The simple rule of thumb is to clean a piece of jewelry according to the limitations of its most fragile component. For example, it your earrings contain both pearls and sapphires, you should look for instructions on how to clean pearls. (In this case, use warm water and mild soap. Rinse and dry the piece thoroughly.)
It's a good idea to take your rings off when doing rough work. Even though diamonds are durable, they can be chipped by a hard blow. Perspiration and dirt can cause your jewelry to dull.
Bring your diamond jewelry to your jeweler a least twice a year to have them check your ring and other precious pieces for loose prongs and wear of mountings.
When you are not wearing your jewelry, put it in a fabric-lined jewelry case with dividers so they won't come on contact with each other (avoiding the possibility of scratching your jewelry).
Don't expose your jewelry to salt water or harsh chemicals, like chlorine bleach.
Don't wear your sterling silver jewelry in chlorine water.
The use of hair spray, make-up, hand lotions and perfumes can cause jewelry to dull. Put your jewelry on after you have used any of these to prolong their luster.
Store your silver in a cool, dry place, preferably in a tarnish preventative bag or wrapped in a soft piece of felt or cloth.
It is a good idea to bring your pearls in to your jewelry at least once a year to have them restrung. Normal wear tends to weaken and stretch the threads on which pearls are strung.
When you have your pearls restrung, make sure they are knotted between each pearl. This will prevent the loss of pearls if the string should break.
Don't wear your watch while swimming, bathing or doing, hot, strenuous work unless the degree of water-resistance was clearly specified when you purchased the watch.
Replace broken or scratched watch crystals promptly. Even the smallest crack can let in dust or moisture that can threaten its accuracy.
Pearls, coral and porous stones such as opal, turquoise and malachite should be kept away from oils, chemical and dirty water to avoid discoloration. Wipe them gently with a soft, damp cloth.
Ultrasonic cleaners should not be used with stones subject to internal stress -- tanzanite, opal, emerald, organic gems (pearl, coral and amber), turquoise, lapis, malachite and any stone containing major inclusions. Use warm water and mild soap, rinse and dry thoroughly.
Opal, pearls, coral, amber, turquoise are heat sensitive (both to extremes and sudden changes in temperatures). Do not leave them sitting in hot sunlight, near radiators, or in hot cars.
More Jewelry Tips ...
1. Avoid wearing your jewelry especially white gold in a chlorine pool or a hot tub. The chemicals may slowly erode the finish, weaken the prongs, and discolor the gold or sterling silver.
2. Use ? water and ? ammonia to clean diamonds and some colored stones. Dip the jewelry into this solution and use a soft brush to clean under the prongs. DO NOT clean the following stones in this solution: Turquoise, opal, emeralds, tanzanite, pearls, amber, coral and ivory, shell cameos, lapis, bone, horn, any assembled stone
3. Store your jewelry in separate soft boxes or plastic bags to avoid scratching the finishes.
4. Platinum is an extremely durable precious metal. It is resistant to tarnishing and discoloration due to chlorine and other chemicals but needs to be cleaned like gold jewelry.
5. Clean silver jewelry with a non-detergent soap and water, using a small, soft brush to clean under the stones. To remove tarnish, try a polishing cloth. They are charged with a cleaning compound just for silver.
6. Hair spray, perfume and perspiration can weaken the silk thread that pearls are strung on. The corrosive effects can damage pearl luster.
7. Should your pearl strand break, the knots in between each pearl will prevent the loss of any pearl. Knots separate pearls to prevent them from rubbing against each other.
8. Clean pearls only with a non-detergent soap, rinse and pat dry.
9. Place a piece of aluminum foil, shiny side up, on the bottom of a glass bowl or glass pan. Fill the container with a solution of boiling water and three teaspoons of baking soda. To remove tarnish, soak any sterling silver and good quality silver plate (the finish on cheap silver plate will bubble if it's soaked).
If you'd like unique jewelry created just for you, it can be easy to find a designer if you know where to look.
When you'd like a jewelry designer to create something unique for you, where do you look? There are several ways to find a good designer, depending upon the complexity of your project, your budget, and how soon you need the item.
