Cleaning and Polishing Jewellery
This is actually fun! It's great to take a dirty, dull piece of jewellery and make it shine like new. It's important to follow these instructions, so you may want to also visit our Printer friendly version to have a printout available while you do the job (it will open in a new tab).
Bad cleaning can ruin jewellery.
If your jewellery is valuable take it to a jeweller's
shop. If you have any doubts, stop right now!
Check our list of stones, do not use cleaning processes which could damage them. We don't charge for the advice here. We can't pay compensation if something goes wrong.
Make certain stones are secure before cleaning - a lost gem will be expensive to replace.
- A small brush, for cleaning inside rings and removing dirt. We normally use old toothbrushes, they're cheap and the splayed out bristles can be worked into crevices.
- Washing up liquid, to remove grease and general dirt. Don't use soap, as it is made from vegetable oil. This sticks to diamonds, and is hard to remove.
- Silver Dip. Various brands are available, and they all seem about the same in quality. You simply lower the silver into the dip (after reading all the warnings) and tarnish is removed. Buy it from Jewellers or Hardware shops. Warning: do not use silver dip to clean matt or satin finish silver.
- Silver Polishing Cloth. Polishes silver and gold, and leaves a protective film on silver which delays tarnishing. Warning: do not attempt to polish matt or satin finish, you will spoil it.
- A pair of gloves, to protect your hands from the chemicals. Throwaway polythene gloves are ideal.
Don't use Power Tools.
They are too powerful. They can damage jewellery, or
worse, injure the user.
Our staff do use them, but they have proper training before they are allowed to work unsupervised.
We see a lot of jewellery. Quite often it just doesn't
look good. There's so much dirt on it, it makes the stones look dull, and even the metal loses its lustre.
Check the gems against our list. Can they stand soaking in water, and how hot? If you can soak the piece, this will soften the dirt, making it easier to remove. If there are no gems, then obviously you can use hot water to soak the jewellery.
Soak the jewellery
If any gems must not be soaked, or charms have a paper insert,
go straight to the scrubbing stage. Otherwise loosen the dirt by
soaking the jewellery for 15 minutes. Use very hot water, by this
we mean water which has been boiled then allowed to stand for
about 10 minutes. Don't use boiling water, as it could
aggravate unseen flaws already present in your jewellery.
If the piece includes heat sensitive gems then soak the piece in the hottest water which won't damage the stones.
Add a splash of washing up liquid, and let the piece soak for 15 minutes, then rinse.
Scrub it clean
Take the brush, some washing up liquid, and a little water.
Work the brush and some detergent into all the crevices, taking
special care to clean behind the stones (it's amazing how
much dirt accumulates there). Then rinse off, and dry on a tea
Chains and charm bracelets (assuming none of the charms will be damaged by water): let them form a heap in the palm of one hand, then work the brush with some washing up liquid and a little water into them as thoroughly as possible. Keep on until the water comes off clean - it will eventually! If the chain feels stiff, and won't fold into the palm of your hand, don't force it as that could damage the chain. Just place one piece at a time across your hand, and concentrate on that section. Finally rinse carefully, and dry.
Gold on silver should be treated like gold, until the plating
wears off. Other plated items and costume jewellery can be
damaged by polishing, so leave them alone.
Only polish items which should have a shiny surface. If the piece has a matt or satin finish; do not polish, but you can remove discolouration with a soft eraser. Scratches cannot be treated at home. If you want the finish restored, take it to a jeweller.
This metal is too hard to polish at home. However this hardness means it will last for years before losing its shine. When it needs re-polishing, take it to a jeweller.
Yellow or red gold won't tarnish under normal
conditions. However certain chemicals - some
used in medicines, others in products like bleach - will cause
discolouration. You can't deal with this problem at
home, your jeweller can help.
With time, white gold may turn yellow; again seek help from your jeweller.
In normal wear gold gets scratched. Rub steadily with a Silver (or Jewellery) Polishing Cloth, and its appearance will be somewhat improved. However you will not be able to achieve the brilliant polish of a new item. If you want the item restored to that condition, take it to your jeweller.
Silver does tarnish under normal conditions, so first we must
remove this tarnish. A few pieces are deliberately
'Antiqued' by blackening some parts; clearly removing
this darkening would ruin the effect, so these pieces should
simply be rubbed with a Silver Polishing Cloth to restore the
Silver dip is the easiest way to remove tarnish. If possible leave the item to soak for just a few minutes. If the stones shouldn't be immersed in Silver Dip or the piece is too large to fit in the jar, just rub the Dip on to the piece using your brush, it takes a bit longer but the results are just as good. When the tarnish has been removed, carefully rinse off all the Silver Dip. As mentioned before, do not use this product if the silver has a matt finish.
Finally rub the piece with a Silver Polishing Cloth, and you will restore its sheen. As with gold, you'll never get quite the same results as when the piece was new. If you so desire, your jeweller can renew the item; however many consider the patina which develops on hand-polished silver to be very pleasing. It's normally unwise to get antique silver polished.