Cleaning, Care and Maintenance of Gemstones

The atomic composition of different gemstones causes them to vary in hardness, toughness, cleaving or splitting potential, as well as their reaction to heat, light, acids, etc. The challenge of proper care and maintenance of gems confronting a gemstones owner can thus be quite substantial.

Similar to almost all other things, some gemstones are hardy and can absorb nearly any level of abuse or negligence without the slightest loss of beauty. Other gemstones are very sensitive even to the extent of losing their colour if exposed to sunlight for a few hours.

It's not enough to delegate the care of your gems to your Gemstones' seller. You can, and should, accept the major responsibility of your gemstones. You don't need to be a professional gemmologist to care for them expertly. Despite the fact that the matter of care and maintenance of gemstones appears formidable, a few general rules will produce a maximum of beautiful results – plus maximum safety.

So far as cleaning gems is concerned most gems – not all of them – can be brought to their full brilliance simply by using a mild detergent in warm water and a soft brush. Most of the commercially prepared jewellery cleaners are safe – but you do need to be a bit careful with some which contain ammonia or chemicals capable of damaging sensitive gems such as pearl or amber.

In absence of a total understanding of gemmology and which cleaning techniques are suitably compatible with which gems you would be as well advised to stick to the combination of warm water-detergent solution, leaving difficult cleaning jobs to a professional.

Such a strategy will serve you satisfactorily 99% of the time. In the balance of cases when you are unable to dislodge accumulated dirt or grease a professional has the necessary equipment and liability insurance should his efforts with your gem end in disaster.

The real key to lifting a transparent faceted gemstone to its best brilliance level is the careful cleaning of the base portion of the gemstone i.e. below the stone's girdle (called the pavilion).

Some gem materials are heat sensitive; some are not. Some materials react violently to chemicals; some do not. Some are weakened by inclusions; some are not. Warm water, a mild detergent and a soft brush is the safest cleaning medium for almost all gems – with the least danger of inflicting harm on gems with which you aren't familiar.

Unfortunately, the base of the gemstone, the pavilion, of the gem is where most dirt accumulates. Often, too, the setting makes it the most difficult spot to get at. Be especially watchful around prongs. In cutting out the notches on the prongs, most gem setters don't polish the notches and any roughened metal is quick to gather dirt and debris.

As for safe, acceptable cleaning procedure first let the entire jewellery piece soak for a few moments in the solution, whether it's the warm water-detergent or a commercial preparation. Scrub gently with the brush. A very soft brush is quite useful. So, too, is a fine camel hair artist's brush; it's narrow and fits better through the setting and in-between prongs. A shaved matchstick or toothpick is quite good at picking out accumulations, but don't be too harsh. Patience pays off.

When you're finished with the scrubbing, dip the jewellery piece back into the solution for one last wetting. Then rinse in warm in warm running water, preferably about the same temperature as your solution. Radical temperature changes are dangerous and should be avoided.

A good shake – or blowing on the item (a hair drier - often handy at home- can be used) – will remove excess liquid. Then gently polish with a soft lint-free cloth or chamois (leather)

Cleaning (Gemstones) jewellery after it gets dirty is only part of proper care. Pre-use care is also important.

For example, apply your perfumes, colognes, and hairsprays BEFORE you put on your gems. Not only will these chemicals reduce gem brilliance, they are highly destructive to pearls which react violently to acid and alcohol.

For much of the same reason, try to wear your perfumes in areas where they won't come in contact with gems. Again, in the case of pearls, try to keep the pearls out of contact with the skin whether you're wearing perfume or not; perspiration is inimical to pearls, too. That's, of course, impossible in the case of a choker or bracelet – but the pearls should be wiped clean with a damp cloth immediately after wearing.

In our day to day use also we should take a bit extra care about the Emeralds, Opals, Corals and Pearl gemstones, as they are softer than other gemstones, such as, Sapphires, Rubies, catseyes, Etc. And can be chipped, scratched, broken or abraded more easily.

