Follow the advice below to keep your newly purchased jewelry in top condition.
Cleaning: Know your materials
Natural crystals include amethyst, citrine, rose quartz, and tourmaline. Crystals are generally durable, but they can still break or get worn away by harsh soap and scrubbing, so make sure you treat them gently. Start by wiping your crystal with a soft cloth dipped in warm water. If that doesn't restore its shininess, you can use a more thorough cleaning method. But before you do, please check whether your crystal is porous or non-porous (for examples of porous and non-porous stones, see the Semi-Precious Stones entry below). Assuming your crystal is non-porous, start by mixing 1/2 cup warm water, 1 teaspoon rubbing alcohol, and 1/2 teaspoon detergent-free dishwashing liquid. Dip your crystal in the liquid and let it soak for 30 seconds to one minute, then rinse it off briefly under lukewarm running water. Dry your crystal with a clean cloth, and it should be good as new.
Bronze is a metal alloy made out of copper and tin. As such, it's hard and shiny like gold, but also sturdy and inexpensive. One thing you do need to watch out for with bronze is oxidation, which occurs when the oils from your skin rub off onto the jewelry and react with the copper. The oxidation produces greenish discolouration, but luckily you can easily wash it off with plain soap and water. It's best to use distilled water, which is completely chlorine-free, because chlorine damages bronze. Remember not to scrub your jewelry too hard when cleaning, especially if your item is plated bronze, because you could scratch the surface or even rub off some of the plating. Oxidation is most likely to occur on bronze jewelry that is tightly fitted, such as rings, rather than loose bracelets and necklaces. You can prevent oxidation from taking place by coating the inside of your bronze ring with clear nail polish, or by applying metal wax to the entire surface of the item. Both of these coatings will wear off over time, so you'll have to reapply them. Finally, it's very important to keep your bronze away from chloride chemicals, such as chlorinated pool water and the salt water of the ocean. These substances will cause a corrosion process to start, and the only way to stop it is to take your jewelry to an expert for repair.
Solid, pure 24 karat gold is one of the easiest metals to look after, because it won't rust, oxidize, or corrode. You don't have to worry about exposure to air, and you can even swim without concerns (well, aside from the concern of losing your jewelry if it comes off in the water). However, if you've purchased plated gold or anything less than 24 karat, you'll have to be more careful. Lower-karat gold is mixed with other metals, which makes the jewelry more affordable and durable (since 24 karat gold is soft and easily bent out of shape). But the mixed metals in lower-karat gold will also be more susceptible to chemical reactions, so make sure to keep your jewelry away from chlorine, saltwater, and household chemical products. Your gold jewelry shouldn't need cleaning too often; it's better to just wipe it off gently with a clean damp cloth so you don't damage the plating. If it does start to look a little dull, however, you can wipe your jewelry with a damp cloth dipped in soapy water, then "rinse" it with another damp cloth dipped in clean water. Since gold doesn't oxidize when exposed to air, you have several options for storing your gold jewelry: in separate ziplock bags, small boxes, compartments of a jewelry container, pouches, or wrapped in tissue. The most important thing is to keep the pieces separate from each other so they don't get scratched.
Lava stone is typically matte and porous, although it can be polished to a smooth sheen. If it's smooth and shiny, you can keep it that way by occasionally wiping it down with a soft damp cloth. With porous lava stone jewelry, you should avoid having it come into contact with liquids, since it will retain the scent of the liquid for several days. Some people see this as a benefit and drop essential oils onto their lava stone beads so they'll smell like their favorite aromatherapy scent. However, we don't recommend doing this if your lava stone jewelry is also made of metal, because the essential oils will damage the metal finish (especially plated metal). If you want your lava stone jewelry to last as long as possible, treat it the same way you would treat your fine gold jewelry: clean it occasionally, avoid exposure to pools, the ocean, and household chemicals, and store it in a safe place where it won't get scratched.
