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A wonderful gemstone is often the centrepiece of our jewels – think stunning cocktail rings and dazzling ear pendants – but wearing our favourite jewels can soon leave the stones looking a little less than shiny. Soaps, make-up, hand sanitiser and daily life all leave dirt and residues on our stones, and there are simple ways to remedy the situation. However, not all stones should be treated equal: many gems require a little specialist knowledge to keep them in tip-top condition.

The Easy Clean

If you don’t know what your stone is, or are in doubt about cleaning, then play it safe. Use a soft, clean cloth to gently wipe your jewellery. This action should remove fingerprints from stones and metals and help show off their lustre.

For reaching around stones, use a soft brush, like an old toothbrush or a paintbrush, to clean gently in small areas between and behind settings.

Keep jewels in different sections of your jewellery box or, better still, in the jeweller’s boxes or pouches they came in to avoid stones scratching each other. Diamonds, in particular, have sharp facet edges which can scratch other gemstones and metal.

Make jewellery the last stage of getting ready. Perfume, make-up and hairspray damage certain stones more than others (check individual stones in part 2 of the guide), but they are all bad for leaving chemicals and residues on our jewels regardless of the stone type.

Remember, all stones can break; it’s sad, but true. A knock to a jewel that corresponds exactly to a point of weakness in the stone (due to the stone’s toughness and/or its small fissures and inclusions) can shatter it. Minimise chances for stone breakage or abrasion by removing jewellery for activities like exercise (generally important for contact sports, but also particularly remove rings when using weights or gym equipment), cleaning, gardening and DIY. 

Check your setting type

Knowing your stone’s setting type helps you understand how to clean your jewel. When turning your jewel, can you see the front and back of the gemstone in its metal setting? If yes, it is likely your stone is set in an open-backed setting where the metal mainly wraps around the sides (girdle) of the stone. If no, your stone is set in a closed-back setting, as the metal closes around the sides and back of the stone with no obvious gaps. Many older jewels have closed-back settings because these settings provide a simple way of wrapping the stones in coloured foils to enhance colour and shine.

Jewels with stones in closed-back settings should not be washed or submerged in liquids as the liquid may get trapped behind the stone and leave a residue that cannot be easily removed. Open-backed settings, conversely, allow us to clean around the stone without having to take the jewel to a jeweller for unsetting.

Check each stone variety in our A-Z guide for specific details on washing jewellery. If washing jewellery, fill a bowl with water rather than using a sink – nobody wants to lose their jewels down the plughole!

Ultrasonic cleaners

The ultrasonic cleaner is a staple of the retail jeweller’s cleaning routine, but it must be used with great caution. This metal bath filled with warm water and solvent pulsates with ultrasound waves to knock away dirt from within stone settings and between metal details of jewellery designs. It also helps remove grease from the surface of gemstones. It is a quick and simple way to make stones look super shiny. 

Whether you own one yourself, or are leaving your jewels with a trusted jeweller, it is worth understanding the technique and specifying that you do (or, crucially, do not) want your jewel to go near an ultrasonic cleaner.

Diamond, corundum (the gemstone species that includes ruby and sapphire), chrysoberyl and most garnets – excluding the green demantoid – are hard and tough stones; if set securely in open-backed gold, platinum or palladium settings, these jewels can be cleaned with ultrasonic cleaners. Other stones are not as tough, or are more prone to fracturing, so should not be put in an ultrasonic cleaner.


• Follow the instructions of your specific ultrasonic cleaner, especially when preparing the ratio of water to solvent.
• Check the settings are secure – the vibrations can cause a loose stone to fall out. Hold rings by their band and tap the band with your finger; do this action close to your ear and if you hear a rattling take your jewel to a jeweller to have the loose stone reset.
• Only put in jewellery that is in good condition – sometimes it’s only the dirt that is holding a jewel together!
• Check your stones for any obvious fractures – surface-reaching fractures will be filled with the solution and the vibrations may force the stone to crack further.
• Only put in jewels with open-backed stone settings.


• Put in jewellery with closed-back settings – water may get stuck behind or have nowhere to go and push a stone out of its setting.
• Use for jewels set with stones other than diamonds, rubies, sapphires, chrysoberyls and garnets.
• Clean antique jewellery with an ultrasonic cleaner – older jewellery will have undoubtedly taken more knocks throughout its life and may have minute cracks that will not withstand the vibrations.
• Put in fractured stones – these stones are more likely to break. Emerald’s high likelihood of having surface-reaching fractures is the main reason this stone is an absolute no-go for ultrasonic cleaners.


Speak to our Concierge service for individual advice for your jewellery.

Contact Concierge


See our A-Z on individual stones for guidance on how to treat them.

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