You all have me scared with horror stories of not placing gems into
harsh chemicals, high temperatures or the ultrasonic.
Karla, used with reasonable caution, steam cleaners and ultrasonics
are quite safe for most items. The main exceptions are those
especially soft stones or highly heat sensative ones, but frankly,
there really aren't all that many materials you can't safely clean
this way. One main thing to avoid are chemicals like bleach (!) in
your ultrasonic, and a few types of jewelery don't like ammonia (amber
in particular). But if you use any of the commecially sold
ultrasonic jewelery cleaning agents in your machine, you'll be OK
with the vast majority of jewelery. Certainly, diamonds or harder
stones set in gold or platinum alloys will be just fine. With
softer stones like turqoise, amber, glued in stones like pearls, or
the like, more care will be needed. Usually this just means shorter
times in the ultrasonic (Only a few shouldn't go in there at all,
such as tanzanite, amber, softer turqoise, etc) In all but a few
cases, (apatite, fluorite, amber, glued in rhinestones, etc come to
mind), the steamer is safe enough. For softer or fragile stones,
hold the jewelery several long inches below the nozzle, and with the
steam jet on, slowly bring the jewelery up till it's close enough to
get the job done. This heats things gradually, so damage is avoided.
In a similar manner, simply be aware that there's a world of
difference, safety wise, between a ten second dip in the ultrasonic
tank, and leaving a piece in there to cook for an hour.
Cleaning jewelery does require a certain bit of knowledge of how to
do it. Not every method is safe for all items. But most jewelery
is easy to clean without too much worry, and most of the items you'll
see with that inner framework can easily withstand an ultrasonic or
steamer to clean them.
If in doubt, use a simmering pot of TSP. The traditional style
"boil out" method can be used for almost anything. TSP, or it's
safer alternative cleaning agents found in the hardware store (just
fine for this use, and safer), can be used with just about anything.
Some glues will be loosened, especially if they're a bit older. And
amber, turqoise, and fragile pearls (like mabe pearls) probably
shouldn't go in there either. but just about everything else will be
fine. 15 minutes simmering in there, and then a plain water rinse,
will clean most items.