This guide covers steam, manual and ultrasonic jewelry cleaning, along with jewelry storage and more.
Your jewelry is an investment, and it deserves the best care and cleaning you can give it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just gotten your first nice piece of jewelry as a present from your grandma, or if you have a massive collection of fine pieces, caring for your jewelry is a prime concern.
Cleaning, organizing, storage, even insurance are all factors that play into the proper care of jewelry. But where do you start?
If you’ve never given serious thought to this it can all seem a bit overwhelming. But if you just break it down into parts it’s actually pretty straightforward. We’ll be covering everything to do with the care of fine jewelry, starting with how to get it clean!
Let’s start off with a demo of the Branson B200 Jewelry Cleaner
Beth has given us a quick run through, so now let’s get down to specifics and look at jewlery cleaning in detail.
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a platinum bangle or a pair of copper costume earrings, jewelry gets dirty over time. Oil and dander from your skin, dust from the air, build up from hand and dish soap, – all these things accumulate on jewelry leaving it dull and without luster.
This is why, to get jewelry looking its best, a thorough cleaning schedule should be implemented. But jewelry comes in all different shapes and sizes, and sometimes can be quite fragile. So what exactly is the best way to clean jewelry? Well, there are several. The one you use depends on your jewelry, your time, and your budget.
Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaning
Using an ultrasonics is the best way to clean jewelry. Ultrasonic cleaners use high frequency sound waves within a tank of water to create a phenomenon known as cavitation. Cavitation is the rapid creation and subsequent collapse of microscopic vacuum bubbles within a liquid.
When these vacuum bubbles come in contact with the object being cleaned, in this case jewelry, they collapse, causing the surrounding liquid to fill the space they once occupied. This creates an intense scrubbing action at the microscopic level!
This is why your jewelry store uses ultrasonics. It really does make jewelry sparkle like new.
Choosing an Ultrasonic Cleaner
Fisrt up you need a cleaner, obviously. Here at Sonicsonline.com we only stock the top of the line. These are not the little plastic machines you see elsewhere on line or at Wal-Mart. Here are the features you want to look for:
Real piezoelectric ultrasonic transducer
Name Brand – not some no-name toy from China
Stainless steel cleaning tank
Plugs into the wall (AA batteries can’t product the current needed for real transducers)
Includes basket and cover
2 year warranty
Includes sample of jewelry cleaning powder or liquid
We have two units that fit the above requirements:
This is the unit you would buy your Mom for its easy operation. Just put the jewelry in the basket, hit the button, and five minutes later your jewelry is clean. If you want to get a complete setup from the start, you can go for our B200 Complete Package, which includes a bonus clamshell basket, and a sample of our jewelry cleaning powder.
It’s also the unit you buy for yourself – small footprint, rock solid reliability, and a great warranty. Here’s the specs:
All stainless steel tank, 15 oz – room for a pair of sunglasses, or multiple pieces of jewelry
40khz piezoelectric transducer
Simple on/off controls with a five minute timer
Comes with cover, removable parts basket, and sample pack of jewelry cleaning concentrate, makes up to 1 gallon!
This is a larger machine (1.2 quarts) with an adjustable eight minute timer. Gemoro is a well known lapidary (jewelry tool supply) company and this is a great little machine. Here’s a look at the features:
Advanced digital control system provides cleaning cycles from 90 seconds to 8 minutes
High performance industrial transducer
1.2qt Tank Size – Twice the size of other ultrasonic jewelry cleaners
Tank Size: 6 3/8″ x 5 1/8″ x 2 3/8″ (LxWxD)
Removable, full size basket included
Includes free sample of ultrasonic cleaning concentrate with measuring scoop (makes up to 1 gallon)
How to Clean Jewelry with Ultrasonics
Now that you have your new cleaner, it’s time to get cleaning! Cleaning jewelry this way couldn’t be simpler. Here’s a step by step guide on how to get the most out of your new unit:
First, fill your ultrasonic bath with a fresh batch of cleaning solution. In most cases this solution can be made with a commercial ultrasonic jewelry cleaning concentrate at a concentration of about 1 part per 10 of water. If a professional cleaning concentrate isn’t on hand, a small amount of citrus based dish soap can be used.
