TIPS FOR CLEANING
1. Shine silver.
For items that are merely dull, filmy or starting to discolor, mix a few drops of mild dish soap with warm water and dip in a soft cloth. Rub the jewelry, then rinse in cool water and buff with a cloth until dry. For heavier tarnish, mix a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water. Wet the silver and apply the cleaner with a soft, lint-free cloth (not paper towels, which can scratch). Work the paste into the crevices, turning the cloth as it gets gray. Rinse; buff dry. Don't soak silver; this speeds up rather than removes tarnish.
2. Brighten gold and gems.
Ever look under your ring? Lotion, soaps and everyday dirt can clog the prongs, making stones appear facet-less and flat. Even gold chains and pendants can get gunked up through everyday wear. Give gold a bubble bath by pouring a few drops of mild dish soap into a small bowl of sodium-free seltzer water or club soda. Put the jewelry into a small strainer, and place it in the bowl to soak for about five minutes. Swish it around, fishing out each piece to go over settings and crevices with a soft toothbrush. Return items to the strainer and rinse under running water; dry with a soft cloth. For costume jewelry, especially if stones are glued rather than set, dab a cloth into the bubbly solution and gently wipe any smudges or grime, then "rinse" with a cloth dampened in plain water. Pat dry and lay the pieces upside down so moisture won't soak into the setting.
3. Freshen your pearls.
Because they're so porous, pearls can easily lose their luster. Whether real, cultured or faux, they must be cleaned with care. First lay the strand on a soft cloth. Dip a clean, small makeup brush into a mixture of warm water and a little shampoo, and go over each pearl. To finish, rinse the pearls with a clean, well-wrung damp cloth. Let the strand dry flat to prevent the string from stretching. This no-soak treatment is also good for turquoise, another porous stone.
4. Make cleaning easier next time.
Remove rings when washing your hands or applying lotions, to keep the settings clean. And after wearing, wipe body oils and perfume off pearls with a soft cloth. Silver's shinier the more it's worn (the friction slows down tarnishing), but storing pieces in anti-tarnish bags can help. You can also try Connoisseurs Silver Wipes, designed for cleaning silver.
How to care for your cultured pearls
Pearls are very soft and need special care. They never should be tossed on top of or next to other gems in a jewelry box. Store them in a jewelry pouch.
Some women's skin are more acid than others. If a pearl necklace is regularly worn, as it should be, some of the pearls will constantly be in close contact with the woman's skin on her neck at the shoulder line. Pearl pendants do not always have such constant contact with a woman's skin. The pearls in the necklace will gradually absorb acid from the skin and the acid will slowly eat into the spherical pearl. Over time the pearl will not only lose its luster, but will become barrel-shaped. You can slow this process by wiping the pearls with a soft cloth after wearing them.
Besides being soft, pearls are easily damaged by chemicals like perfume, vinegar and lemon juice. Heat can turn pearls brown or dry them out and make them crack. Dry air can also damage pearls. Most safe deposit vaults have very dry air and can damage pearls.
When taking off a pearl ring, grasp the shank, or metal part, rather than the pearl. This will prevent the pearl from loosening and coming into contact with skin oil on your hand.
Because of their delicate nature, special care must be taken when cleaning.
Only use jewelry cleaners labeled as safe for pearls.
Never use an ultrasonic cleaner.
Never steam-clean pearls.
Never use (or expose pearls) to dish or wash detergents, bleaches, powdered cleansers, baking soda, or ammonia-based cleaners (like Windex).
Never use toothbrushes, scouring pads or abrasive materials to clean pearls.
Do not wear pearls when their string is wet. Wet strings stretch and attract dirt, which is hard to remove.
Do not hang pearls to dry.
Take your pearls off when applying cosmetics, hair spray, and perfume, or when showering or swimming.
Avoid wearing pearls with rough fabrics like Shetland wool.
Have your pearls restrung once a year if you wear them often.
After you wear pearls, just wipe them off with a soft cloth or chamois, which may be dry or damp. This will prevent dirt from accumulating and keep perspiration, which is slightly acidic, from eating away at the pearl nacre. You can even use a drop of olive oil on the cloth to help maintain their luster.
If pearls have not been kept clean and are very dirty, they can be cleaned by your jeweler or they can be cleans using special pearl cleaner. Be careful using other types of jewelry cleaner or soap. Some liquid soaps, such as Dawn, can damage pearls. Pay attention to the areas around the drill holes where dirt may tend to collect.
After washing your pearls, lay them flat in a moist kitchen towel to dry. When the towel is dry, your pearls should be dry.