and warm water. The laundry liquid will gently lift surface dirt, make-up and oils and is suitable for almost all types of jewellery. It's not the most effective on tarnish but it might be worth a go. Stir a few drops of laundry liquid into a small bowl of warm water, and allow your jewellery to soak for a few minutes. Rinse clear in a fresh bowl of warm water and gently dry with a jewellery cloth or soft towel.

This method is safe to use on genuine pearls, but if you're cleaning a string of pearls, take care to lay the strand flat on a soft towel until the string is completely dry to avoid it stretching.

Tip: If you don't have any laundry liquid for delicates, a mild dishwashing liquid soap can be used instead.

Cleaning Jewellery with a Toothbrush

A lot of home jewellery cleaning methods recommend gently scrubbing your jewellery with an old toothbrush. While this might be safe for your harder gemstones like diamonds, rubies and sapphires, there may be some residual toothpaste remaining in the bristles that could abrade and dull softer gemstones or jewellery plate. Using a toothbrush on most gemstones is fine, but buy a new soft baby toothbrush and keep it exclusively for your jewellery.

Porous Gemstones

The following is a list of some – not all – porous gemstones. If your gemstone isn't on the list and or you're not sure what your gemstone is, consult a professional jeweller.

  • Agate

  • Amber

  • Chalcedony

  • Some corals

  • Onyx

  • Opal

  • Pearl

  • Turquoise

Porous stones should always be cleaned with extra care as whatever you dip or soak them in can make its way deep into the gemstone causing it to dull or even become brittle.

Pearls require extra care as they can dissolve in some acidic cleaning solutions. See our article on pearl care for more information.

Note: While Emerald is not a porous gemstone, it does have surface inclusions that are filled with a special oil or resin when the stone is cut and polished. Over time and exposure these oils may be removed, but the stone can be re-oiled and brought back to its former glory by a professional jeweller.

Tip: It's hard to get into the nooks and crannies to dry some claw set or elaborate pieces of jewellery, but a hairdryer set on a low cool setting will do the trick!

Disclaimer: Care should always be taken when using any home cleaning remedies. These hints and tips are for general information only: it is up to you to decide how delicate or valuable your jewellery is and what proper steps are required to keep your jewellery in top condition. If you choose the wrong cleaning method we are not responsible for any damage caused.

Next week: "Merry Christmas!"

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