Cleaning & Care of Your Handmade Artisan Jewelry
Cleaning and Storing Your Jewelry
In general, always remove your jewelry before exercising, bathing or sports. Softer stones (see below) can be easily scratched by harder stones, so they should be stored away from other stones. It is best to wrap stones in soft cloth or use a jewelry storage system that keeps your jewelry from touching/rubbing. Avoid piling up your earrings, bracelets, rings and necklaces - as you may be mixing very hard with very soft stones - which may then be scratched.
Never wear your jewelry while applying hairspray, perfume, sunscreen, hand lotion, etc. Wait until anything you have sprayed/applied has thoroughly dried/absorbed before wearing your jewelry. In addition, don't swim (or shower) with your jewelry on. Chlorine and salt water is bad for the large number of softer stones, in addition to being very bad for silver (sterling, filled and plated), gold (yellow, and especially rose or white) and copper. Note that natural hot springs can be especially bad for silver and copper, as many of them naturally have sulfur in the water, which will tarnish the metal badly.
You may ask why this is so important - many people leave their wedding bands on 100% of the time and there seems to be no damage, right? So I can do the same thing, right? Well, no. First, assuming the wedding bands have diamonds, those are the hardest stone on the Mohs Hardness Scale and will withstand a lot compared to the semiprecious stones I use for my jewelry. Second, it depends on what metal the wedding bands are made of. Most people have yellow or white gold bands, or perhaps platinum. Platinum can withstand the most, yellow gold can withstand a lot, but white gold is actually sensitive and can wear down so it has a yellow gold tinge (the rhodium wears off). So, while many people leave their wedding bands on all the time, each wedding set will have its own reaction to the environment. My handcrafted jewelry is not made with gold or platinum. The stones I use are semiprecious, and nothing is as hard as diamonds. So please consider this when wearing and cleaning your Handmade In Conifer jewelry.
Interesting fact: Most household dust contains Quartz, which has a Mohs hardness of 7. That means simply using a cloth to wipe dust off a "softer" stone may scratch it(!). It is much safer to rinse soft stones in clear water (using regular dish soap, if needed for cleaning).
The best way to clean your jewelry
Wash your jewelry with regular dish soap in warm (not hot) water (use your hands or a soft toothbrush to clean under running water, do not soak your jewelry), rinse well and thoroughly dry with a soft cloth. Be sure to rinse well to remove all soapy residue. Also be sure your jewelry is thoroughly dry before storing, as humidity increases tarnishing. Counter to folk wisdom, do not use toothpaste to clean your jewelry. Be careful not to expose softer stones to household chemicals or excessive heat. Ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended for my jewelry. Many stones have natural inclusions, are porous, brittle, soft, etc. This means the stones may wear down, fracture or break in an ultrasonic cleaner. Even "hard" precious gemstones such as emeralds must not be put in ultrasonic cleaners as they can fracture.
Please do not use ultrasonic cleaners to clean Handmade In Conifer Jewelry.
What Does The "Hardness" of The Stone Mean For Cleaning Your Jewelry?
When a stone is called "Hard"or "Soft" it is usually in reference to that stone's rating on the Mohs Hardness Scale. The Mohs Hardness score is a relative scale indicating a stone's resistance to scratching. A softer stone can be scratched by a harder stone. "Hard" stones are stones at the top half of the Mohs Hardness Scale. Diamonds top the scale at a score of 10. Other stones (both precious and semiprecious) are spread from the very hard score of 9 to the softest score of 1 (Talc).
People assume that means a harder stone can withstand much more than a relatively softer stone - don't assume that! For example - Emeralds are hard stones, rating 7.5-8 on the Mohs Scale. However, they have natural inclusions, which means they may fracture in ultrasonic cleaners or if hit just right. Diamonds are the hardest stone, yet they are brittle and can shatter if hit just right or go through extreme temperature changes. Compare that to Jade which is much softer than a diamond (6-6.5 Mohs), but is not as brittle so will (usually) not shatter if hit with a hammer (don't try that at home!). The point is, Mohs Hardness only tells you one aspect of a stone, scratching resistance, not the entire story.
Since you won't know the exact peculiarities of every single stone, even if you do know it's "hard" on the Mohs scale, the safest thing is to treat all of your stones as if they are soft and delicate - and to keep your pieces of jewelry from touching/rubbing each other to avoid scratching.
Unlike "hard" stones, stones on the lower half (<5.5) of the Mohs Hardness Scale are softer and will scratch more easily. More care needs to be taken when cleaning, wearing and storing so the stones aren't ruined or scratched. Soft stones on the bottom half of the scale will typically build up micro scratches from normal living (remember how house dust has quartz with a hardness of 7 in it?). This is normal and won't detract from the beauty of your stones.
Cleaning Porous Or Soft Stones
It's important to remember that the Mohs Hardness scale only tells you about scratching, it doesn't tell you other qualities, such as natural inclusions, how soft or porous a stone is, etc. This is why you should not soak your jewelry with any stones. Stones such as Lava are obviously porous to the naked eye. But most stones do not look soft or porous to the eye, even if they are. For example, pearl, opal, turquoise, amber, coral and onyx are some examples of stones that look "solid" to our eyes, but are either soft and/or porous.
Soaking in water can damage these types of stone, as residues left behind once the water has been absorbed build up, leaving them dull and lacking their original shine - and sometimes the stone may eventually fracture. Even when gently cleaning as described above, if stones get wet, they should always be allowed to dry completely before being stored away.