Let the tank run for a complete cycle before adding your jewelry. This will effectively “de-gas” the tank. The purpose of this is that when a new batch of cleaning solution is added, trapped gas will be inside of the solution. This trapped gas can actually impede ultrasonic transmission. In short, a de-gassed tank will clean better.
Place your jewelry inside the included cleaning basket, and lower the basket into the tank. Run the tank for a complete cycle, and then remove your jewelry. Extremely dirty pieces may take more than one cycle to clean, but for most jewelry this is very rare.
After cleaning, remove the basket from the tank, and the jewelry from the basket. Rinse the jewelry in clean water to remove any remaining residue, and allow to air dry on a soft, clean cloth.
By its very nature, all an ultrasonic cleaner does is scrub, and it doesn’t really care what it’s scrubbing from your jewelry. This means that glues, weak coatings, or anything else could be potentially scrubbed away along with soils. Ultrasonics can also damage certain fragile gemstones, here’s a short list of gems not recommended to be cleaned with ultrasonics:
Jewelry Cleaning Solutions
The simplest and least expensive jewelry cleaning solution is a citrus based dish soap, like Lemon Fresh Joy. You can put this into your sonic cleaner and it will do a passable job. If you want the best possible results however, you need to use a formula that is made for jewelry cleaning. We offer three options:
From the people that brought you the Gemoro 12. This is our most highly concentrated solution. It’s no exaggeration to say that this would be a lifrtime supply for many people. One quart makes about 40 gallons!!
No ammonia. Clean fresh smell
No color additives, crystal clear mixed with water
Our own jewelry cleaning powder is available in 1/3 cup packets. It is mixed at 1/2 tsp. per pint, and a single pack lasts most people for a few years. It’s free-rinsing and includes no ammonia or harsh chemicals.
Ships with instruction sheet and 1 tsp. scoop. No bottles of liquids to store. Just toos it in a drawer out of the way!
Here are some tips on how to safely operate your new ultrasonic bath:
Before plugging in your unit, make sure the tank is filled with water. Accidentally turning on an ultrasonic cleaner with low or no water in the tank will cause the transducer to burn out, destroying your new cleaner.
Do not place your hands in an ultrasonic cleaner while the unit is running. If for some reason you have to adjust your jewelry mid cycle, turn the unit off, make your adjustments, then turn the unit back on and finish the cycle.
NEVER, EVER, under ANY circumstances use flammable liquids in an ultrasonic cleaner! Ultrasonic cavitation will from time to time create microscopic “hot spots” in the liquid. If the liquid is flammable in nature, these hot spots can actually ignite the surface of the liquid, creating a flash over.
Steam Cleaning Jewelry
Steam cleaning jewelry is another great way to get your jewelry clean, and produces better results faster than hand cleaning jewelry. Steam cleaning can be a little bit expensive to get started with, as you need to purchase your own steam cleaning system, but the results can’t be denied.
The idea behind steam cleaning is rather simple. The steam cleaner creates a high temperature, high pressure jet of steam that the jewelry is placed under. This jet of steam blasts away oils, dirt, and other common debris from your jewelry without the use of any kind of soap or detergent what so ever. There are some things to keep in mind before you choose steam cleaning as the way to clean your jewelry.
Examine Your Jewelry Before Cleaning!
Make sure your jewelry is in good, solid condition before steam cleaning. Inspect each piece to ensure settings are secure, and make sure no gems are cracked or damaged, as the high pressure jet of steam could potentially further damage them.
DO NOT use a steam cleaner to clean the following items:
Jewelry that is held together with any kind of glue or adhesive
Amber, emeralds, pearls, jade, coral, opal, or turquoise
Jewelry with closed back settings
Steam Cleaning – Best Practices
DO NOT hold jewelry by hand when steam cleaning. As you can imagine that jet of steam is pretty hot, and careless handling could result in a painful burn.
Pre-soak extremely dirty pieces before steam cleaning. This will generally only have to be done the first time, unless you drop your jewelry in a pool of oil or something.
Clean near a sink! If you place your steam cleaner in such a way that the nozzle is pointed down into the sink, there will be no need for post-cleaning cleanup. Just make sure the sink is stopped up to prevent losing anything down the sink!
Hand Cleaning Jewelry
The classic and by far the most common way of cleaning jewelry is by hand. “By hand” however is just a description of the general cleaning method, as different types of metals and gems require different kinds of hand cleaning.
