Ultrasonic jewelry cleaners are the best things to use for cleaning your jewelry and gemstones.
Umm, let me revise that statement…
For cleaning some jewelry and some gemstones.
Ultrasonic cleaners do an awesome job on making your diamonds and gold sparkle, but understanding ultrasonic power and how it’s connected with the cleaning process will help you select the right ultrasonic jewelry cleaner, operate it more efficiently, and avoid damage to the jewelry.
Used properly, cleaners will make your jewelry look brand new… Which is why I highly recommend them (read: Are jewelry cleaners worth buying? As well as: Gemstone care and cleaning). The real question remains; what gemstones should you NOT put in the ultrasonic cleaner.
Here we go…
DON’T put these in cleaners…
There are plenty of jewelry items and gemstones that shouldn’t be submerged into cleaners. This is because the ultrasonic cleaners could harm, break, crack, fracture or dissolve those gemstones.
Doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true.
Even though it’s nothing but heated water, a little dish soap and high frequency sound waves…
But some gems are weak!
Don’t put these in the cleaner:
So now that you see the gemstones that should not be put in ultrasonic cleaners, let’s take a closer look at them. Starting with…
Opals are brittle gemstones that fracture easily to begin with. You have to be extremely careful when dealing with opals. Black opals are the same way.
And some opals are what they call “doublets” or “triplets“, where slices of opal (and maybe onyx) are glued together to enhance color and vibrancy.
The same with mosaic opals (see picture). Mosaics should be cleaned gently by hand. Those little opal pieces are glued together into interesting stained glass window designs and could crumble in the cleaner.
Opals have delicate fracture planes that run through the stone and are too delicate for the sound waves or the heat put out by ultrasonic cleaners.
Plus many opals are glued together, and the heat would dissolve the glue and break apart your stone.
Pearls are soft and erode easily.
Putting pearls in ultrasonic cleaners can actually dissolve their outer shell. Same with black pearls, freshwater pearls, cultured pearls, and of course, any dyed pearls like the new “chocolate pearls.”
Mother of Pearl
Mother of pearl is also the same way as regular pearls. Don’t put them in the cleaner.
Clean them by hand. Pearls are often glued into jewelry or glued onto posts. Most pearl rings put in an ultrasonic cleaner would dissolve the glue and loosen the pearl. Not to say, that the entire pearl and nacre shell could dissolve and look dull and ugly.
And then we have emeralds. Emeralds are softer gems that are often “oiled” and riddled with inclusions. (oiling is a process that fills in any open inclusions to make the emerald appear better). Ultrasonic cleaners can quickly remove that oil and end up fracturing your pretty little emerald.
Tanzanite is a beautiful blue-violet gemstone that is always heat treated. ALWAYS! Tanzanites are treated to enhance color, and heat from an ultrasonic cleaner can actually fade that gorgeous color. Beware! And since tanzanites are softer gemstones they can fracture in the cleaner. Clean them by hand.
Lapis and Onyx:
Lapis and onyx are fragile stones that can break under the heat of cleaners. Plus, a lot of porous stones like lapis and onyx are often dyed to enhance their color. Ultrasonic cleaners can dull them and shatter them.
The same goes for amber, malachite, turquoise, jade, coral, marcasite, agates and the rest of the list. These gemstones can fracture and break in jewelry ultrasonic cleaners. Cleaning them by hand with a damp cloth and a soft toothbrush is the best medicine.
What about diamonds?
Can’t diamonds be put in ultrasonic cleaners?
It’s hard to imagine, but there are some diamonds that should not be put in cleaners…
Even though diamond is the hardest natural substance on the face of the earth, they do have flaws.
It really is the flaws:
Those flaws and imperfections, if many, can cause diamonds to actually crack in cleaners.
If your diamond has a lot of inclusions running through the stone, then I would think twice about putting them in sonic cleaners.
Plus, many diamonds have been fracture filled or laser drilled to improve clarity (jewelers have to tell you if they are upon purchase). But the problem is, that fracture filling can dissolve and come out in the cleaner. It can make your diamond look really bad, and may even crack it.
Colored diamonds are also a big no-no to put in jewelry cleaners (like blue diamonds for example). Colored diamonds usually are enhanced by heat to bring out their color and hue. Ultrasonic cleaners can dull and fade those beautiful colors.
Costume jewelry is also not advised. Never put costume jewelry in cleaners. Most types of costume jewelry use fake, synthetic, or imitation gemstones that will crack under heat. And since most costume jewelry is glued together (like foil backs), the paste will dissolve, erode and more than likely, ruin your goods.
Tungsten is also a metal that should avoid chemicals and cleaners.
And also let me throw in watches. Believe it or not, I have seen jewelers put watches in cleaners. As shocking as this sounds, there is a reason. Some watches, like Rolex watches, are waterproof and can be submerged into liquids. diver’s watches are the same. As long as they are waterproof, and not water-resistant (big difference), you can do it. Also know, that if you have replaced the battery in your watch, or broke the seal or gasket, then your watch is probably no longer waterproof. Proceed with caution!
Personally I don’t recommend putting any watches in cleaners, Waterproof or not. I always cringe when I see jewelers do this. I would think the heated water would fog up the insides of the watch face and rust the parts… I wouldn’t try it. I would leave it up to the professionals.
Not too hot…
Do keep in mind, never get the water in the cleaner so hot that it boils. Boiling water is a sure way to crack just about any gemstone you put in the solution.
Also be careful about using the wrong type of cleaning solution in these machines, too. Anything with bleach, harsh acids or chlorine can harm precious metals and plating.
And always place your gems and jewelry in those little plastic hangers, holders, or trays that come with most jewelry cleaners. Never put your jewelry directly on the bottom of the metal cleaner. The excessive agitation can harm, scratch, and ruin your jewelry. Plus, it may even damage the cleaner itself.
Are they loose?
Also keep in mind that ultrasonic cleaners can loosen your gemstones and diamonds as well. Always check your stones for tightness after each and every cleaning. If you notice any stones are loose, take it to your jeweler to get fixed.
When the water in your sonic cleaner starts to look dirty, replace it. Cleaning jewelry in a dirty cleaner is like taking a bath in mud. Your gems won’t get very clean.
And when the water level starts to diminish or evaporate, refill it. Jewelry cleaners work best when maintained, taken care of, and cleaned.
Now if they would only make an ultrasonic cleaner that would turn coal into diamonds…
That would be an awesome machine.
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Author Richard Scott. Certified Diamontologist\Gemologist. 30 years of experience.
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