In this report
What we tested

Don’t spend to clean gems

Last reviewed: February 2011
Diamond ring

Rings and other pieces worn close to the skin can lose their luster, so they need to be cleaned now and then. Plenty of products claim to help—at up to $50 each. We tested how well three liquids and two ultrasonic cleaners worked on identical rings and diver's watches soiled with synthetic sebum, hand lotion, and hair spray.

All products performed about the same: For hard-to-remove grunge, we needed to use a brush. In fact, we cleaned off all the soils just as effectively with nothing but warm water and a soft toothbrush, and dried the jewelry with a facial tissue.

Bottom line

You don't need those products, so save the cost of a pair of earrings and follow these pearls of wisdom:

  • Soak plain gold jewelry and pieces with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, amethyst, or amber in mild dishwashing liquid and warm water. (Use a bowl, not a sink.) Clean dirt from settings with a soft toothbrush. Dry with a soft chamois cloth.
  • Buff pearls, opals, or turquoise with a soft, dry chamois. Never use water, which can damage them. Clean settings around opals or turquoise with a soft, dry toothbrush. Apply any hair spray, makeup, or perfume before putting on pearls, whose color can be changed by those products.
  • Clean silver with silver polish or a little non-gel toothpaste. Apply it gently with a damp sponge, rinse, then buff with a soft cloth.