by Basundhara Mitra
Aquamarine, which is a member of the important beryl family that includes emerald, is less brittle and more durable than emerald. It has a Mohs rating of 7.5 Stones that have a Mohs hardness of less than 8 are highly subject to scratching. However, stones that are harder are not invincible, they are also subject to chipping & fracture.
If you are a gem of a person and desire that those glittering stone-studded jewellery of yours retain their twinkling dazzle as you pass them on from one generation to the next as family heirlooms, you need to bestow on them a little TLC. Just like your skin, your clothes, your dog or just about anything in this world, care & attention goes a long way in preserving the radiance of your precious gemstone ornaments. A diamond is forever – so are other gemstones – only if cared for in the proper fashion. To do so, we need to have a wee bit of technical knowledge about our treasured stones. The durability of a stone depends on its hardness – hardness in the jewellery industry is based on a gem-trade standard called the Mohs scale, conceived by Friedrich Mohs in the early 1800s.
The harder the stone, the higher is the Mohs scale rating. Diamonds, of course, have the highest scale rating of 10 and are considered the hardest of precious stones (rubies & sapphires rate at 9) while pearls (Mohs 2.5 – 4.5), amber (Mohs 2-2.5) and coral (Mohs 3.5-4) are some of the softest gems. Aquamarine, which is a member of the important beryl family that includes emerald, is less brittle and more durable than emerald. It has a Mohs rating of 7.5 Stones that have a Mohs hardness of less than 8 are highly subject to scratching. However, stones that are harder are not invincible, they are also subject to chipping & fracture. Therefore, the manner in which we wear, store & clean our gems, affects the longevity of their gleam. Wear it right It is best to remove fine jewellery before engaging in sports, housework, gardening, heavy or dirty work so that they are not subject to harsh impact, abrasives or dirt. A hard blow can chip even diamonds. Pearls, corals & porous stones such as opal or turquoise should be kept away from dirty water & oils to avoid discolouration.
Here are some tips to remember while you dress to kill:
* Always wear jewellery after applying cosmetics, hand lotions or hairspray, to prevent buildup of dirt and oil around the gem, which will keep it from sparkling. Hair-dyes and bleach also adversely affect gems.
* Chlorine in the swimming pool can cause damage to stones & gold.
* Never remove jewellery by tugging on the gemstone as it will become loose in its setting.
* Opals, pearls, coral, amber, turquoise & the softer gems are heat-sensitive & should not be exposed long to the hot sun, kept near radiators or in hot cars. Pearls bleach while amber darkens under extreme exposure to light. Light & heat affects the durability & colour of coloured stones & fades & weakens stones like amethyst, kunzite, quartz, topaz, and aquamarine. Excessive heat can also cause gems to fracture as it removes the natural moisture as well as fillers & oils in treated stones like emeralds.
* Soft & brittle stones must not be subject to hard wear, such as in constant-wear rings. They are better protected in dinner rings, pendants or earrings. Set it right Six prong settings offer more protection to a stone than a four prong one. Bezel settings are secure though difficult to remove & reset. Sharp corners such as the tip of marquise- cut stones are very vulnerable & should be protected by proper setting. Faceted stones with shallow crown angles are also prone to chipping & need extra protection.
Check for loose stones & clasps frequently by tapping the piece with your finger near your ear. Pearls need to be restrung every 2 years. Emeralds need to be professionally retreated with oils & fillers after several years of wear & tear. Treasure chest Storing jewellery right is another key to a brilliant treasure cove. Locked away in piles, gems & metals can chip or abrade each other & get entangled. Each piece must be stored separately in velvet, silk, paper or in sections of a fragment pouch or box. Pearls & opals draw moisture from the air & therefore must not be stored in dry places or plastic sealed bags. Pearl & lapis necklaces should be stored flat. Aquamarine jewellery must be kept in a dark place, as it often becomes paler if left out in the sun. It is safe to pad gemstone jewels while travelling.
Sparkling clean Cleaning your priceless gems is a skill that is essential to master if you want your jewellery to outlast you. In cleaning non-porous gems like diamonds & rubies, washing in a weak solution of ammonia, rinsing & drying with a lint-free soft cloth is quite effective. On gems with Mohs hardness of 8 or above, it is safe to gently scrub with a soft toothbrush (though not on the metal setting). A moderate water jet like a dental cleaning appliance can be used to remove bits of grime. Harsh cleansers & vigorous scrubbing can remove the coatings used to enhance the beauty of stones. Aquamarines, which are the universal symbol of youth, hope, and health, are usually heat-treated and sometimes irradiated. These March birthstones should be cleaned in ultrasonic jewellery cleaner or with warm, soapy water and a soft bristle brush.
Do not clean in a home ultrasonic machine. Never use chemical cleaners. Avoid heat and overtly frequent cleaning at all costs as this light blue, blue-green or dark blue stone can pale easily. Like all stones, aquamarines are prone to scratches and brushes must be used gently. Soft gems such as pearls can be cleaned with warm soapy water & a new makeup brush & laid on a soft cloth to dry. Avoid touching the string till completely dry as the wet string can stretch. Porous stones like coral, opal, pearl & turquoise should not come in contact with acids, chemicals or solvents. Ultrasound cleaners are not advisable for gemstones like tanzanite, opals or even emeralds & rubies where the ultrasound removes the oil /resin treatment & expand existing fractures. Wipe gemstones with a clean, damp cloth after each wear to remove chemicals, oils & perspiration. It does not take much to protect your treasury of priceless stones. Just a little attention at the right time ensures that the glow of your scintillating gems matches with the beam in your eyes.