Ten Rules for Cleaning Jewelry Safely

We all know that jewelry care can be a complicated business. I would never dream of cleaning a strand of pearls the same way that I would clean a diamond ring, and neither would you. Unfortunately, customers are a whole other matter entirely. While it’s possible to create a lengthy care sheet for every gemstone you sell, that creates a lot of work for you and is likely to confuse your client. Simple is better. I have compiled a list of ten rules for jewelry care to simplify the process. Print it out, put it on your letterhead, repeat ad infinitum…and save yourself a lot of headaches.

                       Keep it simple to save jewelry from costly damage

1) The Holy Trinity of Jewelry Care – Baby Toothbrush, Warm Water, Dish-washing Liquid.

With only a few exceptions, 99% of fine jewelry can be safely cleaned with these three items. Even for the most fragile of pieces, damage will definitely be minimized compared to the wreckage caused by harsh cleaners and ultrasonics. Instruct the customer to soak the items for a short period of time, then use the baby toothbrush to gently maneuver around and under the stones to get all the grime, lotion, etc. out from underneath the settings. Rinse briefly, pat dry, and voila! Sparkly, undamaged jewelry.

2) Last Thing On, First Thing Off.

This old adage is well known for pearls, but it is a good general rule for other pieces too. Even if body lotion and hairspray won’t destroy her favorite ruby the way it ruins her favorite pearls, all the gunk isn’t going to do anything to enhance the sparkle. Plus, it makes more work for you when she brings it in for professional cleaning. So say it loud, and say it often. Get them into the habit of putting jewelry on last, after applying lotions and perfumes and makeup, and taking it off to store in a safe place as soon as they walk in the door at night.

3) Never Use the Sink without a Washcloth.

I hate to admit it, but I’ve been guilty of this one. My diamond studs were sparkly clean and just needed a quick rinse…until I lost my grip on one and watched in horror as it catapulted down the sink. Thank god for p traps! All it takes to prevent this tragedy is a clean washcloth laid out across the drain. An added bonus is that if you drop a delicate piece, the cloth cushions to protect against chipping and breakage.

4) Never Sleep in Jewelry.

If they take it off as soon as they get home, this becomes a non-issue (see rule #2). But if not, at least try to get them in the habit of removing everything before bed. The fastest way to ruin that delicate gold chain is to roll around on it all night, and who wants to be poked in the head by an earring stud while they sleep anyway? Save the (literal) headache, and take it off.

5) Don’t swim in it.

A client may coddle their pieces when they clean them, but if they are regularly dousing their heirloom jewelry in chlorinated pool water, say goodbye to the lovely finish on the gold and the brightness of the gemstones. Chlorine wreaks havoc with jewelry. Don’t do it.

Preserve pearls by wiping them down with a soft dry cloth

6) If You Wouldn’t Wear your Baby, Don’t Wear your Jewelry.

I know it’s a bit extreme, but it does get your attention, doesn’t it? Weight-lifting, gardening, boxing, pole-vaulting…would you wear your baby to do these things? Nah. If you would avoid bench presses because you don’t want to accidentally smash your kiddo with a barbell, remember that squashing your diamond ring against the bar isn’t the best thing for it either.

7) Everything has a Place.

This is where those lovely little sueded pouches with your store name can be a great marketing tool. The jewelry lives there. Jumbled up jewelry in a pile quickly becomes tangled, scratched, broken jewelry. So teach them early on that everything has a place – and that place is the pouch with your store’s name and number on it.

8) Keep it out of the sun.

Prolonged exposure to sunlight can bleach more than curtains. Over time, some gemstones actually lose their color when exposed to sunlight, and if they are left where temps get high enough, the heat can also cause color change. Once again, the little pouches come to the rescue here. Tell your customers to keep their finest pieces out of the light to preserve color.

9) Don’t soak pearls.

This seems counter-intuitive since they come from the sea, but even in concentrations as diluted and benign as tap water chlorine can damage a pearl’s luster over time. The immediate damage is more likely to be the weakening of the silk thread that holds the strand in place. Teach them to gently run over their pearls with a soft, dry cloth after each wear instead, and to only use a cloth lightly dampened with diluted dish-washing detergent to clean them when they are visibly dirty. In that case, give them a light rinse to remove any residue, and set them out to dry on a soft dry cloth for at least 24 hours to ensure the silk dries completely.

10) Make Time for Routine Maintenance

Bad things happen when we don’t service our cars, skip oil changes, etc. It’s the same with fine jewelry. Routine checks help to ensure that broken prongs don’t become missing diamonds, and worn strands don’t result in priceless Navajo necklaces strewn all over the floor (don’t ask how I know). You gave them the bag, your number is right on the front, so they have no excuse. You did give them the bag, right?

Get your customers to follow these ten rules, and their life (and yours) will be a lot less stressful. Have fail-safe tips of your own? We want to know! Share them in the comments section below.

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