Sparkle, Sparkle

Spring Cleaning Your Jewelry

Faceted Gems

What’s the easiest way to make your gemstone sparkle? Clean it! This is assuming, of course, that the gem in question is faceted and is either transparent or translucent. Which simply means that light enters the stone, hits a facet, and is reflected out again. Anything that comes in contact with your jewelry will have a tendency to build up on the back of the stone and reduce its brilliance.

Some gemstones are inherently more “sparkly” than others, and I’ll discuss that a bit more later in this post, but I want to give you some tips on cleaning your gemstones first. When we wear our jewelry it can accumulate gunk (this is a highly technical gemological term) on the underside of the gem – especially rings, where soaps and lotions can get into all the nooks and crannies of the design.

There are specially formulated gemstone cleaners out there, but I have found that Simple Green works quite well. I give a spritz or two to the underside of the ring, let it sit for a minute, then rinse well with hot water.

If necessary, I  will use a very soft old toothbrush, or a toothpick, to help remove the gunk.

Ultrasonic cleaners can also do a good job at cleaning gemstones, but there are a number of gems which could be damaged by ultrasonics, so you have to be careful about when you use them. Here are some examples (the list is far from complete!).

Avoid Using Ultrasonics:

  • organic gem materials, such as pearls or amber
  • porous or fragile gems, such as turquoise, moonstone, labradorite, opal, malachite
  • gems which may have been impregnated with oil or other types of filler enhancements, such as emeralds

Generally Safe In Ultrasonics:

  • diamonds (unless colored or fracture-filled)
  • aquamarine
  • garnet
  • amethyst
  • citrine
Jewelry cleaning aids: a spritz of Simple Green for gemstones, Goddard’s polishing foam for tarnish, or foil plus detergent for tarnish.

Tarnish (aka Patina)

Many people mistakenly think that an ultrasonic will remove tarnish from silver – this is not the case. Ultrasonics remove particles adhering to the surface, whereas tarnish is a chemical reaction in the metal.

When it comes to removing tarnish from silver, my best advice is to give it a rub with a jeweler’s polishing cloth on a regular basis – before it starts to get visibly tarnished. I like the Goddard’s brand polishing cloth. Of course, if you like the darker patina, just leave it be.

If tarnish has built up, here are a couple of suggestions. Again, remember to be careful with any stones set in the jewelry, especially ones like pearl, turquoise, moonstone, labradorite, etc.

DIY Home Remedy
Put a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of a non-reactive dish (glass or ceramic). Add some powdered Tide laundry detergent (others have told me baking soda works, too, but I have not tried it). Add warm water to dissolve the detergent, then drop your jewelry in and let it soak for a few minutes. Rinse thoroughly and dry.

Goddard’s Polishing Foam
This comes in a paste form with a sponge. Wet the sponge, rub it over the paste and build up a lather, then rub the jewelry with the sponge – the foam is good at getting in the nooks & crannies. Again, rinse thoroughly and dry.

This is available on my website, as well as on Amazon (of course), and I’ve seen it in shops where metal cleaning products are sold.

Brilliance and Fire: Why Some Gems Sparkle More

Dispersion is the separation of light into spectral colors. This phenomenon is seen to varying degrees in gems – think of a crystal which casts a rainbow with the sun hits it. Different types of gems will have different amounts of dispersion, and when a gem has a high dispersion, it is said to have “fire.” So in gemological terms, a gemstone has fire because dispersion is a quality inherent in the gem’s crystal structure.

Brilliance refers to light reflected back to the viewer’s eye. Light enters the stone, hits a facet and is reflected back out again. So brilliance is affected by how well-cut the stone is.

Together, brilliance and fire result in a very sparkly stone.

Mother’s Day Offer

Here’s a last-minute Mother’s Day offer: a custom charm bracelet or necklace with a charm representing your child’s initial in Morse code:

The charm pictured here is the letter “J” (dot dash dash dash).

Orders must be placed by this Friday, May 3rd! Visit studio44jewelry to order.

Thank You For Reading!