The average house burns at about 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most fine jewelry is made of precious metals and stones with melting temperatures higher than this point. As a result, it is possible for jewelry to survive a fire even if not kept in a fireproof safe. Once the smoke has cleared, you will no doubt wonder how to clean fire damaged jewelry.
Can Jewelry be Restored After a Fire?
Professional jewelers are trained and knowledgeable about the best cleaning techniques for different types of materials. They also have specialized equipment such as ultra-sonic cleaners to clean badly burned jewelry. In addition, a jeweler will be able to remove stones from settings to thoroughly clean the piece.
If you want to try your hand at cleaning burned jewelry, keep in mind that the process may take some time and patience. The duration will depend on whether the piece has surface soot or is completely blackened.
The type of material will also determine how a piece should be cleaned. Some cleaners may be usable on hard metals such as gold and platinum, but can be damaging to semi-precious stones such as pearls or opals.
How to Clean Fire Damaged Jewelry
The primary goal of cleaning fire damaged jewelry is to and restore the appearance and shine without scratching the surface.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Don’t use abrasive substances such as salt or baking soda, as these can scratch surfaces of metal and stones.
- When using dish soap to soak a piece, do not use automatic dish soap, as this type of soap contains abrasive substances.
- Baking soda may whiten clothes and teeth, but is not recommended for jewelry. Toothpaste also contains baking soda and should be avoided.
- Vinegar solutions can be effective on metal pieces, but can damage both precious and semi-precious stones since they are more porous.
- When in doubt, take your jewelry to a professional jeweler for restoration and cleaning.
- Soft cloths and jeweler’s cloths are safe for all types of metal and stone.
If using a toothbrush to scrub your piece, be sure that it is not an old toothbrush. Old toothbrushes can contain traces of toothpaste, which contains baking soda and other abrasive substances. Use a new, soft-bristled toothbrush instead.
Cleaning Silver, Gold, and Platinum
Surface soot can usually be removed with a soft cloth or jeweler’s polishing cloth. If needed, soak the piece in jewelry cleaning solution and dry prior to polishing. A solution of ½ water plus ½ Mr. Clean all-purpose cleaner and a splash of ammonia will also be effective. Repeat this process until the piece is clean.
Blackened or baked-on soot may need a more in-depth restoration done by a professional, especially if the piece is particularly valuable or an heirloom. If you have an ultra-sonic jewelry cleaner at home, it can be used for precious metals.
When choosing a jewelry cleaning solution, be sure to verify that it is non-abrasive. Read the instructions thoroughly before using in order to avoid damage to your jewelry. This is especially important for plated jewelry.
Diamonds, sapphires, and rubies can be cleaned much like precious metals.
Soak the entire piece the piece in jewelry cleaning solution and dry prior to polishing with a soft cloth. You can also soak the jewelry in a solution of ½ water plus ½ Mr. Clean all-purpose cleaner and a splash of ammonia. Do not use vinegar-based cleaning agents for gemstones, as the acidity can damage the gems.
Depending on the extent of the burn, you may need to take a piece to a professional jewelry cleaner, especially if soot has collected between the setting and the stone.
Cleaning Semi-Precious Stones
Semi-precious stones such as pearls, opals, jade, and garnet are soft and porous. Do not use any sort of abrasive substance on these types of stones, as they scratch relatively easily.
Soak semi-precious stone jewelry in a solution of 1 cup of warm water plus 3 – 5 drops of dish soap for 10 – 15 minutes. Dry with a lint-free cloth and polish. Repeat this process as necessary.
Restoring Fire Damaged Heirloom Jewelry
Fire damaged heirloom jewelry usually has significant personal value. These pieces are made of older metals and stones and can be more challenging to restore. Professional cleaning is usually the safest bet when it comes to fire damaged heirloom jewelry in order to avoid unnecessary damage.
The Bottom Line about Cleaning Fire Damaged Jewelry
A quick internet search will turn up a lot of DIY jewelry cleaning solution recipes. Again, it is important to avoid recipes including abrasives such as salt and baking soda and acidic ingredients such as vinegar.
When in doubt, have your jewelry cleaned by a trained professional. Repairing accidental damage may cost considerably more than cleaning fire damage alone. At Tidal Wave Response, we work with your insurance provider to find the best professionals to restore your jewelry back to its original condition.