How to Clean Diamonds
Did you clean your diamonds today? If you didn’t, your diamonds are dirty. How do we know? Diamonds have an amazing atomic structure. They have the highest hardness, the best thermal conductivity and they are also strongly oleophilic. That means diamonds are attracted to oil.
Mining companies sometimes use this property to find small diamond crystals. The concentrated ore is washed over a grease belt. The diamonds are attracted to the grease while everything else washes away.
Oil is attracted to diamonds too. Diamonds attract the oil in your skin, the oil in creams and lotions, even the oil in hand soap. When your diamonds are covered with a thin film of oils, they can be a bit cloudy and sparkle less than they should.
Lab grown diamonds are diamonds, of course, so they are just as oleophilic as natural diamonds: their atomic structure is exactly the same and they have all the same physical, chemical and optical properties. That means you clean all diamonds, lab grown or mined, exactly the same way.
The good news is that it’s easy to clean your diamonds at home with things you probably have around the house right now. You might have heard that the Queen of England cleans her diamonds with vodka. Other people swear by gin. We think you should drink your cocktails and not clean with them. Our gemologists recommend a tested method to clean diamonds with the most effective grease-busting liquid you have in your house right now: dish soap!
Just put a few drops of dish soap in a bowl of warm water and swish it a few times. Soak your diamonds in the soapy water for about 15 minutes. (Why the bowl? We want to make sure that you don’t inadvertently wash any diamonds down the drain.)
After that good soak, you can leave your diamonds to dry on a soft lint free cloth. Don’t dry them with a towel, they’ll air dry just fine (they naturally repel water.) That’s generally all you need to do every week to keep your diamonds sparkling.
If you haven’t cleaned your jewelry in a long time, you may have dust that’s collected behind the gems in the nooks and crannies of your settings. If your dust remains after soaking, use a soft brush to loosen the grime so it washes away with a gentle swish.
Why all the gentle care when diamonds are so hard? Diamonds aren’t unbreakable: if you hit them sharply in the right direction they can split or chip. But the care is actually more for the setting and any other gems in your jewelry than for the diamonds.
Although gold and platinum are durable, they can scratch if you use abrasives. That’s why you should never use any polishing compound or even toothpaste to clean your jewelry. Much of the dust in the air is tiny crystals of quartz, which can scratch gold or platinum and dull its polish.
Over time, the prongs that hold your gems can stretch out of shape if they are often caught on the threads of a cloth and pulled. That’s why you don’t dry your jewelry with a dish towel after you clean it.
Diamonds and gold can also be cleaned in a home ultrasonic cleaner. The vibrations do the work of the soft brush, loosening grime. These cleaners generally use an ammonia solution that strips off grease like window cleaner. More harsh than soaking in soapy water, ultrasonic cleaners shouldn’t be used with delicate antique jewelry.
Jewelers often steam clean diamond jewelry, which helps them remove polishing compounds from the workbench. (Don’t try this at home.)
Cleaning Gemstone Jewelry
If your jewelry has other gems in addition to lab grown or natural diamonds, you need to exercise more caution. One of the reasons we recommend the bowl of dish soap method is that it’s safe for all non-organic gems.
Ruby and sapphire are extremely durable and can be cleaned just like diamonds. Emeralds can also be cleaned with the dish soap method but don’t soak them for a long time. Never put emerald jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaner.
Some gems require special care. Opal should never be subjected to heat or ultrasonic cleaners. Pearls, turquoise, amber and coral are porous and should be cleaned by wiping clean with a soft cloth. As a general rule, always put your pearls on last: never subject them to perfume, lotion, or hair products and never put them in the ammonia of an ultrasonic cleaner.
Caring for Your Diamonds and Jewelry
Although fine jewelry is crafted to last generations, it will stay new looking longer if you always take it off every night when you sleep and don’t wear it in the shower.
Always put it in the same place: a small dish next to your bed is perfect. When storing jewelry you don’t wear every day, make sure each piece is stored separately. If your jewelry box is a jumble of pieces, they can scratch each other. Diamonds will easily scratch gold and any other gem if you’re not careful. Keep items in an individual pouch if possible.
Don’t wear rings at the gym or when working with heavy machinery to avoid denting the metal.
Also avoid exposing your jewelry to chemicals, especially the chlorine in pools, which will gradually dissolve your precious metals over time and might even discolor the alloy. The other source of chemicals are cosmetics, lotion, sunscreen and perfumes, which not only leave a film on your jewelry but also can react with the other metals in your gold alloy.
For the same reason, always remove rings before using household cleaning products, which contain harsh chemicals like bleach and acids.
The two most likely places to lose your jewelry? Next to the sink and at the beach. Taking rings off to wash your hands can be dangerous: you can leave them behind. Or they can fall down an open drain. If a clasp breaks at the beach, you can lose a necklace. Waves can wash earrings without a secure clasp out of your ears. And your fingers shrink in cold water and rings can slip off never to be seen again.