Stone-set jewellery must be cleaned with care. Soap and water is the best choice for most gems; however soft or organic gems such as amber, coral, emerald, jade, lapis lazuli, opal, and turquoise should never be immersed in water for extended soakings as it may harm the polish on the stone – a wipe with a soft dry or damp cloth and a careful cleaning of the setting with a wet cotton tip suffices in most cases. Harder gems can be soaked in warm, soapy water for several minutes and then gently cleaned with a soft-bristle brush to remove any build-up of grime. If in doubt about a particular gemstone, ask a professional for advice, or have your piece of jewellery professionally cleaned.
For stone-set jewellery, settings may loosen over time. Tribal and ethnic jewellery may also be placed with gums and resins not normally used by western jewellers. When jewellery is worn over a period of many years, the only thing holding a stone in place may literally be grease and dirt. For these reasons, stone-set jewellery should never be cleaned in a hand-basin or sink, in case loosened stones are lost. Examine jewellery closely after cleaning for loose stones and take to a jeweller for repair if you spot them. This is also the ideal time to look for any cracks in or damage to your stones.
Beaded jewellery should never be allowed to get wet and should not be immersed in water. No matter what beading or stringing material has been used, water will damage and weaken it and cause it to deteriorate, leading to stretching or breakage. Commercial liquid cleaners are also unsuitable for beaded jewellery as they cannot be rinsed off and will leave a residue. Beaded jewellery is best cleaned with a soft dry cotton cloth, by gently bending the string over the fingers and carefully wiping between individual beads, or by gently and repeatedly running the string between the folds of cloth.
The spiritual “cleansing” of stones by washing them in hot or cold water or leaving them in the sun is not good practice. Soaking a gemstone in hot water, for example, can damage the stone, cause the colour to leach out of it, or cause it to fracture or break. Even leaving a stone on a windowsill to “cleanse” it in sunlight can lead to overheating and damage – amber and opals may be ruined in this way within minutes. If a stone is strung on a necklace or set as a pendant, it should be regarded as a piece of jewellery and cared for accordingly.