Just kidding. Relax. I’ve talked to a lot of people about this, and they can get very stressed out about this stuff. Caring for jewelry is actually fairly easy and straight-forward. First, I’m going to give you the broad strokes, then I’ll throw in a few special cases.
The main principle here is that less is more. Start gently, then go with harsher methods carefully, and only as needed.
First, try not to get your jewelry dirty. Put your jewelry on after you apply your make-up and lotions. Most sad-looking jewelry isn’t “dirty”, it just has months or years of foundation, and hand lotion on it. (Maybe take your jewelry off before gardening or baking, too. I’m just sayin’.)
If your jewelry is a little tired, try wiping it gently with a cloth. A jewelry cloth is best, but any soft cloth (or even a diaper!) works well. Avoid anything scratchy like paper towels. (Also, don’t use a sweater or something that could get damaged if it snags— this one is from personal experience).
If you think you need to clean your jewelry, start with warm water. Just warm water. Also, make sure the sink is stopped up, so your heirloom diamond ring doesn’t go down the drain. Then just leave it on a towel to dry. You may want to finish drying it with a soft cloth.
If it’s still a little dirty, use mild detergent (like Ivory soap) and warm water. If you need to “scrub” it, use a very soft brush. A (clean) make-up brush is a great choice. Also good is a Water-Pik type device.
That’s it! See, easy.
How about storing your jewelry? Don’t just throw it in a box or a drawer. Ideally, you want to keep anything metal from touching other metal things. So keep rings from bumping up against each other. Either get a case where each ring has its own little bed, or put each ring in a tiny plastic or cloth bag (plastic lets you see what’s in the bag). Necklaces should be arranged in such a way that one part of the necklace isn’t rubbing up against another part. There are a lot of good choices available online, but a few pieces of cloth can convert a clunky (but pretty) jewelry box into a safe home for your jewelry. Think of how American cheese slices are packaged. Each one has its own little protective holder. You should give your jewelry the same respect that the Kraft folks give American cheese.
Okay, now for a few special circumstances. Firstly, pearls. Pearls scratch much more easily than metals and gem stones. Be very careful to use a soft brush as gently as you can. Also, the string part of a string of pearls can stretch out or attract dirt when wet. So be very delicate with it while it’s wet, and lay it out flat to dry as soon as possible (like an expensive sweater).
Jewelry with an enclosed compartment (like Chopard’s popular “Happy Diamonds”) should be handled with care, and not submerged for any longer than necessary. These pieces are waterproof, but why push the limits, right?
Getting your jewelry professionally cleaned (and, if necessary, gently polished) is a good option every couple of years, but only if they need it. Also, jewelry is pretty much never “ruined”. A good jeweler can repair a piece, polish or re-plate metal, and replace a stone.
"Quality jewelry-- especially designer jewelry-- is very durable. It doesn't take much to keep it looking great for decades." -- Art Faramarzi, Matter LA
One of the best things about fine jewelry is that it’s made from such sturdy materials. Some of the oldest man-made artifacts in the world are jewelry. Use common sense, and a “less is more” mind-set, and your jewelry will be around a lot longer than any of us.