Inside your jewelry box might be some of the most meaningful, beautiful (and possibly expensive) things you own — but are you treating your baubles with the utmost care? We, at Reiner’s Fine Jewelry, want to off some tips about jewelry care mistakes make us cringe, and how to ensure your favorite pieces last a lifetime.
1. You pick up your brand new piece from the jeweler — and never take it back there again
When you see a cool vintage car driving around, it’s because someone treated it right from the very beginning. And just like you would never go years without getting your car serviced, you shouldn’t skip taking your jewelry in for a tune-up either — many jewelers will do it for free, and it could really extend the life of your piece. Many jewelers recommend bringing jewelry in for a check-up every six months, but once a year is generally acceptable and more typical.
2. You don’t clean your jewelry yourself, either
Sorry, you’re not off the hook from at-home maintenance even if you do take your jewelry in to get cleaned by a pro. “The number one mistake we see is not cleaning pieces frequently enough,” said Bert Reiner, owner of Reiner’s Fine Jewelry. “Rings come in completely caked with lotion, and with dirt under the prongs. This can compromise the settings and can damage certain stones.” A microfiber cloth is great for getting any film or dirt off gemstones. There are also many jewelry cleaners you can buy, but a mild dish detergent with a little warm water works well, too. Use a soft child’s toothbrush to gently clean your pieces.
3. You risk damage with bad DIY cleaning methods
Dish soap is really the strongest thing you should use. Denatured alcohol can be good for cleaning residue off diamonds, but definitely don’t use it on softer stones like pearls, opals or emeralds. Turquoise and coral are other stones that won’t stand-up well to a harsh treatment. Lemon juice or other acids can also damage delicate pieces or porous stones.
4. You shower wearing your jewelry
Jewelry can likely take a dip in the pool, or even an occasional shower at the gym, but it’s not a good idea to make it a habit. The effects of hard water and soap scum are hard to remove. Showers aren’t good for costume jewelry either — steam can loosen the glue that holds pieces together, or you can cause rusting.
5. You don’t put your pearls on last
Softer stones like pearls are the exception to jewelry’s general durability rules. They’re a delicate gemstone. They always go on last — after you’ve done all your primping, your hairspray, and your makeup. Pearls have a luster that can be damaged easily by many chemicals. Strands of pearls require even more maintenance than other pieces. The string stretches over time, and if you’re able to move a pearl on the strand at all, it’s probably time for the set to be restrung. Otherwise, moisture can get in-between the stones and can cause them to break down. Pearls are really more of an occasional wear, overall.
6. You don’t educate yourself before making a purchase
Pearls aren’t the only piece that requires a delicate touch — stones like peridot, opal and turquoise are also on the softer side of the scale. As you’re buying a piece, look it up. And maybe you’ll realize that you shouldn’t wear it on, say, a vacation to Aruba.
7. You don’t clasp your necklaces before you store them
People always have trouble with tangled necklaces, and there’s a really easy way to avoid that. The number one thing is to close the necklace, and then hang it on a necklace tree or a pushpin. And if you do get a nasty tangle? Lay the strand down on a table, and use two pins to gently tease the knot out. Don’t try to do it while holding the necklace in the air — gravity will just keep pulling the knot back into place.
8. You wear rings that aren’t sized properly
If you do this, the ring is more likely to become misshapen and eventually break. The one mistake that drives jewelers crazy is when people use metal ring sizers instead of just getting the ring sized. They’re pieces of metal designed to wrap around a ring to make it smaller, but they’ll end up leaving deep scratches in the ring where they rub.
9. You don’t get your pricey jewelry appraised or insured
A jewelry insurance policy is an expensive piece of paper if you never use it, but the least expensive piece of paper if you do use it. Your current [homeowner’s or renter’s] insurance policy should have a jewelry provision, and you might find out that it has an extremely high deductible or that the cap is very low. You’ll likely need an additional policy to cover pricier pieces, and they’re comprehensive and inexpensive — a yearly fee of only about $1 to $1.50 per every hundred dollars your jewelry is worth.
And how do you know how much a piece is worth? Start by getting it appraised by a certified gemologist or at least a graduated gemologist.
10. You assume you can’t take your jewelry to a jeweler if you didn’t buy it there
“People think ‘oh, if I didn’t buy it there, they’re not going to want to fix it!’” said Bert Reiner. “That couldn’t be further from the truth — especially since so many people buy things online these days.” Plus, most jewelry maintenance (like fixing loosened clasps or replacing a broken chain) is more inexpensive than people realize — but could really help a piece last longer.