Do You Clean Your Jewelry?

While at the Couture show in Vegas, I made it a point to stop by the Sparkle + Shine lounge. I must admit, that although I’m a total jewelry-o-holic, I’m not the best at cleaning my collection. What about you? Is this an area you can improve upon as well? I asked Kristie Nicolosi, President and CEO of The Kingswood Company, some questions about cleaning jewelry, and here’s what she had to say:

I know with summer upon us, our jewelry is likely getting quite dirty with sand, sunscreen, etc. I also know cleaning jewelry may be the last thing many people think of. But this is really important, right?

We all want to look fabulous on vacation, but wearing your best jewelry to the beach or poolside can end badly. You might lose a favorite piece in the waves or sand. The chemicals in chlorine from a pool or hot tub are damaging to metals. Water can loosen any piece set with glue. Sand can scratch metals. And, of course, suntan lotions will gum up your gems, causing them to lose their shine.

Sandy hands image
So I recommend wearing fashion jewelry with your favorite bikini or caftan. But whether you’ve worn a fashion piece or fine jewelry (I know many women don’t remove their engagement and wedding rings, for example), you really need to clean it after a trip to the beach or pool, to remove chemicals, oils, salts and sand. Use a cleaning formula that is safe for the piece and then give it a quick wipe-down with a professional polishing cloth.

How often do you think jewelry needs to be cleaned?

It is safe to clean your jewelry as often as daily, when you use the right cleaning formulary, and you should definitely do it pretty routinely for pieces you wear often. No matter how careful you are, your rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces will get dull from body oils, lotions, cooking oils and more. For most pieces, we recommend soaking it for about two minutes in a professional cleaning formula and blotting dry. Some pieces cannot be soaked, such as strands of pearls or anything set with glue (like doublets), so be sure to ask your jeweler for guidance.

It’s also a smart idea to have your jewelry inspected by your jeweler annually. She will examine the piece for damage to the prongs and stones and offer to perform any necessary repairs. Your piece will also receive a professional cleaning and will come back to you looking almost new. It’s like a spa day for your jewelry!

Are there different ways to clean different types of jewelry? I wouldn’t imagine you’d clean a pair of silver earrings with turquoise in them the same way you’d clean pearls, right?

You are absolutely right! I always recommend that women ask their jeweler for guidance on how to routinely clean a piece at home. There are a number of different cleaning formulas which are safe for different kinds of jewelry. A fine jewelry cleaner is generally safe for diamonds, gold, platinum and other harder stones. A delicate or gentle jewelry cleaner should be non-ammoniated, so it would be safe on softer, more porous stones, such as pearls, turquoise, emeralds and more. You may also find a silver jewelry cleaner but those are generally only safe for sterling silver, not on any set stones or antiquing, so exercise caution.

It is safest to clean based on the most delicate element of the piece. For example, if a piece is made with diamonds and pearls, you must use a gentle formula that is safe for the pearls, even though the diamonds can be exposed to a stronger formula. Your example of a piece with silver and turquoise would require cleaning with a formula safe for the turquoise, so a sliver jewelry cleaning formula would not be safe in that instance but a gentle jewelry cleaner would be. If the silver in those earrings were tarnished, I would recommend cleaning with a gentle jewelry cleaner and then using a professional polishing cloth to remove the tarnish.

I’ve heard the The Kingswood company has a new natural jewelry cleaner out. Can you please tell me a bit more about that?

Thank you for asking about our Natural Jewelry Cleaner! We are super excited to offer this new formulary to our private-label retailers and brands and their customers. The formula is all-botanical, hypoallergenic, naturally derived, water-soluble and devoid of volatile organic compounds. For women who are concerned about their environmental footprint, it is an excellent choice (though all of our formularies are non-toxic and biodegradable). Our Natural Jewelry Cleaner is the only jewelry cleaning formula for diamond, gold and platinum jewelry to be awarded the EPA’s Design for the Environment designation and placement on its “Safer Choice” product list.

The Kingswood Company Natural Cleaner Jar 0515
Many of our retail customers are now carrying this product, so check with your favorite jeweler to see if it is available.

I want to thank Kristie for her words of wisdom, and I promise to make more of an effort in the jewelry cleaning department in the future!

Kristie Nicolosi is the President and CEO of The Kingswood Company, the industry’s leading supplier of high-quality, private-label jewelry care products. She travels extensively both nationally and internationally to keep up with the latest trends in the jewelry industry and to share her expertise in jewelry care, cleaning and education. A frequent contributor to publications such as In Store, Martha Stewart Weddings, the American Gem Society’s Spectra, the American Gem Trade Association’s Prism and more, Nicolosi also shares her knowledge and insights in her own blog #cleanjewelry and through Facebook and Twitter.

