cleaning silver jewelry toothbrush baking soda

Stone beads make delightful and eye-catching pieces of jewelry, but they are not immune to damage. Without the proper care, stone beads can lose their luster and look dull and uninviting, and even the hardest gemstones can become damaged.

Of course, proper bead care is the best way to ensure your stone beads stay looking their best for a lifetime. If, however, your stones have not been so lucky as to receive a lifetime of care, then, rather than giving up on these stones, it is possible to breathe new life into them, either by restoring them to their former glory or by repurposing them.

Restoration

Often gemstones can fall into disrepair simply because they are in need of a good cleaning, but the owner is unsure of how to properly clean the type of stone they have. The first step in restoring any stone beads is to gently wipe them off with a soft, lint-free, and untreated cloth. It can be surprising how much of a difference this simple task can make to the state of your stone.

Further steps will depend heavily on the type of stone you are working with. It is best to identify the stone you are working with before you proceed. If you are at all unsure, then you should err on the side of caution and treat them as if they were porous beads.

Porous Stone Beads

Porous beads absorb liquids easily, and this can dramatically change their appearance. When caring for these stones, take care to avoid using large amounts of liquid or even immersing them in water. Examples of these stones are opal, lapis lazuli, emerald, turquoise, and onyx.

Try dipping the cloth in cool water until it is damp, and then use it to wipe your beads. Avoid using any harsh chemicals to clean them. In a pinch, you can try a gentle soap in the water you use to wet the cloth.

closeup amber jewelry

Organic Gemstone Beads

Organic beads are either made from or by living creatures. Due to their unusual formation, they need to be treated with care, and the steps you take to clean them will depend on the gemstone in question.

Amber, for instance, is fossilized tree sap. You can start by taking the same steps as for porous stones, but, after you have wiped down the amber, apply olive oil to the gemstones. The olive oil helps to remove grease marks and is an effective method of polishing the surface.

Pearls are formed inside mollusks and are exceedingly delicate. Coral is also formed by a sea creature called a polyp and requires the same delicate care as the pearl. These gemstones can, in fact, dissolve if steeped in water for too long. A gentle wipe with a damp cloth is all that is necessary. Ensure the beads are fully dry before you store them.

Hard, Non-Porous Stone Beads

To be considered a hard stone, the bead must have a score of eight or higher on the Mohs hardness scale. Examples are diamond, tanzanite, sapphire, ruby, amethyst, and tourmaline.

These stone beads can be immersed in water without fear of causing damage. It is best to use only lukewarm or even cold water. This is because some gemstones have been heat-treated and exposing them to heat again can cause their color to fade.

Soak these stones in water with a few drops of detergent for a maximum of 15 minutes. Then use a soft brush, such as a toothbrush, to remove the loosened dirt and debris. Take care not to brush too hard, as this can scratch these stones if a piece of grit is stuck on the surface.

Once clean, you should dry the beads thoroughly before storing them.

person making jewelry using turquoise bead

Repurposing

Rather than pushing outdated stone beads to the back of your jewelry box, repurpose them and turn them into something completely different.

If your stones have become damaged with scratches or chips, you may still be able to rescue them. Remove the stones from their settings. For stones that have scratches or which have lost their shape from wear, you can remove the appearance of these imperfections by polishing the stones. After polishing, find a new setting for the stone since some of the volume can be lost during the process.

You can also recut the stone to remove the damaged section. Once the stone has a new shape, choose a new setting or create a new item of jewelry. The most important thing to remember about repurposing stone beads is that you are giving them a renewed life and can enjoy them for longer.