How to give your jewelry the care it deserves
Advice from the American Gem Society (with a few items thrown in by me)
Protect your jewelry when it is not being worn by separating it from other jewelry using a separate compartment in your jewelry box.
When improperly stored, gems and gem quality items can damage each other. For example, diamonds will scratch all other gemstones including rubies, sapphires and emeralds. Additionally, most gemstones will scratch gold, silver and platinum.
Pearls deserve special attention. Separate them into their own silk or cotton pouch and be sure they are clean and dry before storing.
Activity which might subject a gemstone to sharp blows-such as gardening, working with hand tools, or playing sports-may also damage a gemstone. Diamonds are also susceptible to damage from an impact, which might cause them to chip or crack.
Put jewelry on after you apply hair spray or cosmetics. Chemicals present in either may cause damage, especially to cultured pearls. Wipe your pearls with a soft chamois or flannel cloth after each wearing to remove your skin's oils and salts.
A few colored gemstones, such as kunzite, may fade when worn in sunlight or in a tanning booth.
Few watches are waterproof, though many are water resistant. If moisture or dust has penetrated the case of your watch, have it checked only by an authorized technician. Attempts by an untrained repairperson may seriously damage the watch and invalidate factory warranties.
A mild soap and water solution used with a soft brush is effective for most home jewelry care needs. Check with your AGS jeweler, however, before using commercial cleaning products. Chemicals in some products can damage certain gems, such as pearls, even if they are considered to be mild. Even soft brushes used in applying cleansers can do damage to pearls. Soapy water cleans your pearls, but avoid getting the string wet since it will stretch or break. I find liquid jewelry cleaners made for silver are best for removing tarnish from silver. Copper is easily cleaned and polished with a few drops of lemon juice and salt mixed in a ceramic or glass bowl. Mix with your finer than apply directly to the copper with your fingers. Rub the pieces with your lemon juice and salt moistened fingers, then rinse and dry with a soft cloth.
There are polishing cloths specifically for karat gold or sterling silver. Do not use paper towels; they can scratch the metal.