How to Care For and Store Pearls

I hope you read my recent article explaining what the different types of pearls are. (If you didn’t, click here for the full scoop.) Well now that you’ve purchased your lovely new necklace (or ring, or bracelet…), how do you take care of and store it? Well have you ever hear the saying, “Pearls should be the last thing you put on and the first thing you take off?” Well make that your mantra, and you’ve won half the battle.

Here’s some helpful tips for keeping your pearls in tip-top shape.

When you wear your pearls,

Avoid contact with chemicals. This includes everything from make-up and perfume, to household cleaners. Even our own sweat is bad for them, so if you’re going to work out, then leave the pearls at home.

Avoid getting your pearls wet. Please do not bathe or swim with pearls on. If they do happen to get wet, then let them dry completely before storing them.

When you store your pearls,

Store each piece in an individual bag or pouch. Your items should come with a bag or box, which is usually great, so don’t throw it away. If not, you can certainly purchase a soft velvet, satin, or felt-lined bag. You don’t want to store your pearls together with other jewelry, as they can easily be scratched by metal or other gems. That would not be good!

jewelry pouches
Don’t store in plastic. The chemicals emitted from plastic can harm your pearls.

Don’t store where exposed to heat or direct sunlight. Remember, your pearls are delicate, and the heat and extreme light can cause harm to them.

Store your pearls flat. Hanging a pearl necklace can stretch and weaken the cord it’s strung on. Speaking of which, you should get your pearls re-strung every year or two. I recommend having them knotted between each pearl to protect them from rubbing against each other. It’s also a good idea for safety. Should your strand happen to break, you’ll only be looking for one pearl on the floor, instead of all of them.

Don’t store them long-term in a safe. Pearls are meant to be worn. Storing them in a safe or safety deposit box for long periods of time will cause the pearls to dehydrate and possibly cause surface cracks. Now you don’t want that to happen, do you?!

When cleaning your pearls,

cleaning pearls
Wipe with a soft cloth after each wear. This will get off any unwanted dirt or chemicals. This cloth can be dry or slightly moist with water.

Never use an ultrasonic cleaner. This will just destroy them.

When you have to deep clean them, use a mild soap and water mix with a soft cloth. Never use any harsh detergents, dishwashing soap, a toothbrush, cleanser, etc. When cleaned, allow them to dry flat on a towel. Only when they’re completely dry should you store them. Of course, your other option would be to have them professionally cleaned.

Also, know that pearls look their best when they are lustrous, and over-cleaning them takes the luster away. So wear your pearls with joy and confidence! If  you have any other pearl tips, please leave them in the comments below.

Tips for Preserving Your Jewelry

I’m excited to have a guest contributor today. Thanks to Emma for the informative article!

Jewelry – we use it to express our individuality, to spice up an ensemble, to demonstrate our love to others and perhaps even to honor our lineage with heirlooms. With how much we love it, it’s surprising how so many of us fail to take proper care of the pieces we hold dear. Regular maintenance is certainly not difficult or time consuming, and it truly is an investment to make sure that the treasures lasts for years to come. Below are some tips to get you started!

The composition of your jewelry is the most important thing to consider when cleaning and storing it. It dictates how often your pieces should be cleaned, and with what. As a general rule, silver and gold can withstand much more abrasive cleaning than gemstones, which require extra special care. All-gold and all-silver pieces can be submerged in water without risk of damage. In contrast, jewelry with gemstones, glued bonds or loosely set stones should never be submerged in cleaning solutions, as they may discolor the material or even cause glue bonds to break. It’s better to be safe than sorry when dealing with family antiques!

First we’ll talk about all-metal pieces made of gold and silver. To clean these materials, there are several equally effective options to choose from–all depending on your personal preference and the type of jewelry you’re cleaning. The first option is jewelry cleaning cloths. These are widely available–they can be purchased online or in jewelry stores for only a few dollars–and do a good job of removing brightening and shining tarnished silver. They are not as useful for cleaning gold, which doesn’t tarnish. Simply use the cloth to buff the piece until it is looking shiny and new. You can use these cloths whenever your silver beings to look a little dingy.

For pieces with harder to reach nooks and crannies, a jewelry dipping solution may be a better bet. For example, Connoisseurs is a well-known commercial jewelry cleaning solution offering several different kinds of products and is widely available online.


