Martin Rees, Jeweller and Pawnbroker

Cleaning and Polishing Jewellery

This is actually fun!  It's great to take a dirty, dull piece of jewellery and make it shine like new.  It's important to follow these instructions, so you may want to also visit our Printer friendly version to have a printout available while you do the job (it will open in a new tab).

The stages

Bad cleaning can ruin jewellery.

Be careful, you could damage your jewellery

If your jewellery is valuable take it to a jeweller's shop.  If you have any doubts, stop right now!
Check our list of stones, do not use cleaning processes which could damage them.  We don't charge for the advice here.  We can't pay compensation if something goes wrong.

Examine the jewellery

  If you can see any damage, either cracks in the gems or damage to the mount - don't clean it.  You might make things worse.  Seek expert advice from a jeweller.
Make certain stones are secure before cleaning - a lost gem will be expensive to replace.

What you need

Don't use Power Tools.

They are too powerful.  They can damage jewellery, or worse, injure the user.
Our staff do use them, but they have proper training before they are allowed to work unsupervised.

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Initial Cleaning

We see a lot of jewellery. Quite often it just doesn't look good.  There's so much dirt on it, it makes the stones look dull, and even the metal loses its lustre.
Check the gems against our list.  Can they stand soaking in water, and how hot?  If you can soak the piece, this will soften the dirt, making it easier to remove.  If there are no gems, then obviously you can use hot water to soak the jewellery.

Soak the jewellery

If any gems must not be soaked, or charms have a paper insert, go straight to the scrubbing stage.  Otherwise loosen the dirt by soaking the jewellery for 15 minutes.  Use very hot water, by this we mean water which has been boiled then allowed to stand for about 10 minutes.  Don't use boiling water, as it could aggravate unseen flaws already present in your jewellery.
If the piece includes heat sensitive gems then soak the piece in the hottest water which won't damage the stones.
Add a splash of washing up liquid, and let the piece soak for 15 minutes, then rinse.

Scrub it clean

Using a brush to clean a chain

Take the brush, some washing up liquid, and a little water. Work the brush and some detergent into all the crevices, taking special care to clean behind the stones (it's amazing how much dirt accumulates there). Then rinse off, and dry on a tea towel.
Chains and charm bracelets (assuming none of the charms will be damaged by water):  let them form a heap in the palm of one hand, then work the brush with some washing up liquid and a little water into them as thoroughly as possible. Keep on until the water comes off clean - it will eventually! If the chain feels stiff, and won't fold into the palm of your hand, don't force it as that could damage the chain.  Just place one piece at a time across your hand, and concentrate on that section.  Finally rinse carefully, and dry.

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Polishing the Jewellery

Gold on silver should be treated like gold, until the plating wears off.  Other plated items and costume jewellery can be damaged by polishing, so leave them alone.
Only polish items which should have a shiny surface. If the piece has a matt or satin finish;  do not polish, but you can remove discolouration with a soft eraser.  Scratches cannot be treated at home.  If you want the finish restored, take it to a jeweller.


This metal is too hard to polish at home.  However this hardness means it will last for years before losing its shine.  When it needs re-polishing, take it to a jeweller.


Yellow or red gold won't tarnish under normal conditions.  However certain chemicals - some used in medicines, others in products like bleach - will cause discolouration.  You can't deal with this problem at home, your jeweller can help.
With time, white gold may turn yellow; again seek help from your jeweller.
In normal wear gold gets scratched.  Rub steadily with a Silver (or Jewellery) Polishing Cloth, and its appearance will be somewhat improved.  However you will not be able to achieve the brilliant polish of a new item.  If you want the item restored to that condition, take it to your jeweller.

Hand polishing a gold ring These polishing cloths really work, we use them in our shop.


Silver does tarnish under normal conditions, so first we must remove this tarnish. A few pieces are deliberately 'Antiqued' by blackening some parts; clearly removing this darkening would ruin the effect, so these pieces should simply be rubbed with a Silver Polishing Cloth to restore the highlights
Silver dip is the easiest way to remove tarnish. If possible leave the item to soak for just a few minutes.  If the stones shouldn't be immersed in Silver Dip or the piece is too large to fit in the jar, just rub the Dip on to the piece using your brush, it takes a bit longer but the results are just as good. When the tarnish has been removed, carefully rinse off all the Silver Dip.  As mentioned before, do not use this product if the silver has a matt finish.
Finally rub the piece with a Silver Polishing Cloth, and you will restore its sheen. As with gold, you'll never get quite the same results as when the piece was new.  If you so desire, your jeweller can renew the item; however many consider the patina which develops on hand-polished silver to be very pleasing.  It's normally unwise to get antique silver polished.

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home cleaning kit

Home cleaning kit: washing up liquid, a polishing cloth, and Silver Dip

Gems - what may damage them

Check carefully, these warnings could save your money!  The list is not comprehensive - if your jewellery contains other gems, research elsewhere, or get the item cleaned professionally.  Seek advice from a jeweller if you cannot identify the gems.
Be alert for coated gemstones - see the warnings about cleaning them further down this column.  Remote sellers often fail to make clear their products include coated stones.  If the gem colours are unusual or they have unusual names (like 'Mystic') they may well be coated.  If you have any doubts follow the supplier's advice on cleaning carefully, or seek help from a competent jeweller.

Gems needing special care:

Turquoise, don't soak in anything. It is porous. In addition grease will discolour turquoise - this includes grease from your skin, or from the washing-up.  Most modern material is impregnated with resin, which makes it less porous.  But err on the safe side.
Rubies, fracture filled with lead glass, ideally seek the supplier's advice.   If not available, proceed with caution as the stones are easily damaged.  Brushing with luke-warm water should be safe, possibly with a drip of detergent if the stone is greasy.  If really dirty, it may be better to risk soaking than repeated brushing.  Do not expect these treated stones to last as long as real rubies.
Marcasites, an iron compound, so they rust in water. The cement which secures them deteriorates with age. Clean the piece gently with a brush, avoiding contact with the stones as much as possible.  Eventually some stones will be lost, so take the item to a jeweller and get the stones replaced.
PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) - Coated Gemstones:   Do not attempt to polish the jewellery, that includes using a polishing cloth.  Soak in warm water, and clean the stones with a very soft brush.  Finally dry on a paper towel.
Iridescent stones will be spoilt if the back is not thoroughly clean, make sure there is no grease on the back, and if the setting makes drying difficult give a final rinse in de-ionised water as deposits in tap water will mar the effect.

Safe in anything:

Safe in lukewarm but not very hot water, safe in Silver Dip:

Safe in lukewarm water, do not soak in Silver Dip:

Don't soak in anything:

Don't get these wet:

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How our shop cleans jewellery

An ultrasonic tank Our ultrasonic tank - hot water and ultrasonic sound softens and shakes the dirt off, it also gives a slight polish to gold and silver.

An industrial polishing machine
An electric polisher really makes gold shine, but its use requires skill - lose control and the ring flies away at 60mph!  We also use a powerful filtering system to keep the air clean.  The user must wear safety goggles.
That is why a jeweller can make your jewellery look as good as new.  You can't hope to achieve such good results at home.  But even so, you'll be delighted with the results you can achieve.