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Caring for your Gemstones

 

As with any of your prized possessions, a mounted gemstone also requires utmost care and attention. If the gemstone is set in a ring or pendant or any other form of jewelry, it would require regular cleaning after some time.

 


How much care does my gemstone need?


In general, the amount of care you need to take of a gemstone is governed by durability of the gemstone. Durability encompasses factors such as Hardness, toughness, stability and brittleness.

 


Hardness:


The hardness value of various minerals was given by Friedrich Mohs in 1822 in the Mohs’ scale of hardness, which is a relative scale of hardness or resistance to abrasion by various minerals. In devising this scale, Mohs chose ten fairly common minerals and assigned them values from 1 to 10. The minerals are:


1.    Talc
2.    Gypsum (Alabaster)
3.    Calcite
4.    Fluorite
5.    Apatite
6.    Orthoclase (Feldspars)
7.    Quartz (Amethyst/Citrine/Rock Crystal)
8.    Topaz
9.    Corundum (Ruby/Sapphire)
10.    Diamond


According to this scale any mineral which has a higher number on Mohs’ scale can scratch any mineral having lower number than itself. This means that Corundum (ruby or sapphire) which is having a value of 9 can be itself be scratched only by diamond but can scratch all other minerals having hardness lower than itself i.e. topaz, quartz, orthoclase etc.


However, it must be noted that this is a RELATIVE scale and not ABSOLUTE one. This means that although Corundum (ruby or sapphire) have a hardness of 9 and diamond has hardness of 10 on the scale, the actual difference in their hardness is much more. Diamond is about three times harder than a ruby or sapphire.

 

Moh's Scale of Hardness

 

 

Why hardness is important?


A gemstone must be capable of withstanding the wear and tear to which jewellery is subjected to everyday. While ring-mounted gemstones have to endure the occasional hard knock, it is the presence in airborne dust of microscopic particles of silica or quartz which is the real test of gemstone. Since the silica particles (dust) have a hardness of 7, most gemstones have a hardness of more than 7 on mohs’ hardness scale. Also, harder gemstones take on a better polish, and the edges of the facets are sharper as compared to softer gemstones.

 


Toughness, Stability and Brittleness:


Apart from hardness which is the measure of the abrasion resistance of the gemstone, toughness is the resistance to fracture which might occur due to falling of the gemstone or a hard knock on the floor. Stability on the other hand is the resistance of the gemstone to chemical attack, heat and light changes. Brittleness also plays an important role, Zircon for example despite being hard is brittle which causes a type of chipping called paper wear. On the other hand the jade minerals which are softer than zircon but less brittle have a greater resistance due to the mass of interlocking microscopic crystals.

 


How should I clean my gemstone?


How to clean jewelryGemstone cleaning should be done very carefully. A normal procedure would be to blow off any dust particles sticking to the gemstone’s surface with the help of a blower, then to immerse the gemstone in lukewarm water and gently clean the gemstone with a cloth or chamois leather. During the soaking in water one must take care that the water is just warm and NOT HOT as the sudden immersion in any hot liquid may cause fracturing of the gemstone. This is especially applicable in case of emeralds which are almost never devoid of fractures which occur naturally in the gemstone. Ultrasonic cleaning is another option but it should never be done in case of emeralds which might break due to the fractures inherent in the stone. It is best to use a worn-out toothbrush and regular dishwashing detergent. Dishwashing detergent is designed to cut through grease and grime and to rinse off easily, which are exactly the properties needed to clean jewelry. It will not harm the gemstones or metals.

 

 

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