Kindly, do not go for other extreme gemstones cleaning procedures such as - Mechanical cleaning like Ultrasonic cleaning or Steam cleaning or Boiling the Gemstones Jewellery, as these harsh cleaning methods need extreme expertise and experience and should be done by professional jewellery cleaning experts only. (Otherwise you might damage your expensive gemstones)

Rapid temperature changes while steam cleaning or boiling or extreme pressure while Ultrasonic cleaning can create structural havoc in even the strongest of gemstones. Often the so-called flaws in a certain gemstone consist of an included crystal of an entirely different mineral. The two could have different heating coefficients – and a rapid jump, or drop, in the host gem's temperature could produce stresses that cause a split. A liquid inclusion is the more dangerous because it takes only a small heat increase to expand a liquid which produces critical pressures.

Following are brief discussions on recommended care for some of the more sensitive gems. As mentioned before, virtually all gemstones will respond nicely to the careful application of warm water-detergent-soft brush.

Gemstone Cleaning Technique Comment
Amethyst Warm water-detergent-soft brush Most amethyst is heat-treated to bring out best color, but it can crack as well as fade if exposed to high temperatures.
Aquamarine Warm water-detergent-soft brush This blue beryl is also heat-treated to bring out its blue color. Heat can still cause color fading.
Coral Damp cloth & dry Ammonia based cleaner. Warm water-(grease cutting) detergent-soft brush. Mechanical cleaning systems.
Diamond Ammonia based cleaner. Warm water-(grease cutting) detergent-soft brush. Mechanical cleaning systems. Diamonds can take heat well, but mechanical systems could pose danger if stone is not examined well beforehand. Removing any grease the key to diamond brilliance.
Emerald Warm water-detergent-soft brush Most emeralds are routinely bathed warm oil after fashioning to improve color… and sometimes a dye is added. Mechanical systems could boil out the oil. Inclusions in emerald often weaken the stone, and mechanical systems have potential to cause breakage.
Lapis Warm water-detergent-soft brush Material is porous, varies greatly, is often dyed to improve color.
Opal Warm water-detergent-soft brush Very sensitive to pressure and thermal shock (hot or cold) which causes crazing (surface cracking). Soft and fragile.
Pearl Wipe with damp, soft cloth. Stains should be removed with mild soapy solution on rag – don't dip it into liquid. Dry thoroughly. Blow out drill holes carefully; moisture there often causes discoloration. Special care is required to keep pearls looking their best.
Peridot Warm water-detergent-soft brush One of the softer gem materials, it is attacked by acids (it etches) and heat may cause damage. Uses carefully because peridot is soft and surface scratches diminish finish.
Ruby Warm water-detergent-soft brush More and more rubies are being oiled and mechanical cleaning could remove this oil. High heat, though, could cause damage because of inclusions and other imbedded crystal materials.
Sapphire Warm water-detergent-soft brush It's the same material (corundum) as ruby so same treatment applies: oil may be added for color, and inclusions may weaken normally tough structure.
Tanzanite Warm water-detergent-soft brush Blue color is created by heat treatment, but tanzanite is fragile, relatively soft, and sensitive to heat, vibrations.
Turquoise Wipe with damp cloth; wipe dry immediately. Turquoise is a porous material so avoid soap, detergents, cleaning solutions. They tend to penetrate the material's pores, turning turquoise green and/or unattractive off-color blue.
Topaz Warm water-detergent-soft brush Easy cleavage makes mechanical cleaning relatively dangerous, both for vibrations or heating. Stone may have undue pressure points caused by setting prongs
Catseye Warm water-detergent-soft brush Mostly (Specially the Chrysoberyl catseye) are being oiled and mechanical cleaning could remove this oil. High heat, though, could cause damage because of inclusions and other imbedded crystal materials.
Hessonite Warm water-detergent-soft brush Easy cleavage makes mechanical cleaning relatively dangerous, both for vibrations or heating. Stone may have undue pressure points caused by setting prongs.
Iolite Warm water-detergent-soft brush One of the softer gem materials, it is attacked by acids (it etches) and heat may cause damage. Uses carefully because iolite is soft and surface scratches diminish finish.
Moon-Stone Warm water-detergent-soft brush One of the softer gem materials, it is attacked by acids (it etches) and heat may cause damage. Uses carefully because moonstone is soft and surface scratches diminish finish.
Rose Quartz Warm water-detergent-soft brush Easy cleavage makes mechanical cleaning relatively dangerous, both for vibrations or heating. Stone may have undue pressure points caused by setting prongs.

NOTE : Done carefully, and with a reasonable amount of attention, your gems should retain their beauty for years.

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