If you prefer a more natural method, silver and gold can also be cleaned in a mixture of hot water and baking soda. You can either make an abrasive paste and scrub the jewelry (for tough stains) or soak the piece overnight to see best results. Some people also elect to use toothpaste to clean, as its granules do a great job of removing tarnish. Warning: these methods are not recommended for silver pieces with matte finishes. Matte finishes should only be cleaned with commercial dip–even soft polishing clothes can be too abrasive. It is, however, great for cleaning gold, which reacts well to toothpaste cleaning. Simply apply and scrub with a soft-bristle toothbrush.

No matter your cleaning method, each piece should be thoroughly dried with a soft, clean cloth after washing.

When it comes to cleaning jewelry with gemstones, special considerations must be accounted for. While metals like gold, platinum and stainless steel are mostly immune to daily soap and water exposure (they can usually be worn in the shower), many gemstones–like pearl and amber–should never come into contact with hot water, soaps or chemicals. For these sensitive gems, even perfume and natural body oils can damage the natural luster of the gem. A good rule of thumb for soft gems like pearl and amber is to wipe them down after each use with a soft, clean cloth. Don’t let them get wet. In fact, getting a string of pearls wet can stretch the silk string out! It may sound like a lot of work, but it will pay dividends in preventing your grandmother’s necklace from yellowing over time. For harder gems like diamonds and sapphires, it’s usually safe to clean them with a dipping solution. When in doubt, you can always ask a jeweler; he or she will be able to give you specific advice for the piece you need to care for. Jewelers can also steam clean jewelry (great for diamond rings) for a nominal cost.

Now onto jewelry storage. Ask yourself: does the metal tarnish when exposed to air? Can the gem be scratched if it comes into contact with another? Again, the kind of jewelry dictates how the piece can be stored safely. Silver pieces, which do tarnish when exposed to air, should be kept in plastic bags or airtight spaces to minimize oxidation. And while silver can usually be stored with other silver, it’s a good idea to keep it away from any gemstones so as not to scratch them.

brittany jewelry armoire

Gold can also be kept with other gold as it is less sensitive than gemstones. Keep gold in soft, fabric-lined container for extra protection. Most boxes are perfectly suitable to storing gold pieces, though it’s helpful to look for ones with bountiful compartments to stop pieces from becoming tangled, like the jewelry organizers found here.

Gemstones, on the other hand, should be individually separated. This means that even individual pairs of earring should ideally be kept away from one another–if they are made of particularly sensitive gems. Generally speaking, it should be fine to keep each piece in its own cloth bag or fabric-lined box. For pearls, silk pouches are ideal, as they are very soft and allow plenty of ventilation.

A final note on storing your jewelry: If your gems are strung on silk (as is usually the case with pearls), it is very important that they not be hung. Hanging a string of pearls can stretch the silk and warp the sizing, causing you to have to have the pearls restrung prematurely. While those cute jewelry racks may be a great way to display your favorite pieces, they are really more suitable for costume jewelry, which isn’t as sensitive to these factors.

pearl necklace

And it should go without saying that all jewelry should be stored in dry climates, without constantly fluctuating temperatures. Frequent changes from hot to cold can weaken glue bonds and cause breakage!

There you have it. A guide to caring for and storing your jewelry so that it is preserved for years to come. A little care in this lifetime can make all the difference when it comes time to pass jewelry on to future generations. And remember: when in doubt, see a jeweler!

Extra tips: Don’t experiment with cleaners that “seem” like they will do a good job. Bleach may sound like a great option, but it can permanently discolor your jewelry. And while some jewelry can be boiled in hot water for extra cleaning power, you should never submerge any jewelry with glued bonds into water or cleaning solutions–especially if the water is hot. Instead, apply the solution as needed with a Q-tip, and wipe dry with a soft, clean cloth. One more tip: if you have costume jewelry that leaves a weird stain on your skin (that green hue caused by certain metals), there’s an easy solution. Apply a few thin coats of clear nail polish to the inner side of the jewelry. No more unsightly stains!

Cleaning Silver

Tarnish is the bane of my existence with my silver jewelry. Storing it in a jewelry box or a felt bag certainly cuts down on the tarnish, but nevertheless, it eventually comes.

sterling silver cuffs
sterling silver cufffs

Christine Campbell, the owner of one of my FAVE boutiques, Crimson Mim, (with locations in Los Altos and Palo Alto, CA) made a very cool video clip of a new way to tackle the tarnish. I haven’t tried it yet with my own jewelry, but she says it works like a miracle!

No more stinky creams or treated cleaning gloves for me!