How to Clean Jewelry: Cleaning Silver, Gold, and More
A resource for cleaning store-bought and DIY jewelry of all kinds.
If you're like the rest of us, you're probably hoarding lots of store-bought and DIY jewelry that could use a good cleaning. This guide, How to Clean Jewelry: Cleaning Silver, Gold, and More, is a quick resource for when you want to restore your favorite pieces back to their shining, shimmering splendor.
The first thing you have to know about cleaning jewelry is that not all jewelry can be cleaned the same way. Different metals and different gems have their own unique chemical properties, and that means you should use jewelry cleaning tips that are specific to the type of jewelry that needs sprucing up. The cleaning techniques that work for a diamond may not be recommended for an emerald!
Luckily, if you have mild dish soap and an unused, soft-bristled toothbrush, you already have most of the materials you will need to clean the majority of your jewelry.
We have tips for cleaning diamonds, metals, crystal gems, and soft stones like pearls and opals. You'll have your jewelry pieces back to their briliance in no time!
Be sure to share your own jewelry cleaning hacks in the comments!
How to Clean Diamonds
Diamonds are exceptionally durable as the hardest material on the planet. However, this characteristic won't keep the grease and dirt at bay! For diamonds in typical silver or gold settings, the best way to get a clean diamond ring is to first try a mixture of mild dish soap (just a few drops) and water. Soak the jewelry in the soapy mix for a few minutes, then give it a good brushing in the crevices with a clean, soft-bristle toothbrush. Rinse with water and dry with a soft, lint-free cloth. (Don't use paper products to clean your jewelry. Diamonds are hard, but metals like gold are much softer, and the wood fibers in paper towels can scratch your jewelry settings!)
For stubborn grime, try giving your diamond jewelry an ammonia bath made of 1 part ammonia to 6 parts water. After removing the piece from the solution, rinse with water and dry with a lint-free cloth. Alternatively, you can spritz some Windex on a clean and soft toothbrush, give the piece a gentle scrub, and then rinse with water and dry. Avoid cleaning your diamond jewelry with ammonia too often, as it could damage your jewelry over time.
Remember, diamonds may be durable, but other gems and metals are not as resistant to scratching or discoloration. Always clean with the weakest part of your jewelry piece in mind!
BONUS: Check out our tutorial on How to Clean Your Engagment Ring
How to Clean Gold
Where diamonds are the hardest gem, gold is one of the softest metals, making it prone to scratches that can gather extra dirt and muck. For cleaning gold, pull out your trusty mild dish soap and water solution and that soft-bristled toothbrush. Briefly soak your gold jewelry in the solution and use the toothbrush to loosen the grime. Rinse thoroughly with water and dry with a lint-free cloth.
If your gold jewelry is just that—gold—without any gems, you can also submerge the piece in boiling water to loosen the dirt and grease. However, this method isn't recommended for gold jewelry set with gems, as any glue keeping the jewels in their setting may deteriorate.
How to Clean Silver
There are a variety of tips and tricks for cleaning silver. For example, the aluminum foil magic trick is a favorite for pure silver pieces (no gems!). In a pot of water, add one tablespoon of baking soda and a piece of aluminum foil. Bring to a boil and add your silver pieces. This method can remove tarnish from silver and make it look new! For extra sparkle, soak your silver jewelry for one minute in a mix of hot water and powdered laundry detergent, then rinse with water and let the silver air-dry.
You can also use the same ammonia solution as you would use for diamonds or gold, or even soak your silver in a solution of ½ cup vinegar and 2 tablespoons of baking soda for a couple hours. There are lots of silver cleaning hacks on the internet, from wiping your silver with hand sanitizer to bathing it in club soda. Try to use the mildest process, and ask a local jeweler if you aren't sure which tips are safest for your specific silver pieces.
Silver storage tip: throw a few pieces of chalk in your jewelry box to absorb moisture and keep your infrequently worn silver jewelry looking nice and untarnished.
How to Clean Crystal Gemstones
For most gemstones, you can whip up that now-familiar mix of soapy water and give them a good scrub with a soft toothbrush. Rinse, and dry with a lint-free cloth.
Emeralds are an exception, as they are intended to be oiled to keep their luster. Just rinse will cool water and avoid grease-cutting solutions, and the protective oiling will probably be okay. However, you can always have an emerald re-oiled by your local jeweler.
How to Clean Soft Stones
Soft stones, like pearls, opals, and turquoise, need special considerations when cleaning. As a pearl is an organic substance, it is one of the most fragile jewelry materials. Simply wearing your pearls will give them a good buffing, and unworn pearls can be cleaned up by wiping them with a dry, lint-free cloth. Coral and ivory jewelry would also need to be cleaned in this way.
Stones like opals and turquoise are best cleaned by a dipping a soft cloth in a mixture of dish soap and water and wringing out, then gently wiping the surface of these stones with the damp cloth. Rub with a clean and dry lint-free cloth to remove residue and dry.