Antique & Vintage Jewelry Care Guide

We lead active lives today, and are busy doing all sorts of things that we wouldn’t have if we lived 100 years ago. We want to help preserve your antique gems so they become heirlooms for the next generation so we put together this hand-y antique jewelry care guide. 

General Care & Upkeep

Do Not:

  • Wear your ring if you are going rock climbing, doing construction projects or doing any heavy lifting at the gym.  If you bang your hand or squeeze a barbell too hard, it’s possible for rings to get bent out of shape, and for stones to become loose or compromised.
  • Wear your ring if you are coming into contact with strong chemicals. Many gemstones and some metals can be affected by harsh chemicals in household cleaning products or even swimming pools. Did you forget to take your ring off? Rinse it thoroughly in clean water to halt any reactions that are taking place.

  • Wear your ring if you are going to be spending the day in water. Fingers tend to contract or get skinnier when we are swimming in the ocean (or in cold lake water) and we risk the chance of our ring slipping off into the abyss.  Also, saltwater is not good for our heirlooms, so do rinse with clean water if they are accidentally splashed by a wave or two. 

  • Sleep in your long dangly earrings. As tempting as it may be to visualize waking up with glamorous earrings and your hair just the right amount of messy, the hard truth is that your hair will never be perfect, and you will probably squish your earrings.  

  • Place your lovely antique jewelry in an Ultra Sonic cleaner. They can be great for modern jewelry but are not recommended for antiques. 

  • Wear your ring if are doing something messy. Because cookie dough definitely won’t make that diamond sparkle more, and it can be hard to clean it out of all the tiny details in your ring. Please don’t paint your house in your nice jewelry, either!


  • Examine your ring periodically for signs of loose stones and bent or broken prongs. 
  • Hold one ring at a time up to your ear and gently tap it. If you hear any rattling or if you notice anything out of place, stop wearing it and get yourself to Gray & Davis ASAP so we can fix it.

  • Feel free to bring us your ring any time it needs a thorough, professional cleaning.  We have these “Dos and “Don’ts” down pat.

Care and Cleaning of Specific Materials


Gold: No special care is required to keep gold looking great! Clean with mild dish soap or commercial jewelry cleaners and avoid harsh chemicals.

Platinum: No special care is required to keep platinum looking great! Clean with mild dish soap or commercial jewelry cleaners and avoid harsh chemicals.

Silver: Silver tarnishes over time or when exposed to things with lots of sulfur in them, like eggs or rubber bands (who knew?).Remove tarnish with commercial jewelry cleaners or silver polish, avoid harsh chemicals.  If your silver jewelry has a gemstone in it, avoid getting the silver polish on the stone.

Cut-Steel: Cut steel can rust when exposed to moisture for long periods of time, so if it gets wet give it a chance to dry thoroughly before putting away.  Sometime steel wool or crinkled up tinfoil (gently applied) can remove minor rust spots.


Diamond: Diamonds stand up well to daily activities. They are the strongest material on earth; however they are not invincible and too can be broken, or chipped.  Clean with water and mild soap (our favorite is the liquid orange Dial soap), or commercial jewelry cleaner. Steam cleaners ok.

Ruby/Sapphire: Rubies and sapphires are different varieties of the same mineral species (corundum). Both of these stones stand up well to daily activities. Clean with water and mild dish soap, or commercial jewelry cleaner.  If the gemstone has already been heat treated, steam cleaners are okay. If the ruby or sapphire is unheated- AVOID steam and extreme temperature changes as you could change the color and value of the gemstone.

Emerald: Avoid harsh and abrasive chemicals. Avoid ultrasonic and steam cleaners. Clean with water and mild soap, or use commercial jewelry cleaner that specifically states it is safe for “delicate” gemstones.

Garnets, Topaz, Aquamarine, Tourmaline, Amethyst, Citrine, Quartz and all varieties of Chalcedony: Avoid harsh and abrasive chemicals. Avoid steam cleaners. Clean with water and mild soap or commercial jewelry cleaner.

Pearls, Shell, Coral, Opals, Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli, Peridot, Moonstone, and glass “paste” stones:  Avoid contact with even mild household cleaners and beauty products when possible. Avoid ultrasonic and steam cleaners. Clean with warm water and soft cloth, or use commercial jewelry cleaner that specifically states it is safe for “delicate” gemstones.  Remember the old saying about pearls; “They should be the last thing put on and the first thing you take off.”

Cameos, Intaglios & Other Carved Gemstones: Avoid ultrasonic cleaning no matter the material, it may chip delicate carvings. Clean with mild soap and a very soft bristled brush (we suggest a child’s toothbrush). 


There are many types of enamel; Swiss enamel, cloisonné’, plique a jour, guilloche, etc. Besides being lovely, there is one thing that all enamel jewelry has in common, it is fragile and can scratch easily. Extra care and mindfulness is important when wearing to prevent damage.  Clean gently with a soft damp cloth. 

Special considerations for jewelry with closed-back settings and foiled gemstones

If you’re lucky enough to own one of these collectable pieces avoid getting it wet. (Remember what happened in Gremlins!) Most gemstone rings, earrings, and necklaces made prior to 1830 and many made after have “closed-back” settings, meaning that the pavilion and sides of a gemstone are entirely encased in a little metal cup. Usually, a small piece of foil is inserted in between the gemstone and the metal backing to help it reflect light. When water gets trapped in the little space with the foil, the foil can discolor and make the gemstone appear cloudy and dull. Sometimes, it IS possible to re-foil a piece that has gotten wet, but it’s never a guarantee that it can be returned to its pre-shower/rainstorm appearance.

If your ring or brooch has a painted miniature or hair-work under glass, water can cause permanent damage, so reserve jewelry with these details for special occasions and take rings off when you wash your hands!


Jewelry can get tangled up and scratched if it is stored in a jumble. Try to give each of your rings their own special place, whether that is its own section of a jewelry box or an individual pouch or container.

Any further questions? Give us a call at (212) 719-4698, or send an email to