Care of jewellery and gemstones

With the right care your jewellery can last a lifetime. Stones such as rubies and sapphires are normally hard (less vulnerable to scratching) and tough (less vulnerable to breaking) and can be worn everyday. Others, such as opal, are more vulnerable to hard knocks and are best worn just from time to time.

The best way to put on and take off a ring is by handling just the shank – the part that goes around the finger. This helps keep the gemstone clean and stone setting clean.

Padded jewellery boxes or cases are ideal for storage or travel, as they stop pieces scratching or damaging each other.

It is always a good idea to remove jewellery when using strong cleaners or solvents.

Some chlorination treatments in swimming pools may also affect jewellery, so it is best to remove fine jewellery before swimming.

If your jewellery needs cleaning, it can be done with a soft cloth or soft brush and warm, soapy water. Ultrasonic cleaning and steam cleaning are safe for some stones but should definitely not be used with others.

Rubies and sapphires

Among the most durable gemstones, rubies and sapphires are second only to diamonds in hardness and are usually suitable for everyday wear. Ultrasonic and steam cleaning are usually safe.

Zircons

Zircons have only moderate hardness and toughness and should not be worn while doing manual labour or where the stone may suffer a hard knock. Ultrasonic and steam cleaning are risky.

Rock crystal, amethyst, citrine, smoky quartz

These stones should not be worn while doing manual labour or where the stone may suffer a hard knock. Ultrasonic cleaning is usually safe, but steam cleaning is not recommended.

Onyx

Ultrasonic and steam cleaning are usually safe.

Opal

Opals are not very tough gemstones. Do not wear opal jewellery while doing manual work, or where the stone may suffer a hard knock. Never clean opal jewellery with ultrasonic or steam cleaning. Opals should not be stored in airtight containers – opals need moisture from the air and may suffer damage if stored in very dry environments. Some opals from Ethiopia change appearance when soaked in water. If they are left to dry naturally the original colour and fire will return.

Peridot

Ultrasonic cleaning can be risky, and steam cleaning should never be used.

Rhodolite garnet

Ultrasonic cleaning is usually safe, but steam cleaning should never be used.

Spinel

Ultrasonic and steam cleaning are usually safe.

Topaz

Topaz is a hard gemstone, but not very tough (it is not easy to scratch, but can break if hit very hard). Do not wear topaz jewellery while doing manual work, or where the stone may suffer a hard knock. Never clean topaz jewellery with ultrasonic or steam cleaning.

Tourmaline

Ultrasonic or steam cleaning can be risky.

Agate

Steam and ultrasonic cleaning are not recommended.

Moonstone

Moonstones are not very tough gemstones. Do not wear them while doing manual work, or where the stone may suffer a hard knock. Never clean moonstone jewellery with ultrasonic or steam cleaning.

Travelling with jewellery

Some simple tips for travelling with jewellery:

  • Take jewellery in your carry-on bag, not in checked baggage.
  • Before you leave home, lay the pieces out and take a photograph in case anything is lost or stolen.
  • Loop a thin necklace chain through a drinking straw to stop it getting tangled.
  • Attach a pair of stud earrings to a large button to keep them together.
  • If your hotel room has a room safe, keep your jewellery in it.