First, check if your stones are porous or non-porous. Non-porous stones include aquamarine, cubic zirconia, garnet, and topaz, all of which can safely be soaked in a mixture of warm water and mild detergent, then rinsed off under a running tap. Porous stones include jasper, lapis lazuli, onyx, and tiger's eye. Porous stones absorb any liquid they come into contact with, so never soak them in water, and avoid household chemicals because they will cause stains and discoloration. Simply wipe them with a clean damp cloth when they need it, then dry them off thoroughly with a lint-free cloth. Be careful not to loosen the stones' settings when you clean them. Check the settings often, and take your item to a jeweller for repair if they start to seem loose.
Silver oxidizes upon contact with air, so it will inevitably tarnish over time. You can slow down the process by keeping your silver jewelry in an airtight bag or container. A ziplock bag will do nicely. If your jewelry starts to look a little dull, wipe it down with a damp cloth. If your item is really dirty, you can also use a soft toothbrush dipped in a mixture of mild dish soap and warm water. Be careful not to scrub too hard, or you could wear off the plating. You can also purchase a special silver polishing cloth online or from a jeweller. Keep in mind that the cloth won't get rid of any scratches on the jewelry's surface - you'll have to see a jeweller for that. Also, the plating on silver-plated jewelry will inevitably wear off over time, so you will have to get it re-plated once a year or so to keep it looking its best.
Storage: Know your jewelry type
Now that you know how to take care of your jewelry based on its materials, it's time to find out how to look after each type of jewelry. After all, what’s the point of all that cleaning if you’re just going to let your jewelry get jumbled up in a dusty corner of your closet when you get home? Knowing how to store your necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings properly will let you enjoy wearing them for years to come.
Bracelets are often lighter than necklaces, so they won't stretch or get bent as easily. Still, it's best to store them flat to avoid this risk, and you should always keep them separate from each other (such as in pouches while traveling) so your precious stones and metals don't get scratched.
Those hanging necklace-holders may look pretty, but they can cause your necklace to stretch out or develop bends in weird places. But don't just shove your necklaces in a drawer either, or they could get scratched and tangled. Instead, lay your necklaces flat for storage; a wardrobe drawer will do nicely.
It's easiest to store your earrings in an earrings-holder so they stay in pairs. If you don't want to buy one though, you can stick your earrings through a length of ribbon, or place them in ice cube trays, egg cartons, or pill organizers. Clear plastic pill organizers are great for storing earrings and rings while traveling. When cleaning your earrings, be careful not to lose one of them (or one of their backings). If you're rinsing the soapy water off your earrings, remember to always plug the sink. Even better: fill a glass with clean water and swirl your earrings around in there to clean them off. Lastly, here’s a good tip for if you drop one earring on a deeply carpeted floor: use a vacuum cleaner with an old pair of pantyhose around the end to find your earring without sucking it up.
Rings are one thing you can store by hanging up: stick a bunch of thumbtacks in a cork board and use it to display your ring collection! You can also fill a container with dry rice or foam and stick your rings in there for safe keeping. Of course, the same containers that work for earrings - ice cube trays, egg cartons, and pill organizers - are great for storing rings too.
Wearing your jewelry: general advice
Stay away from water, especially chlorinated pools
As you may have noticed from the care instructions for different jewelry materials, almost all of them get damaged if they're immersed in salt- or chlorinated water.
Avoid contact with household chemical products
Your jewelry will last much longer if you keep it away from any substance that’s not pH-neutral. So apply your makeup, hairspray, lotion, sunscreen, and perfume first (hopefully not all at once or it’ll smell awful) and let the products sink in, then put on your jewelry for the day. As any jeweller will tell you, your jewelry should be the last thing you put on in the morning, and the first thing you take off at night. Remember to take off your jewelry before using any cleaning products too, like when scrubbing the floors or washing the windows (which let’s be real happens like once a year, but it’s worth keeping in mind when you do eventually get around to it). If your jewelry does come into contact with household chemicals, chlorinated water, or the ocean for any reason, try to rinse it off as soon as possible, wash with gentle hand soap and water, and rinse again.
Avoid contact with perspiration
Wearing your jewelry while exercising may cause the finish to tarnish, and worse yet lead to scratches or other damage.