Jewelry Care & Cleaning

So how do you keep your jewelry clean without risking damage? It’s easier than you think. Gold, diamonds, and gemstones can be easily cleaned with items you already have in your house: no fancy stuff required.

Here is our recommended cleaning method for just about everything. Get a bowl (soft plastic is best.) Fill it with tepid water and a little dishwashing soap. Put your jewelry in there to soak and then scrub it gently with a toothbrush or other soft brush. Rinse and pat dry on a nice soft cloth like felt (something without a lot of loose threads that can get caught in prongs.

You can get a lot fancier but this is a nice basic way to clean jewelry that obeys the primary commandment: first, do no harm. A touch of ammonia in the rinse water, or windex if you don’t have ammonia, will add sparkle to diamond and gold or platinum jewelry (but don’t dunk pearls or gems in there.)

Ultrasonic cleaners are great for easily cleaning jewelry with lots of nooks and crannies but they can damage many gemstones and the chemicals are not recommended for pearls. Basically these machines are designed for diamonds and metal only: if you have a lot of other gems, they may not be worth the investment.

You also need to be careful that you do no harm when you store your jewelry. Jewelry boxes can be a bad idea if they mean that all of the pieces are piled up in heap. Remember diamonds and rubies and sapphires can easily scratch other gems and all metals. Wrap pieces individually to keep them pristine, paying special attention to softer gems like pearls, opals, and tanzanites.

Five Jewelry Wardrobe Essentials

Diamond Stud Earrings

Every woman looks good in them, every woman wants them. You can't go wrong with a pair of diamond stud earrings. They will look as great (and fit just as well!) fifty years from now so don't skimp too much on quality.

That being said, you can't really see diamond color and clarity on the ear. Even jewelry industry insiders will often choose H-I-J colors for earrings. If you are choosing platinum, a G will be a little nicer, since you may notice the yellower tint of a lower color in white metal. SI 2 is just fine in earrings.

The mounting needs to be well done, since diamond earrings will probably be passed down to the next generation. Check to make sure the diamonds are held squarely and securely. A screw back post will keep them from getting lost.

If you have a platinum mounting, you don't want friction backs: the metal doesn't have enough spring in it for these to work properly. Some companies try to get around this by putting 14k white gold butterfly backs on their platinum earrings, which just isn't right, in our opinion!

So, now the hard part: how big? The classic size is one carat total weight, one-half carat on each ear. But be warned: these are serious diamonds, with a serious price tag. You might consider a third carat or quarter-carat on each ear. Not a huge difference in size, but a significant price difference. Of course, if you've got it, flaunt it. A carat on each ear will be noticeably bigger than people expect: it's a lot more subtle than a fur coat but definitely says I've arrived.

Round diamonds are the overwhelming choice for stud earrings. Those who don't want to follow the crowd also want diamond stud earrings, of course, but may choose a fancy shape like princess cuts or ovals.

For the setting, we recommend either 18 karat yellow gold or platinum: these premium metals don't add that much to the price and they will last a long time. Choosing between prongs or bezels (a thin frame of metal that holds the diamonds) is a matter of personal taste. You can also find signature stud designs with engraving or a rounded shape and other designer touches.

Diamond Solitaire Necklace

The diamond solitaire necklace became popular about five years ago when De Beers based an advertising campaign around it. Still, it's a good idea. It's the kind of jewelry that you just put on and wear every day, with everything.

The classic bezel set version that was featured in the De Beers ads is the most popular style: very simple and delicate. There is a reason this became an instant classic: it looks great on everyone. This style looks best with a fine gauge chain, usually a simple curb chain (interlocking oval links) that disappears into the neck.

To judge the quality, look very carefully at the junction between the bezel, the wire that encircles the diamond, and the chain. This is where these things break. Also look carefully at the chain. Since this is an everyday accessory, it will get a lot of wear (some women I know never take it off) and this is hard on chain. Make sure it can take it. The best length is 16 inches. This will mean the diamond will sit near the hollow of the throat, perfect no matter what kind of neckline you are wearing. Larger women may want an 18 inch chain will hang in a flattering v-shape.

Platinum or 18 karat? Choose whichever metal you wear more often (match your diamond studs, engagement or wedding ring, or watch).

This style of necklace works with a one carat diamond, of course. But because it is delicate, it will also work well with a one-half carat or one-third carat diamond. If you decide on a smaller diamond, you may want to choose a style with a wider decorative frame.

