Sterling silver makes elegant jewelry, but these delicate, precious metals tend to require a little more care and attention, especially when it comes to cleaning the jewelry.
If you have sterling silver jewelry encrusted with gemstones, this article will guide you on how to safely and carefully clean your sterling silver jewelry with gemstones.
It’s important to note that sterling silver is a stunning precious metal that needs careful cleaning. That said, the process of cleaning the sterling silver jewelry containing gemstones is not the easiest, and though there are different cleaning methods that you could try, some methods always work better than others, especially because you have to work on protecting the gemstones and also the sterling silver metal which is soft and malleable.
So, how do you clean the gemstone-encrusted sterling silver jewelry?
How to clean sterling silver jewelry with gemstones
- Practice caution
The first thing you need to do when it comes to cleaning the jewelry would be to practice care when cleaning. What this means is that in as much as the most recommended and traditional approach to cleaning sterling silver jewelry is by using aluminum and vinegar, these two household solutions are not at all recommended for cleaning gemstone-encrusted sterling silver pieces.
The reason for this is that the aluminum will damage jewelry and any materials made of silver or sterling silver, and it’s not recommended for the sterling silver pieces of the ones encrusted with gemstones. So, don’t use this jewelry cleaning method for sterling silver jewelry made with gemstones.
The other things that affect how you will clean the jewelry are as follows:
- The gemstone settings– determine if they are set with glues or prongs.
- The age of the pieces– heirlooms are much more delicate, and you have to be very gentle when cleaning them.
- Inclusions– gemstones with many inclusions would have to be cleaned professionally.
- Hardness– at the end of the day, even the hardest stones are susceptible to scratching, so avoid the use of rough or hard-bristled brushes or cleaning agents.
- Risk of damage– stones with fractures, cleaves, loose stones, paint, or glue all require extra care when cleaning and overall handling.
- Type of gemstones– diamonds, sapphires, cubic zirconia, for example, can be cleaned in the ultrasonic cleaners, but most other gemstones like tanzanite, ruby, quartz, emerald, garnet, hematite, lapis lazuli, pearls, etc., call for extra care and gentler means of cleaning.
How to get started:
- Prepare the cleaning space
- Choose a preferred cleaning solution (listed below)
- Use the right cleaning techniques and tools
- Always rinse and dry the silver pieces of jewelry thoroughly
What should you use instead?
1. Warm water and dish soap
This is the easiest and also the safest way of cleaning your sterling silver rings if they are encrusted with or set with different gemstones. It works quite well in cleaning silver and getting rid of tarnish and grime, and it will not harm the gemstones.
To get started with this method, you will need to use warm water, mild dish soap/ detergent, a lint-free cloth, a soft-bristled brush, 2 small glass or plastic bowls, and/or a clean towel.
Once you have all these, heat up some water in the microwave or on the stove. The amount of water to be used will depend on the pieces of jewelry you will be cleaning. A cup or two would do.
Get warm in two equal parts in the two bowls, one for cleaning and the other for rinsing the jewelry. Add the soap in the water, put in the pieces of jewelry to be cleaned, let them sit for a few minutes with the soapy water, then use the soft-bristled brush to wash your sterling silver pieces.
Keep in mind that the soapy water makes the jewelry pieces more slippery, and you could lose them. So, if cleaning them in the sink, keep it plugged. Gently scrub the jewelry, focusing on the areas around the gemstone to carefully clean out the grime while keeping the gemstones from falling out.
If you are worried that the toothbrush is too tough or hard on the silver or the gemstones, you could use the small piece of lint-free cloth as an alternative. The cloth would also be ideal for pure or finer silver than sterling silver.
Once you’re sure that the pieces of jewelry are well cleaned out, rinse them in the clean water in the second bowl. If it’s still slippery, rinse the jewelry under the sink. Again, make sure that the sink is plugged because you don’t want to lose valuable jewelry pieces down the drain.
2. Clean the sterling silver rings using toothpaste
Toothpaste is a great cleaning household agent, especially when cleaning jewelry made of sterling silver. The best part is that you could also use the toothpaste if the jewelry is made of delicate.
The effectiveness of toothpaste comes from the fact that toothpaste is abrasive, which means that if you choose the wrong type of toothpaste, you may end up damaging the silver or leaving scratches on the precious or semi-precious stones.
What this means is that you should avoid strong toothpastes with strong teeth whitening agents, as well as colored toothpastes. The best toothpaste to use is white, baking-soda-based toothpaste.
You should also avoid gel-based toothpastes because they have no baking soda and wouldn’t really clean the jewelry as they should. Other kinds of toothpastes to avoid are the toothpastes made for tartar control and ones made of other additives that make the toothpastes too strong and abrasive.
To get started, you need the following – baking soda toothpaste, warm water, a soft-bristled toothbrush or a piece of lint-free cloth, a microfiber cloth or towel, and some warm water.
Get some warm water in a glass or plastic bowl.
Apply toothpaste on the sterling silver piece of jewelry, but don’t apply too much paste. Depending on the size or number of the jewelry, apply pea-sized toothpaste or just any amount to cover the entire jewelry. Let the jewelry sit for a few minutes.
Next, use the soft-bristled brush to clean the sterling silver pieces gently, working with extra care around the gemstones. You could dip the jewelry in the warm water as you clean/ scrub the jewelry. Reach to the crevices and other hard-to-reach places all around the setting. When done, rinse the jewelry in the warm water and clean running water, then pat them dry, and store them appropriately.
3. Using clean silver polish to clean the sterling silver jewelry
The other way of cleaning the jewelry is using sterling silver polishing cream.
With this method, you’d have to first dampen the corner of the soft cloth or towel using the cream silver polish. Use the corner of the cloth or cotton with the cream polish to wipe down your sterling silver pieces.
Pay close attention to the gemstones and use very gentle, back-and-forth motions, going along and not against the grain. You should avoid cleaning the jewelry in a circular motion because although it may feel like a more effective way of removing the tarnishes, this motion leaves numerous tiny scratches.
Note that you would have to follow the specific product instructions for how long the cream sits on the jewelry. In most cases, this lasts 1 to 2 minutes.
When done, gently remove the cream polish to restore the sterling silver’s shine. You should use a clean, lint-free cloth to wipe down the sterling silver pieces, again, using very gentle motions, back and forth.
Bear in mind that the best way for you to rinse the gemstone-encrusted sterling silver jewelry is not just using clean water but also a dampened corner of the lint-free cotton or microfiber cloth. Once polished and shiny, don’t get the jewelry in close contact with water or soap.
These are the best cleaning methods for sterling silver pieces of jewelry with gemstones, and you will be happy to know that they all work well.
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.