Many of the basics of general jewellery care also apply to gemstone care. For example:
- Regular cleaning using recommended methods to suit the hardness and unique characteristics of each one. We’ll go into this in greater depth on this page.
- Frequent checks of the settings that hold the stones in place.
- Separate storage of each item. By storing pieces together, harder stones could scratch softer stones and metals.
- Removing gemstone jewellery when gardening, swimming, doing household chores, or sleeping.
We’d also advise against wearing gemstone jewellery while rock-climbing, powerlifting, swimming in mercury, taming lions, or tickling piranhas. Most of these things are very silly activities and your gemstones deserve better.
What your gemstones really deserve is to be looked after according to the Mohs scale of hardness. As a stone’s hardness affects how to care for the piece, the Mohs scale is a good care guide in a general sense. Here are a few prime examples of how hardness and care are co-related:
Stones graded 1 to 6.5: Amber, opal, turquoise, and jade are just a few of the better-known stones that reside at the lower end of the Mohs scale. This means they’re softer and more prone to scratches. Special care needs to be taking when cleaning and storing them. For example, it’s best to use a soft cloth rather than a soft brush when cleaning, unless you have a specialised jewellery brush. Separate storage is essential, as these stones can be easily scratched when kept with harder stones.
Stones graded 7 to 7.5: 7 is considered a line in the sand as far as the Mohs scale is concerned. Gemstones rated above 7 are usually considered hard enough and durable enough to be worn every day. Tourmaline, some types of garnet, and amethyst fit firmly into this category, while aquamarine and emerald hover around it. Cleaning with a soft brush and lukewarm soapy water is usually ok, while ultrasonic and steam cleaning is safe in certain circumstances, but definitely not all. There are exceptions. There are ALWAYS exceptions!
Stones graded 8 to 10: Diamond, ruby and sapphire are in the stratosphere as far as hardness is concerned. Their desirability ranks highly as well! These much sought after stones are perfect for jewellery because of their looks and durability, but you still need to treat them with respect. For example, warm soapy water and a soft brush is fine but other methods should get the nod of approval from an expert before going ahead. These stones are valuable, and they’re an investment worthy of a professional clean rather than a D.I.Y one. Storage of these stones definitely requires a high degree of segregation. They’ll scratch softer stones if they rub together, and that can easily happen when you throw everything into one box. One last word regarding diamonds. They’re so hard, they can scratch any precious metal used for settings; a diamond that’s loose in its setting can wear through it, so you should get this checked on a regular basis.
The beauty of gemstones is that they are complex in colour and character. This complexity extends to their care as well. For example, while jade might be one of the softer stones it is also one of the more durable and can be worn every day, although regular care is still required. And emerald, with a reasonably high hardness rating still needs special care due to miniscule interior fractures. These fractures also make it a risky proposition to clean emeralds with steam or ultrasonic methods. So, while the Mohs scale is an excellent general guide, you shouldn’t regard it as the be all and end all when looking after your valuable jewellery. What works for one stone could be an absolute disaster for another stone.
We’ll help you avoid that disaster by giving you expert advice based on the unique characteristics of each stone. We also have various cleaning products for different items, and can match the right product to the right stone. Come in store to find out more about our cleaning products and to chat with our trained gem experts about your favourite stones. We’ll happily pass on some more care tips to you; as for piranha tickling, that’s a discussion best left for another day.