Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Sensitive Stones Cleaning


#1

If you are cleaning a piece with, say Opal or Emerald, Tanzanite or
a host of other sensitive stones, just what are you supposed to do if
warm soapy water (the recommended method) just doesn’t get it clean?
You know, down in recessed areas or in the cleanout hole behind the
stone.

The drag is that even with a clean toothbrush, scrubbing in warm
soapy water enough often spoils (at least a tiny bit) your perfect
mirror finish.

I have come up with using a compressed air gun shot through warm
running water in the sink to make a fake “steamer” and it works well.
If I do steam, I let the initial wet blast blow first before gently
steaming nervously.

But the question… when nothing else works and you bow to
temptation… which is riskier: leaving it in the ultrasonic until
everything is buzzed away, or limiting ultrasonic time and going
straight to the steamer?

Michael Babinski
Foxfire Jewelers


#2

I’m going to step out on a limb here, and I would like to preface it
by telling everyone NOT to do what I recommend here unless you can
afford to replace the stone you’re cleaning.

I have never, in more than 20 years of cleaning stones in both an
ultrasonic and a steamer ever had a stone be negatively impacted by
the cleaning methods used. I have put every fragile stone known to
man in at some time or another and never had anything break, or be
impacted by the cleaning methods (I can’t say the same thing about
applying heat to stones however–including stones like sapphire that
are supposedly “heat resistant”).

I generally try to keep stones like emeralds and opals in the
ultrasonic for a brief period of time (usually I hold the piece in
with tweezers and swish it around a bit for less than a minute). I
also have used a steamer in a somewhat similar fashion by trying to
direct the steam around the sides of the stone as opposed to coming
down on the top of it.

I think the bigger problem with these cleaning methods is that people
tend to (especially with the ultrasonic) dump stuff in and forget
about it for 20 minutes by which time something could have actually
happened to the stones. The other thing you can do is make the
cleaning solution in the ultrasonic as strong as possible so that it
cleans the piece relatively quickly.

I don’t know what other people use but we use ammonia, ivory liquid
and water. If I need a piece to clean up quickly because I don’t
want to let it sit in the solution, I’ll just add some extra ammonia
so the cleaning action is sped up. However as I stated before I
wouldn’t ever do any of this to a stone I couldn’t afford to replace
and yes, I have worked with some customer’s emeralds that were way
out of my budget range, and I never did anything but use an ammonia,
ivory liquid, water mixture with a soft brush.

If you brush the whole piece with the cleaning brush you can
sometimes achieve a slightly softer look to the metal that isn’t bad
and then it doesn’t look like a mistake because only part of the
piece looks that way.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
@Daniel_R_Spirer
www.spirerjewelers.com


#3
    If you are cleaning a piece with, say Opal or Emerald,
Tanzanite or a host of other sensitive stones, just what are you
supposed to do if warm soapy water (the recommended method) just
doesn't get it clean? 

Hi Michael;

You might try a couple things. First, Gesswein sells a “kit” of
various water soluble polishing compounds. These are much easier to
clean with soap and water. Another solution is, if you are using
conventional polishing compounds, soak them for a while in mineral
spirits or concentrated cleaning products like Mr. Clean, to break
down the grease of the polishing compounds, then just go back to your
soap and water. I often just swish a sensitive article around in the
sonic for a very brief moment, and there’s a difference between
steaming right under the nozzle and steaming the article lightly 8 or
10 inches away from the steam source. The point is, you don’t want
rapid changes in temperature. If the article doesn’t get hot, that’s
the point. Before I had a steam cleaner, I used to boil safe
articles in Spic-and-Span and water, then rinse in plain water and
blow them off with compressed air from an inexpensive small
compressor with a push-botton nozzle. Heat sensitive article I had to
soak in soap and water, then blow off, maybe soak again, etc. And,
you can always put aside the heat sensitive articles, turn off the
sonic’s heater, and clean them when the solution cools off.

David L. Huffman


#4

Before I do anything risky involving ultrasonic or steam, I try
Simple Green all-purpose cleaner. I’ve never damaged an opal (still
and always my favorite gemstone), Emerald (high on my short list of
favorites) or other sensitive stone with this cleaner. The best part
is that it’s biodegradable and non-toxic.

James in SoFl


#5

I agree with you, I have been cleaning all kinds of stones with
ultrasonic and steam for over 30 years. I have broken one peridot
once with the steamer, at least that’s what I think happened. I did
have a mexican opal that seemed to increase it’s cloudyness after
steaming.

I am gentle with all stones, especially emeralds, but that is
because of their value and a healthy respect for their fragility in
general. I like to use ammonia and Dawn liquid detergent with water
in my ultrasonic cleaner. I have a friend who uses Spic and Span.

John


#6
   If you brush the whole piece with the cleaning brush you can
sometimes achieve a slightly softer look to the metal that isn't
bad and then it doesn't look like a mistake because only part of
the piece looks that way. 

I use a cosmetic face brush with ammonia/water/dishsoap and have not
found that it harmed the finish on anything. It is so soft it does
not scratch.

Kay


#7

Michael,

I would suggest that you invest in an ionic cleaner. I have been
using one since September, 2004. I no longer use my ultrasonic at
all.

The ionic cleaner is safe for all stones, including opal and pearls.
There are no harsh chemicals and no offensive odors. It is also
totally quiet (unless you have the turbo model and turn on the turbo
for heavily soiled items like metal expansion watch bands). The
solution lasts almost forever and the cleaning time is about 45
seconds.

Only one caveat: Silver can somehow cross-contaminate itself if two
parts of an object are touching each other. I have found that I
usually get great results with silver by just swishing it around in
the solution for about 10 seconds with the power OFF.

After taking the item from the ionic cleaner I rinse it thoroughly
in running water, dry it with a hair dryer, and give it a final touch
using a good cleaning cloth such as Fabulustre or Stuller’s Ultra
cloth.

Del Pearson of Designs of Eagle Creek in Beautiful South Texas


#8

Well, I’ve also had good success carefully, nervously ultrasonicing
and steaming most sensitive stones (for 20+ years), and the
compressor works well too.

It’s more a philosophical question- which is worse. I tend to stay
away from steam with tanzanite because I have seen it heat damaged by
a customer doing canning.

By the way we use a commercial cleaning solution called Oakite BCR
which cleans like the dickens but has no ammonia smell- I hate
ammonia!

Michael Babinski