Even when it isn't as gross as you describe, I make a point of
cleaning incoming jewelry before I work on it. A used chain will
really stink up the place
When I started out making jewellery, I had no idea just how dirty
jewellery can get. You just don’t think much about it if you’re only
a jewellery wearer as opposed to a jewellery maker. I did routinely
clean my own jewellery with detergent and a soft toothbrush when it
wasn’t as sparkly as it should have been - but you just don’t think
much about it.
However, when friends and family learned of me making jewellery I
suddenly became everyone’s personal jeweller!!! Very strange indeed!
If I go and visit friends or family or if they come to me, there’s
almost always a request for me to clean or repair this or that or
make it smaller or bigger because they can’t wear it anymore. At
first, and rather naively, I would just go to work on whatever it was
- but quickly realised that any dirt which arrived with the jewellery
would just bake onto the piece if not cleaned off first. And once
baked on, it was extremely difficult to remove. That’s when I decided
to invest in my ultrasonic cleaner - one of my best purchases!
Obviously, now the first job at hand in such a process is a thorough
cleaning in my ultrasonic tank (as long as any stones are up to it).
If it contains stones which don’t “like” ultrasonic, I use the
cleaner’s heater and just dip and clean using a very soft
toothbrush, then rinse thoroughly. I do also make it a point to
mention to the owner that it will get thoroughly cleaned first
(they’re friends and family so they can take it) as subtly as
possible - so that they realise that their jewellery does from time
to time actually need to be cleaned. I get some funny looks as though
I’ve just insulted their personal hygeine and I then explain about
body oils, perfume, make-up, fake tan (one of the worst things ever
invented as far as I’m concerned - and NOT a good look!) and how they
can very quickly build up in the crevices of their jewellery, no
matter how clean they are, and that if I don’t clean it, the crud
will bake onto the jewellery and may never clean again. Okay, so I’m
maybe not as subtle as I could or should be? Their ruffled feathers
soon settle back down.
Decent before and after photographs of how filthy their jewellery
was might make them realise and perhaps they’d then attempt to clean
it before asking for it to be repaired. We can hope!