Jewelry can be expensive as well as represent the most memorable moments of a long relationship. Like a fine car, once it is purchased, jewelry should be maintained by annual trips to your jeweler. Here are a few tips we recommend you follow to properly care for your jewelry.
#1. Diamonds and Gemstones.
Every year, diamond and colored gemstone jewelry should be checked for tightness of gemstones as well as any stones accidentally chipped during the normal course of wear. It should also be polished to look as new as possible. Older jewelry with severely worn prongs and shanks (the bottom band) that have thinned, should be left for prong re-tipping and the replacement of half or all of the shank.
#2. Caring for White Gold.
White gold jewelry should be rhodium plated annually, and then polished, and of course any loose gemstones should be tightened.
#3. Caring for Pearls.
Pearl necklaces of all types should be restrung every 5 years, with knots, and the drill holes cleaned on each pearl by a professional re-stringer. Necklaces of colored gemstones, with or without knots, should also be checked to make certain the “nylon” string has not stretched and is ready to break. Every time a woman wears pearls, she should clean the pearls with a soft chamois-like cloth, to remove oils, perfume and hair spray that clings to the surface. Perfume and hair spray should be used and allowed to dry for 10 minutes, BEFORE pearls are placed on the ear, neck, wrist or hand.
#4. Checking for Water-Resistance.
Wristwatches should be checked for water-resistance, BEFORE taking them on vacation to a lake, stream or ocean. The movements of even quartz battery watches, and especially watches with mechanical movements, should be cleaned and oiled every 4-5 years. The watchmaker should mark the inside of the case with his initials and the date of restoration, as a history of repairs to the movement. The cases and bracelets of watches should be polished at least once every 10 years, or more often, and the public should be taught how to clean watch bracelets at home, especially if the watch case is water-resistant. Watch batteries should NEVER be changed while the client waits. The jeweler needs time to test the new battery and run the watch through water-resistant checks. The watchmaker produces a small slip of paper, showing the watch met all water-resistant checks after the new battery is installed, and this paper should be given to the customer and retained in his/her permanent records.
#5. Jewelry Appraisals.
Jewelry should be appraised for insurance, by a professional appraiser, one time, and then every 4-5 years, the owner should consult the appraiser to see if updates are required. As new pieces are acquired from different sellers, those should be taken to the appraiser and added to the client’s fine arts rider, attached to the home owner’s or renter’s primary policy. I like my clients to sit with me while I appraise their jewelry. After they depart with their pieces, I research the values and have the formal report with color photos in the mail by the next day. The jewelry insurance appraisal is not a casual report. It is perhaps one of the most important professional documents a client will own. A copy should be kept in a safe place, along with any laboratory reports providing technical data describing set gemstones.
#6. Repairing Jewelry.
When jewelry is left for repair, the jeweler should provide a receipt describing each piece such that the client will be able to identify the gemstone/piece when the repair is completed. This takes a bit more time, but is an important function provided by first class jewelers who wish to protect their clients’ pieces. These days, some jewelers provide photos to the client for each piece, as part of this process. During the “take-in” process, the jeweler should examine each piece, and disclose any problems with gemstones and make recommendations on what needs to be repaired and the cost. Most sales associates in most jewelry stores are not trained to identify gemstones at the point of “take-in.” Accurate gemstone identification is not easy, and requires years of training. However, the owner may require that the gemstone be identified on the receipt, and if that is the case, then a graduate gemologist must be available to make the correct identification, so the customer can feel secure. Sometimes the metal is not properly stamped, and accurate identification of the metal itself requires a longer more involved process. Pearls should be counted and their size in millimeters provided on the receipt. There are procedures for each type of jewelry that will protect the relationship between the customer and the jeweler, and assure the customer that their jewelry is being care for properly.
#7. Caring for Watches.
As described in number 6 above, the same issues occur with the take in of watches. Sales associates are not trained to open the back of a watch and identify the authenticity of the movement, case, dial, hands, crystal or bracelet. This must be done by a trained watchmaker. Especially in the decades where the public purchases watches from many dubious on-line and other sources, and takes them to jewelers for appraisal and repair, authenticity can only be determined after the client leaves and there is time for a thorough examination.
Part of the repair of precious metals is the ability of the jeweler to “refinish” their surfaces, and make them look new once again. This applies to mens’ and womens’ wedding rings, as typical examples. In some instances, the customer may choose a different finish.
#9. Engraving and Ring Sizing.
Customers should always point out engraving inside rings, so that the jeweler who is sizing the ring up or down, or just polishing the ring inside and out, can be cognizant of the engraving and protect it. Ring Sizing is one of the more complicated and sometimes frustrating parts of jewelry repair. The knuckle changes size due to aging, temperature, accidents, sports, and in general how hands are used over the years. The jewelry industry offers many solutions to sizing challenges, and it sometimes takes several efforts to get it done correctly. This is especially true when the knuckle is larger than the back of the finger, and sizing alone does not allow the ring to remain upright after it slides over the knuckle. Sizing is also tricky when the ring is designed and constructed with a hollow space underneath the top, allowing the finger to fit up and into the hollow space, making measurement-taking quite a challenge.
#10. Cleaning Jewelry at Home
The single most important issue is to receive advice from your jeweler on how to clean a specific piece. Diamond jewelry, for example, with no colored gemstones, no pearls, no enameling and no antique finishes (and yes, diamond wristwatches are excluded here also) may be cleaned with hot water and a toothbrush with any soap. A wire mesh drain protector should be purchased from any hardware store, in case a diamond falls from the piece during cleaning. If that happens, then the diamond will be found in the sink. Actually this is good, before if the owner can knock a diamond from a ring with a toothbrush, it was ready to fall out anyway, and in this way, it has been found and can be reset. To finish cleaning, rinse the soap off the toothbrush, and then wipe the soap of the top, sides and underside of the piece.