Friday, January 2, 2009

Caring for your jewelry

Gems and stones all need unique and special care to keep them valuable and in good condition. Many people are unaware of the damage that can be done to a gem due to neglect or abuse. Relying on jewelry store sales people for instructions on how to take care of a gem is almost always limited at best.

Colored gemstones are not as strong and durable as diamonds. Everyone has heard the phrase, “diamond hard”. Diamonds are used in drill bits to cut glass because of their strength. Diamonds can be acid boiled and then immediately cooled in ice water with no ill effects. If you did this to most colored gemstone they would be ruined. Colored gemstones can not withstand extreme temperature changes, or in other words, thermal shock.

The gemstones that do not do well in temperature changes are; emerald, quartz, garnet, kunzite, tanzanite, topaz, opal, peridot, and tourmaline. Be aware that if you have a ring with one of these stones and you are outside in 110 degree weather and then go into an air-conditioned building with temperatures of 76 degrees, you are putting your gem through a rapid temperature change. Never wear a piece of jewelry in a cold pool and then jump into a hot Jacuzzi. Even laying in the sun and then jumping into the pool can be a shock to a gemstone. These sudden changes in temperature can cause a gem to crack or shatter.

Some gemstones do not do well in any kind of heat. For example amethysts and emeralds should not be near any heated area, including hot window sills or the hot sun at the pool or beach. The heat will fade and discolor the gem. The heat can make the gem dry out and get brittle. Gems that do not do well in hot environments are; amethyst, turquoise, red tourmaline, opal, malachite, kunzite and emerald. Opals, turquoise and malachite are susceptible to cracks if exposed to heat. Do not open a hot oven to get out a cake or anything hot while wearing a ring with one of these gemstones in it. Be wary of stirring a pan of any boiling substance with your rings on. Do not do the dishes in hot water while wearing your rings.

Some gemstones do not do well if exposed to chemicals. Ammonia and acidic solutions like perfume, hairspray, lotions and even store bought jewelry cleaners, can ruin their surface - causing etching. Alcohol and acetone, which are in fingernail polish remover, will dissolve emeralds. Chlorine can break down and pit gold alloys if exposed often enough. It is wise to remove your jewelry while swimming or going in a Jacuzzi. The two gemstones that are most effected by chlorine and any other chemical are malachite and turquoise. All other stones that are dyed like jade and lapis should be kept away from chemicals too.

Cleaning gemstones is important, especially if you wear them everyday. Cleaning them correctly to preserve them is a must. The safest way to clean all gemstones is with plain warm water. If you feel that soap is necessary use a mild liquid soap, not a detergent; it should not contain ammonia or acetone. You can use a toothpick to get around the prongs to clean any debris that is stuck. A water pick comes in handy while cleaning jewelry. Dry it with a soft cloth that does not shed lint. Be careful when allowing a jeweler to clean a piece of jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaner. Ultrasonic cleaning can shake stones out of their setting. The solution and the high speed vibrating can damage some stones. The stones to use caution with are; aquamarine, chalcedone, ruby, sapphire and quartz. Totally avoid the ultrasonic cleaning machines with; emerald, peridot, moonstone, opal, , tanzanite, topaz, tourmaline, turquoise, and malachite.

Many gemstones are fragile and can split or crack if bumped or hit. The stones to be careful with are; tanzanite, kunzite, topaz, feldspar, moonstone and sunstone.

Storing your jewelry is often only thought of in terms of protecting from theft, but storage is an important factor in preserving them as well. Jewelry needs to be stored in individual soft cloth bags in a jewelry box. If you pile jewelry on other jewelry or carelessly throw them together they can scratch or dent each other. Since jewelry boxes are where burglars look first for jewelry you might want to put the cloth bags of your more precious jewelry in a more concealed spot or a safe deposit box.

Other precautions for jewelry are not to wear them while gardening, housework, auto repairs or playing sports. Check your jewelry for bent prongs or loose stones occasionally. You will be able to hear a clicking noise if you rattle a ring close to your ear and it has a loose stone. Have your jewelry professionally checked every 6 months. Take pictures of your jewelry for documentation in case it gets stolen.

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