The easiest and most effective way to clean fine jewelry at home is with soap and water. Precious metals, including silver, gold, and platinum, are safe, as well as all gemstones, including opals and pearls. Put a few drops of mild dishwashing detergent in a small bowl and add some warm water. Agitate the mixture until soap bubbles form. Place your jewelry in the soap mixture for five to ten minutes.
Remove any pearls and opals from the liquid and rinse them under warm running water (seal the drain with the stopper first!) Lay pearls flat to dry before storing separately in cotton bags. Silk thread is used for stringing pearls and stretches when wet, so it is important to let the pearls lay flat until the thread dries completely.
For routine care, cultured pearls should be wiped with a very soft, clean cloth after each wearing. Opals should not be stored in lockboxes or safe deposit boxes as they can dry out which causes crazing, fracture lines within the opal. Jewelry stores place small beakers of water in any display case containing opal. At home, olive oil can be used to oil the opal and keep it from crazing. Some jewelers and Opal dealers believe that oiling opals does not help to preserve them, but my clients have had good success with this technique.
For jewelry that is not set with pearls or opals, use a soft-bristle toothbrush to scrub any dirt or buildup on the metal and/or gemstones. Rinse jewelry under warm running water. Let dry on a clean, soft cloth.
Amber should be cleaned with warm soapy water using a soft cloth and no toothbrush. Rinse the amber then dry carefully. Lightly polish the amber with olive oil. Remove any excess oil. Using another soft cloth, restore polish to the stone. Be careful cleaning amber. It is very soft (2 to 2.5 on the Mohs scale) and can be scratched.
Some jewelry that hasn’t been cleaned in a while will require a second or third cleaning. Clean jewelry not only sparkles and looks better, but can keep your jewelry safe. Debris in your jewelry can loosen prongs and settings, in turn causing gemstones to loosen and sometimes fall out. So take time to clean and protect your jewelry.