Ultra-sonic, steam or both for cleaning Antique Jewelery
December 2, 2012 9:44 AM   Subscribe

I am planning to buy a jewelry cleaner for my brother-in-law who sells antique jewelry (and other antiques). Will an ultra-sonic cleaner be more useful than a steam cleaner or visa-verse. Or, does one need both to be effective?
posted by lake59 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total)
Best answer: If it's as general as "antique jewelry" he can use both. The ultrasonic cleaner can damage or loosen set stones, so the steam cleaner is more versatile.
posted by cmoj at 9:54 AM on December 2, 2012

Best answer: From what I have heard from someone who used to work for such a business, protecting the patina of antiques is of paramount importance. Remove the patina, and the piece loses all of its value. Ultra-sonic cleaners tend to remove patinas, and so would ruin the value of his merchandise. Someone who dealt in museum quality antiques once told me that the roughest cleaning that any piece of jewellery should have is a gentle burnishing with wool mittens.
posted by pickypicky at 9:54 AM on December 2, 2012

Best answer: Which isn't to say that the steam cleaner can't damage some kinds of jewelry.
posted by cmoj at 9:54 AM on December 2, 2012

Best answer: Thanks! What are your thoughts about which unit to use for non-antique jewelry? He does sell some of that as well, acquired from estate sales.
posted by lake59 at 10:11 AM on December 2, 2012

Best answer: One needs neither to be effective.

As an antique jewellery dealer for many years myself, I rarely used either. After first inspecting everything with my microscope (or loupe in a pinch) I used warm water, detergent, sometimes jewellery cleaner and sometimes sudsy ammonia (depends on what I was cleaning), small brushes, rouge cloths, some silver polish; and maybe, maybe a filed toothpick if I needed to chisel some gunk out from under something gently.

Anything I couldn't deal with that way went to a bench jeweller I trusted for professional cleaning and repair before it was offered for sale. The bench jeweller would have the professional equipment, wisdom, greater experience, and most importantly, insurance to cover jewellery damaged if anything happened.

This is not something to surprise someone with. Ask him what he'd prefer, though if you must, I'd say steam cleaner. Loosening years of grime from under detailed gemstone rings would be made easier with that, but he'd still need to be very careful.
posted by peagood at 10:14 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, I should have thought of the third option. I dealt antique Native American jewelry and was a bench jeweler for a long time. I used windex and a soft toothbrush for almost all cleaning I needed to do. We never actually owned either a sonic or steam cleaner.

I'd say steam also. Don't use it on bezel set stones with an enclosed backing.
posted by cmoj at 10:27 AM on December 2, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the excellent advice!
posted by lake59 at 10:37 AM on December 2, 2012

If he's been selling antique jewelry for a while, are you sure he doesn't have the tools he prefers already?
posted by Madamina at 11:58 AM on December 2, 2012

Response by poster: Madamina, your point is well taken and likely accurate but ..... family politics :)
posted by lake59 at 1:44 PM on December 2, 2012

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