Kudos to Orchid! As a retail shop doing lots of custom and repairs,
this issue has always been a thorn in our side. We just posted a
consumer oriented blog on the subject, you can view at
After reading all the good responses about cleaning that pesky scum
off diamonds, I decided to experiment with some of the methods
Started with an Art Deco platinum ring that had not been cleaned
properly in years, needed tipping & repairs that would most likely
darken the diamonds. Tried soaps, strong ammonia, TSP, heating, etc.
The only thing that really worked well was to boil the ring in lye!
Worked like a charm!!! I used about 2 heaping tablespoons of
powdered lye in 2 cups of cold water, stirred to dissolve the lye,
put the ring in the pan and brought it to a slow boil for about 40
minutes (safely outside, on my gas barbq). Cleaned the diamonds
perfectly and all the little cracks and crannys underneath!
I have questions for the experienced and/or chemistry/metallurgy
literate Orchidians. My goldsmith questioned the use of lye on gold
alloys and solders-- sodium hypochlorite, I believe. We all know the
issues of free chlorine with gold alloys. Will this lye technique
create problems with gold alloys and solders?
Next, while the lye presented no issues with diamond, what about
Would lye be all right with sapphires and rubies with no surface
reaching cracks of signifigance or glass fillings? What about other
faceted gems? I probably wouldn’t use it on emerald, because of the
oil/resin treatements or any of the porous gems like turquoise and
opal, but what about silicates like amethyst, garnet, iolite, also
aqua, and the like. When set in jewelry and worn, a lot of these
materials will develop a scum that is very difficult to remove.
I would appreciate feedback on these questions and the following
proposition. We do not charge clients for ordinary cleaning of
jewelry, but what about charging for extraordinary methods like
this. Does anyone have a good name for this type of cleaning,
something that will not insult the client but let them know this type
of cleaning is out of the ordinary? Time consuming and some cost and