As far as quality is concerned, the same rules apply as for earrings. Diamonds with H-I-J colors will look beautiful and cost less. If you are choosing platinum for the setting, a G color diamond will be a little nicer, since you may notice the yellower tint of a lower color in white metal. For clarity, SI 2 is just fine

Gold Hoops

In case you don't want to wear your diamond stud earrings every day, you need a great pair of gold hoops. Earring fashions come and go but gold hoops are always a great look for day. Like diamond studs, they are always appropriate and work for women from 8 to 80. And classic doesn't have to be boring. Hoops are now available with beautiful textures and patterns in a wide range of sizes, from huggies (about dime size and usually wide and chunky) to baseball size (currently very trendy but sure to go out again soon.)

Since this section is about wardrobe essentials, not hot trends of today, we will focus on classic hoops from nickel to quarter size, which are always a good idea. And you want yellow or white gold not platinum. Sorry, platinum is too heavy for comfortable hoops.

Because these are three dimensional by design, a good pair of hoops needs to look good from different directions. Look at them in profile, head on, and three-quarters view. If there is a design, it should work from every angle. Consider ribs or twists.

The closure is important: look for hoops that have the catch integrated into the design, not just stuck on the back. And those little spindly wires that bend each time you put your earrings on will eventually break. One option for an integrated secure clasp is a hinge, which allows the hoops to just snap onto the ear. However, not all styles look right with a hinge at the bottom: this only really works for fat hoops.

You might also consider styles that have the extra touch of small diamonds: as long as the diamonds are small, they will still be versatile. The test: will these earrings be too much with a white shirt and jeans or khakis? For some women, hoops covered in diamond pavé pass this test. For others, anything more than a sprinkling of diamonds says evening. It's a question of personal style: everyday pavé is now a fashionable option.

Gold Link Bracelet

A well-dressed woman has a classic bracelet in her jewelry arsenal. Why a gold link bracelet? We could have chosen a bangle but in our opinion a bangle looks better in a stack and not everyone enjoys a noisy stack of bangles. But a great gold link bracelet works for anyone, no matter their style.

You can have a plain bracelet, with or without a charm or two, or choose an interesting link that looks great alone. Gold link bracelets also look great worn with a watch, so they are a good choice for women who don't like to wear a bracelet on their writing hand.

Think about how you will wear the bracelet -- loose or snug, on your right or left hand -- when selecting between links that are flat and links that are three dimensional. A snug flat-link bracelet will be more comfortable worn on your writing hand: it won't cramp your style. Generally the larger the link, the longer the bracelet will need to be to fit comfortably. If you are buying a bracelet online, try measuring a bracelet of similar dimension to make sure it is the right length. If you don't have a bracelet of similar dimension, make sure you measure the inside circumference of the bracelet with a string.

Which brings us to sizing. Link bracelets can only be sized in full-link increments, and some designs with mirror-image links must be sized in two-link units. Take this into account when choosing your bracelet: you may not be able to get the exact length you want (ask the jeweler for link dimensions if they are not available on the web site.)

Check the clasp: the best bracelets have an integrated clasp in the shape of a link. Bracelets should also have a safety clasp of some kind: usually an extra lever fastening doubly securing the closure.

Because this is a classic piece, we recommend yellow gold, unless you absolutely only wear white metals. A quarter-inch to a half inch is a classic width. If you like a bolder bracelet, you can wear a multistrand or cuff. Or a stack of bangles!

Cultured Pearl Necklace

Cultured Pearls are a classic: flattering to all women with a strong simple classic look that never goes out of style. Although inherently ladylike, pearls also can work with leather or jeans. The variables for a strand of pearls are:
1) the size of the pearls
2) the length of the strand
3) the quality of the pearls
4) the type of pearl (freshwater, Akoya, Tahitian, South Sea)

The obvious factors are size or pearl and length of the strand. Quality is also pretty obvious. The peculiar pearl factor is the type of pearl. Although the type of pearl may affect size and quality, there are also market differentials that are based on the type of pearl alone.

When you close your eyes and think of pearls, what you picture is a strand of Akoya cultured pearls: round white uniform medium size cultured pearls grown in Japan. A strand of Akoyas is the obvious choice for a first strand of pearls. For the classic look, we recommend 7-7.5mm (the most popular size) in an 18-inch length (also known as a princess length). A nice alternative is a longer strand that breaks apart into a shorter necklace and a bracelet (16+7=23 inches).

But this classic look in a fine quality Akoya doesn't come cheap. Think thousands, not hundreds. Rather than compromise on quality, a strand of fine freshwater pearls that are white and very close to being round will give you beautiful luster and the classic look at a much more affordable price. Think freshwater pearls look like Rice Krispies? Most people do, and this prejudice keeps prices of these pearls amazingly low.