Cleaning precious metals by hand is a fairly simple affair, and apart from silver, will usually only require some mild soaking and wiping. Here’s how to clean gold, platinum, and other precious metals by hand:
First, make a mild cleaning solution from warm (not hot) water and a couple drops of a citrus based dish liquid, like the kind you used to hand wash dishes with.
Next, soak your jewelry for 10 to 20 minutes, maybe longer if your jewelry has a particularly heavy soil load.
Finally, remove your jewelry from the solution, and scrub clean with a soft bristle brush, and pat dry with a soft cloth. Make sure your pieces are completely dry before storing them.
In general, silver can be cleaned of common soils in the same way you clean gold or platinum. Silver however suffers from tarnishing, which isn’t exactly a soil to be removed, but a chemical reaction on the surface of the silver itself.
Silver develops tarnish when exposed to anything that contains sulfur, and you would be surprised how many things have sulfur in them! Examples include certain foods, like eggs, rubber, latex, gasoline and diesel fuel, carpet padding, and even your own skin!
Tarnishing can be accelerated by moisture, so special care should be taken with silver in moist climates.
Tarnish can be fairly easy to remove when first noticed, so frequent polishing of your silver pieces is recommended to fight tarnish. To remove tarnish a special tarnish remover will have to be used.
We offer a small container of silver cleaner here on Sonicsonline. Our Silver Cleaner comes in a handy 7 oz bottle with an included basket. All you need to do is put your jewelry in the basket, twirl it around for a few seconds, then take it out and rinse it. Dirt and tarnish are gone!
Cleaning Gem Stones
Cleaning gemstones can be a little more involved than cleaning precious metals, as some gems can be surprisingly fragile. This can be especially troublesome when trying to clean combination pieces that have more than one gem stone. In general however, the cleaning of most gemstones is a pretty straightforward affair.
Diamonds – First, make a cleaning solution of one part ammonia to 4 parts water. Then, scrub your diamonds in the solution with a soft bristle brush, remove, then allow to air dry on a soft cloth.
Rubies, Opal, Turquoise, and other gems– Just like precious metals, rubies and such can be cleaned in a mild solution of water and citrus based dish soap. Allow to soak for 5 to 10 minutes, and then scrub with a soft bristle brush. Remove the gems from the solution, and allow to air dry on a soft cloth.
Pearls are a special case. Their surfaces are porous and easily damaged. We recommend that you use a cleaner especially made for pearls to be certain that you don’t damage them. Unfortunately, due to their fragile nature, you cannot clean pearls in an ultrasonic cleaner.
You can clean delicate pearl jewelry in this special cleaner with no fear! Just lower your strand into the included basket, twirl it aounr, remove, rinse and dry with a soft cloth.
Jewelry Storage and Organization
Now that your jewelry is sparkling clean, it’s time to safely store it away until it’s time to show it off. How you store your jewelry is actually very important. Improperly stored jewelry can be damaged any number of ways, such as jewelry just tossed into a purse rubbing together and getting scratched, or even falling out and getting lost! Luckily there are about as many ways to store your jewelry as there is, well, jewelry to be stored. Here are some of the more common methods of organizing and storing jewelry.
A jewelry organizer is simply a series of hooks set on a decorative frame that either stands on it’s own, or can be hanged from a door, vanity, or other object. Jewelry organizers are a great choice for those with a lot of hanging jewelry, such as earrings and necklaces that could easily become tangled and damaged if simply thrown in a box or drawer.
For the average jewelry enthusiast, a jewelry box will be all they need to protect and organize their collection. A jewelry box is just as it’s name implies; a box to keep jewelry in. What sets them apart is the fact that they have multiple compartments, hooks, clasps, and other features designed to organize and secure jewelry within the box.
For those with very large collection, a jewelry cabinet can be employed. A jewelry cabinet is actually often its own stand alone piece of furniture with multiple drawers and display cabinets containing hooks for hanging jewelry.
Pretty much the ultimate in jewelry security, a jewelry safe is like a jewelry box, but larger, reinforced, and with a locking mechanism. Jewelry safes not only keep your jewelry organized and secure, but also safe from fire, theft, and flooding! A jewelry safe is recommended for those with extremely valuable or sentimental pieces.