Jewelry Care & Gemstone Cleaning
To clean transparent crystalline gemstones, simply soak them in water with a touch of gentle soap or jewelry cleaner. This cleaner is available through Sycamore Jewelers. You may want to use a soft toothbrush to scrub behind the stone. Even the hardest gemstone variety can be vulnerable to breakage if it has inclusions that weaken the crystal structure. Exercise common sense: if you have a ring set with a softer gem variety or an included stone, take it off before strenuous exercise.
Diamonds are the hardest substance known but they grow and have a grain like all gemstones. If struck along a cleavage line a diamond can be split in two with a single, well-placed blow. Rubies and sapphires are the toughest gems but even they can chip, if hit sharply.
Think twice before putting gems in an ultrasonic cleaner. Diamonds, rubies, and sapphires are fine, but many other gems may not be. When in doubt, leave it out. Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and other single-crystal gems can be cleaned with jewelry cleaner to remove all films and add extra sparkle.
Opaque gemstones like lapis lazuli, turquoise, and malachite, require special care. Never use an ultrasonic cleaner and never use ammonia or any chemical solution. These gem materials should just be wiped clean gently with a moist cloth. These gemstones can be porous and may absorb chemicals, even soap, and they may build up inside the stone and discolor it.
The reason why these materials need more care than transparent gemstones is that these materials are essentially rocks, not crystals of a single mineral. Think about it: when you put a rock in water, it absorbs the water and is moist all the way through. A single crystal gem like sapphire will not absorb water: all the molecules are lined up so tightly in the crystal that there is no room for water to enter.
Opals also require special care. Never use an ultrasonic, never use ammonia, and avoid exposing opal to extreme temperature changes. Taking something out of the oven and then placing it directly in the freezer is an example of a temperature change that could affect the stability of an opal.
Organic gems like pearls, coral, and amber should only be wiped clean with a moist cloth. Due to their organic nature, these gems are both soft and porous. Be careful about chemicals in hairspray, cosmetics, or perfume: they can, over time, damage pearls in particular. Remember the rule we mentioned earlier, “Jewelry should be the last thing on and the first thing off.”