When determining how properly to clean a piece of jewelry, there are several factors that should be taken into consideration. Firstly, and most importantly, it is vital to know what materials are present in a particular jewelry item (metal type, gemstones present, plating, etc.). Once you determine the materials present in a piece of jewelry, the best method or combination of methods is much easier to determine. Below are the advantages and benefits of different methods and which methods are effective on various materials.
Ultrasonic- Access to ultrasonic jewelry cleaning has traditionally been limited to jewelry professionals, but there are small ultrasonic cleaners intended for home use that can be purchased for less than $35.00. Ultrasonic cleaners hold a reservoir of cleaning solution in which jewelry can be submerged. Ultrasonic cleaners work by creating ultrasonic waves within the solution creating an effect called microagitation where tiny bubbles attack and flush out debris located on the surface of your jewelry and in all the tiny crevices. Ultrasonic cleaning is particularly effective at cleaning items such as diamond rings where there are lots of nooks and crannies where debris collects. If you have ever had your diamond jewelry cleaned at a jewelry, it is likely the jeweler used ultrasonic cleaning to make your diamond jewelry shimmer and shine. This cleaning method is very effective when cleaning intricate jewelry, but is usually not very effective on tarnished sterling silver.
Silver Tarnish Remover (Liquid solution) – Many commercially available silver tarnish removing solutions (aka: Silver Dips) contain hazardous chemicals, and most are caustic! That being said, these sulfur rich dips are very effective-although the dips do stink to high heaven! For those of you interested in more environmentally friendly solutions there are several options available that are effective (they smell better too!). It is vital that silver dips be used only on jewelry items that are comprised of Silver only! The aggressive acids in silver dips can (and will) damage gemstones, pearls, and any other porous material present. Most silver dips come with instructions and a list of safety measures that should be taken when using the products. Be sure to read any documentation that comes with the silver dip of your choice, and make sure to follow any and all safety guidelines related to the use of the product because these are serious chemicals we are dealing with.
Soapy Water Solution- This method of cleaning is just as the name suggests. Create a soapy mixture using a mild soap or dish detergent and warm water.If you are using a liquid dish detergent (not dishwasher detergent!!!) just a few drops of detergent for every half cup of water will do the trick. Submerge the jewelry in the soapy mixture and allow the jewelry to soak for 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on the situation.
Polishing Cloths- Polishing cloths are great for putting a quick shine on your favorite jewelry and for keeping your jewelry looking great.A dry soft jewelry polishing cloth is ideal to keep with you for any quick fixes you may need to make. Also available, are wet polishing cloths. These cloths are saturated with an oily solution that will clean up anything from an old penny to the most tarnished sterling silver. The wet polishing cloth of choice for me is the Cape Cod Polishing cloth. These cloths are available at many places online and from many jewelers. To use a wet cloth you gently wipe your jewelry in a repetitive buffing motion and then polish the jewelry with a soft, lint-free dry polishing cloth; I promise your jewelry will look great! These wet cloths should be used on metals and some plastics. I do not recommend using wet cloths on stones or any porous material because these cloths may leave a residue if allowed to soak into a porous material.