Bits and Baubles: The Beginner's Guide to Gemstone Care
Gemstones are one of nature's most stunning creations. Humans have adored and treasured them for thousands of years, and they continue to captivate us with their beauty and allure. People love gemstones for their exquisite colors, unique patterns, and incredible rarity. For this reason, they are used in jewelry, decoration, and technology.
Gemstones are not only beautiful, but they also require care and maintenance to ensure they keep looking good. Different gemstones have different properties and, therefore, different care requirements. For instance, some gemstones are more durable than others, and some are more prone to damage. One must understand the properties of their gemstones to care for them properly.
The Importance of the Mohs Scale
The Mohs scale, created by German mineralogist Friedrich Mohs, is a system used to determine the hardness of minerals. Mohs ordered ten common minerals based on their ability to be scratched, with talc being the softest at 1 and diamond being the hardest at 10. Those above them can scratch minerals lower on the scale but cannot scratch those above them, while minerals with the same hardness will not scratch each other.
The Mohs scale is defined as:
10 - Diamond
9 - Corundum (Ruby and Sapphire)
8 - Topaz
7 - Quartz
6 - Orthoclase
5 - Apatite
4 - Fluorite
3 - Calcite
2 - Gypsum
1 - Talc
Bearing this in mind, the Mohs scale matters because it allows us to compare the hardness of different minerals based on their ability to scratch one another. This information is helpful in many fields, including geology, mineralogy, and engineering, where the hardness of materials is vital for their use and durability. In the context of gemstones, quality is often determined by their hardness and resistance to scratching, making the Mohs scale a valuable tool for gemologists and jewelers.
Gems with Treatments and Inclusions
Gemstones with treatments and inclusions require more care and maintenance. Treatments enhance the color or clarity of a gemstone and can include heat treatments, irradiation, and coatings. Inclusions are natural imperfections within the gemstone, such as cracks or bubbles. These imperfections can affect the durability and appearance of the gemstone.
In contrast, inclusions are the opposite of blemishes, which are external flaws on the gemstone's surface. Inclusions are often seen as unique and can add character to a gemstone. However, they can also affect the value and durability of the gemstone.
Cleaning Methods for Gemstones
Several methods can be used to clean gemstones, depending on their properties. The most common methods include:
Using Warm, Soapy Water and a Soft Brush
This method is suitable for most gemstones and involves soaking them in warm, soapy water and gently brushing them with a soft brush. Rinse the gemstone thoroughly and dry it with a soft cloth.
Steam cleaning is a fast and effective way to clean gemstones, but it is unsuitable for some. It is best to check with a professional before using this method.
Ultrasonic cleaning uses high-frequency sound waves to clean gemstones. It is a gentle and effective method, but it is not suitable for all types of gemstones. It is best to check with a professional before using this method.
Some gemstones require specialized cleaning methods. Here are a few examples:
Amber is a fossilized tree resin that is very delicate and can be easily damaged by heat, chemicals, and even sunlight. It's recommended to clean amber with a soft cloth and avoid exposure to heat or sunlight, which can cause the stone to become brittle and crack. Do not use harsh chemicals or solvents to clean amber, which can damage the stone.
Emeralds are relatively hard but can still be damaged if not cared for properly. They should be cleaned with a soft, damp cloth and mild soap, but avoid using ultrasonic cleaners or steam cleaning as these can damage the stone. Additionally, emeralds are often treated with oils or resins to enhance their color, so you must avoid exposing them to harsh chemicals or perfumes that can strip away these treatments and dull the stone.
Opals are delicate gemstones, so they should be cleaned with a soft, damp cloth and mild soap. Do not use harsh chemicals or abrasives on opals, as these can damage the stone. Opals should also be protected from excessive heat and sunlight, which can cause the stone to crack or lose color.
Pearls should be cleaned with a soft, damp cloth and mild soap. Do not use harsh chemicals or abrasives on pearls, as these can damage the delicate surface of the pearl. Pearls should also be protected from excessive heat and sunlight, which can cause the pearls to become dull or lose their color. It is recommended to store pearls separately from other jewelry to prevent scratching or damage.
Druzy gemstones are best cleaned with a soft, dry cloth to avoid damaging the tiny crystals on the surface. Avoid exposing druzy gemstones to water or chemicals, as this can damage the surface and cause the crystals to fall off. When storing druzy gemstones, keep them separate from other jewelry to prevent scratching or damage.
Aside from cleaning, proper storage is also vital to ensure the longevity of your gemstones. Here are a few tips:
Keep Your Gemstones Away from Heat Sources
Heat can affect gemstones, causing them to crack or fade in color. It is best to store them away from direct sunlight, heaters, or any other heat sources to ensure they maintain their quality.
Store in Soft Pouches When Not in Use
It's best to store your gemstones in soft pouches when not in use. This will prevent them from getting scratched or damaged by other jewelry or objects in your jewelry box. You can use velvet or satin pouches for this.
Ensure the Pieces Do Not Touch Each Other
When storing multiple gemstones together, you must ensure they do not touch each other. This can cause scratches or damage to the surface of the stones. You can place them in separate compartments or use dividers to keep them apart.
In addition to cleaning and storage, there are a few other things you can do to ensure the longevity of your gemstones:
Wear Your Jewelry Last
When getting dressed, make sure to put on your gemstone jewelry last. This will help prevent it from coming into contact with lotions, perfumes, hairspray, and other chemicals that can damage the stones.
Always Take Off Your Jewelry When Doing Manual Work
Manual work can cause damage to your gemstones as well as to the metal settings. For this reason, removing your jewelry before doing any heavy lifting or manual labor to ensure its longevity is recommended.
Gemstones are remarkable creations of nature and deserve to be treated with care and respect. For this reason, it's your responsibility to ensure that you take proper care of your gemstone jewelry, especially if they are one of the more valuable pieces in your collection. The tips outlined above will help you keep your gemstones looking beautiful and pristine for as long as possible, so following them is crucial.
Clark and Sons Gems has what you need if you’re looking for top-of-the-line jewelry with authentic gemstones! We offer various selections, including real sapphire necklaces, emerald rings, and tourmaline earrings. Browse our website today and take your pick!