To start, decide if you just need a sketch to take to a favorite jeweler, or if you'd like the designer to make the jewelry as well.
If you need only a sketch, ask your friends to recommend a part-time or full-time artist. You'll probably get the names of three or four artists.
Call those artists. Discuss your project ideas. A simple pendant design may require no special skills. However, if you're looking for something complex--such as ornate rings or bracelets--you may need an artist who has experience with jewelry design.
The artist will have a portfolio, or at least several examples of his or her art to show you. If you like what you see and the artist understands the important points of your project, draw up a contract.
Some artists work for a flat fee, based on estimated hours of work or a percentage of the retail price of the finished jewelry item.
Other artists prefer to set an hourly rate; if this is the case, be sure to get a firm estimate. That way, if the artist isn't able to create the design in a reasonable amount of time, you're both free to cancel the work.
But, in most cases, you'll want a jeweler to do the design work as well. This simplifies the project for both of you. And, some jewelers won't work with outside artists, due to the risks of communications problems.
What kind of jewelry are you looking for? Many jewelers can create any item with any design in any metal. Others jewelers specialize. Some work only in silver, or only with pendants and earrings. Others can work in silver or gold, with set stones, and with rings and bracelets.
If you're looking for a mixed media item, such as paper mache or a glass pendant, you'll look in the arts community rather than in the jewelry section of the local phone book.
But, let's assume that you're looking for custom designed wedding bands in gold. Even if this isn't what you have in mind, many of the steps in your project will be the same.
START WITH YOUR BUDGET
If the sky is the limit, you'll find the best custom jewelers among the luxury shops in any city. In Boston, this is Newbury Street; in Los Angeles, look around Rodeo Drive. In Houston, the best areas are Montrose, the Heights, or the Galleria. Every city has an arts district or an affluent section. Most jewelers in these kinds of neighborhoods carry their own jewelry, exclusively. For a price, they'll create unique pieces for you, too.
But, if you are hoping to spend less, there are frugal and affordable alternatives.
On a shoestring budget, there are two often-overlooked sources of custom designed jewelry: Schools and dentists.
Some high schools and many colleges offer fabulous courses in jewelry design and construction. The men and women who teach these courses are often highly skilled jewelry artisans who accept custom work in their spare time.
Or, they may refer you to one or more exceptional students, who will create exactly what you want for just a little more than the price of materials. The student will add photos of the finished work to his or her portfolio, and this looks good on a resume.
Art schools are another excellent resource for teacher or student work.
Dentists work with metal daily, crafting fillings for their patients. A surprising number of dentists are accomplished jewelers, too, pursuing this as a hobby. Ask your own dentist for a referral.
If you can afford a little more, approach jewelry stores in your area. Even though many of them stock commercially manufactured items, they may recommend local artisans. Just as clothing stores rely on the services of tailors now and then, jewelry stores sometimes need adjustments or repairs by a freelance jewelry designer.
Similarly, local museums and antiques dealers may be helpful. When they need a metal item repaired or restored, they often call a jeweler with experience in custom work.
Once you've located a few designers in your price range, the next issue is the metal they use.
SILVER AND GOLD
Some jewelers work with less expensive metals such as copper, bronze, and silver. Although the techniques are generally the same with gold or silver, your designer should be familiar with the metal that you want.
Further, special equipment may be necessary. Gold can be worked with hammers and other hand tools, but the design that you envision may need to be cast. Casting metal, especially gold, is a very different process from a simple hammered or even an engraved band.
Likewise, a jeweler who can cut the date of your wedding inside a wedding band, may not be competent enough to engrave intricate Celtic knots around the outside of it.
When inquiring about these kinds of things, it's important to remember that jewelers are artists. Avoid asking if the artisan is "good enough" to accomplish a certain type of design. Instead, ask if he or she has experience with the kind of work that you have in mind, or if the artisan is comfortable with this.
If you have no idea how complex your idea is, tell the jeweler that, and agree to take this project one step at a time. If you need a referral after all, it may be an issue of specialization and tools, not skill.
