How to Clean Fine Jewelry at Home

How to Clean Fine Jewelry at Home

Sweat, dirt, and lotions can build up on your jewelry over time, affecting its beauty and sparkle. Silver will tarnish. Here are some ways to keep your jewelry clean without doing any damage.

How to Clean Silver Jewelry

Why does silver tarnish? What is tarnish? Sterling silver is made of pure silver and 7.5% copper. Tarnish is a product of a chemical reaction between the copper in sterling silver and oxygen and sulfur dioxide in the environment. This produces metal oxide, the product of oxidation, which darkens and dulls the finish. Brass, which also contains copper, and pure copper tarnish very quickly.

Genuine sterling silver will naturally darken/tarnish with time as it is exposed to air and moisture, body oils, lotion, etc. Before cleaning, make sure that your silver jewelry is not silver plated over another metal like brass or copper because plated items have to be cleaned with only the gentlest cleaners (Foam polishes with sponge.) Most non-plated silver jewelry will have .925 or STERLING stamped somewhere on it. Here are several methods I use to remove tarnish from sterling silver jewelry that has no stones or inlays or glued in elements, only silver.

Before and after tarnish removal from silver
  1. Silver polishing cloth: Sunshine polishing cloths come in several sizes. They are generally safe for stones, and are handy, non-messy, and don’t require any water. Silver polishing clothes are great for stiffer items, but not for objects that can’t withstand a little pressure from rubbing.
  2. Commercial silver cleaning cream/foam: Malco Products’ Twinkle or Haggerty Silver Foam are good options. Just follow the instructions on the package. I like these because they are very gentle and can easily remove all surface tarnish but leave antiqued recesses darker if needed.
  3. Baking soda and aluminum foil: If I’ve got a lot of silver to clean at once, this is an efficient way to remove tarnish in one go. You will need a saucepan lined with aluminum foil (shiny side up), baking soda, table salt and water. Add silver pieces you wish to clean to the pot. Add 2-3 inches of water, enough to completely cover the items. Add 1 tb. baking soda and 1 tb. salt per cup of water and bring to a low boil. Turn off the heat and watch as the aluminum foil darkens, and the items lose the black spots of oxidation. Remove silver items with tongs. Rinse each item well with clean water. Dry and lightly buff silver items with a soft lint-free cloth to bring up the shine. 
  4. Silver cleaning solution (Silver dip): Quick and easy, but not environmentally friendly, and a little stinky. I mostly use this for chains. Submerge your item in the solution for about a minute. Then rinse thoroughly and bring up the shine with a soft cloth.
Silver cleaning products 


  • After cleaning, store jewelry in airtight pouches with anti-tarnish strips/tabs, or in anti-tarnish bags. 
  • Silver should not come into contact with harsh household chemicals such as bleach, ammonia, or chlorine, or even water with a high sulfur content. 
  • Cleaning and wearing silver jewelry regularly will prevent tarnishing and help maintain its shine.

How to Clean Silver and Gemstone Jewelry

To clean a piece of silver jewelry that has gemstones, start with a method that gives you as much control as possible to clean the silver without touching the stone. Often, a polishing cloth works well for this. If not, try a silver foam cleaner and keep the product off the gemstones unless directions say the product is safe for stones.

How to Clean Gold Jewelry 

Unlike silver, gold itself does not oxidize or tarnish. The higher the karat, the more gold is in the alloy, so gold jewelry that’s 14K or under can oxidize a little due to the presence of copper in the alloy. As with silver, polishing cloths can remove the slight tarnish that may form on lower karat gold that is worn infrequently. But to remove soap residue, dirt and sweat:

  1. Mix a mild soap or detergent with warm water in a bowl.
  2. Soak the jewelry in the solution for about 5 minutes.
  3. Gently clean the jewelry with a soft nylon toothbrush, paying special attention to   any crevices or grooves.
  4. Rinse the jewelry thoroughly under running water.
  5. Dry the jewelry thoroughly with a soft, lint-free cloth.

Tip: For 14K and 10K jewelry it’s important to store the pieces as you would silver jewelry to minimize tarnish.

Tarnish prevention products

How to Clean Gold and Diamond/Gemstone Jewelry

Prepare a solution of mild detergent and lukewarm water.

  1. Soak your piece in the solution for 20-30 minutes. 
  2. Remove and gently brush the jewelry with a soft toothbrush to dislodge any dirt.
  3. Make sure to avoid brushing the diamond too vigorously to keep from dislodging the diamond from its setting. 
  4. Rinse off the solution and dirt and dry with a lint-free or microfiber cloth. Avoid using harsh chemicals or ultrasonic cleaners, as they can damage some gems. 

How to Clean Pearls and Mother of Pearl

Mix a drop or two of gentle, clear dish soap with lukewarm water.

  1. Dip a soft microfiber cloth into the solution and wipe down the pearls. It’s a good idea to follow these steps anytime you’ve worn your pearls directly on your skin to remove oils.
  2. Wipe dry with another soft cloth. Repeat as needed.

Tip: Some gems such as opals, cameos, shells and emeralds, are particularly delicate and require special care. Consult a jewelry professional for the best cleaning method for your specific gemstone