START WITH GENERAL IDEAS
If you have a very clear design in mind, show the designer a sketch if you can. Artistic skill is not necessary; you're just explaining what you do and don't like.
When you visit a hair stylist for the first time, it's routine to show photos of styles that you do and don't like. Similarly, even if you have a good sketch of the jewelry you'd like designed, it's a good idea to bring actual jewelry or magazine photos as examples. There are magazines dedicated to jewelry, and many lifestyle and fashion magazines feature jewelry regularly.
Discuss exactly what you're looking for. Be as specific as you can. This makes the designer's job easier, and it will take less time. This means a lower price for the finished item, too.
In some cases, especially if stones will be set in the finished piece, your design ideas may not work. The jeweler can advise you on this. At certain angles, and with softer metals such as gold, a setting may not be secure.
Keep in mind that some work, especially in white gold, cannot be changed once it's created. Many silver and gold projects can be melted down and the metal reused, but don't rely on this. If the piece isn't what you'd hoped for and the problems started with your too-vague description, you may have to pay for the wasted time and materials.
On the other hand, if the jeweler has his own shop, he may be able to put the piece on display and sell it. If so, you may have to pay a restocking fee and that's all. It's important to establish this option from the start.
But, before the designer begins construction, the preliminary sketch should show exactly what you want.
WHEN CONSTRUCTION BEGINS
Since we're discussing gold wedding bands, there are two very important points to consider before selecting the final design and the gold for it.
First of all, be sure that your future spouse agrees to the design. If the band will be especially tall, wide, or ornate, have your partner try on a similar ring.
More than one ring project has been abandoned because the finished ring was uncomfortable, or the detailing snagged on things during the spouse's daily routine. The latter is especially common when someone works with his or her hands, whether it's machine work or sewing.
Next, the quality and color of gold can be important. Gold comes in different karats, or; outside the U.S., this is spelled "carats" and it means the same thing.
The karat number refers to the purity of the gold, which is the ratio of gold to other metals that change its hardness and color. 24-karat gold is pure gold. It is lovely to look at, but it is very soft.
A 24-karat gold wedding ring isn't practical. It will change shape due to body heat, becoming less round under pressure from the fingers on either side. Any detailing will wear down as it rubs against your fingers, clothing, and so on. In fact, the ring may simply wear through and break after a few years.
By contrast, a 12-karat gold ring can last for many generations. It's not unusual for someone to wear a 12- or 14-karat gold ring that belonged to a great-grandparent, or from an even earlier era.
However, some people don't feel that the color of 12-karat gold is "gold enough." So, 14-karat gold is most popular for wedding rings. 18-karat is not as durable, but it's a fine alternative.
WHEN THE RINGS ARE READY
After you've agreed upon the design and the gold in it, your jeweler will create your rings.
In some cases, he or she may make the ring in silver first, especially if you weren't certain about some design elements. But, most jewelers will work directly in gold.
When the rings are ready for you to pick up, be prepared for them to feel a little small. If the band is wide, this is normal; wide bands feel more snug than narrow ones, even when the fit is perfect.
Also, if you aren't accustomed to wearing a ring on that finger, or if you're trying on the rings at the end of the day when your hands can be a little puffy, the ring may feel too tight.
But, cautious jewelers routinely make rings slightly small. Almost any ring can be enlarged; it can be impossible to make a ring smaller.
If your ring needs to be made larger, this can be accomplished in a matter of minutes. The jeweler may hammer the ring gently, or use a tool that stretches the size. He or she will enlarge the ring a little at a time until you are happy with the size of it.
AFTER THE PURCHASE
In most cases, you will take your rings home and live happily ever after.
However, additional sizing may be necessary. If you gain or lose weight, your rings may need adjustment.
If the design or the setting around a stone catches on your clothing, this can usually be fixed in a matter of minutes. If a stone seems loose, get it repaired immediately.
Whether you return to the jeweler for additional work or not, it's nice to go back months later and thank the jeweler for the work. Jewelers are like any other artists, and they like to know that they did a good job.
Having a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry is enormously satisfying, especially when you were part of the design process. Once you find a jewelry designer whose work you like, you'll probably return for many additional custom pieces.
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