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Spring Cleaning for Jewelry with an Ultrasonic Cleaner

As snow melts, the temperature rises, and the buds reappear on the trees, another annual ritual helps people shake off the doldrums of winter: spring cleaning. In most instances, spring-cleaning brings to mind storing winter clothes, dusting furniture and sprucing up the house, some items often go ignored. Spring-cleaning can also be an opportune time to restore the sparkle to jewelry, and an ultrasonic cleaner is the ideal tool to re-ignite that shine.

How it Works

An ultrasonic cleaner works by generating high-frequency sound waves, which cause the water in the tank to produce millions of microscopic bubbles. As these bubbles come into contact with surfaces, they implode. The energy released from the implosion also releases the hold that dirt, dead skin and other staining agents have on these surfaces. This implosion effect, known as “cavitation”, allows the ultrasonic unit to clean surfaces much more efficiently than conventional methods.

Advantages of Ultrasonic Cleaners

Ultrasonic cleaners have several advantages over traditional methods of jewelry cleaning. The microscopic bubbles in the ultrasonic cleaning solution can get into the small crevices (e.g. watchbands, engravings, chain links) that brushes, cloths and hand tools can’t reach. Also, since the detergents that work best with ultrasonic cleaners are water-based and biodegradable, they do not carry the harsh chemicals or solvents that may damage some finer pieces.


Ring Settings

Among the most difficult jewelry parts to clean are ring settings. The prongs that hold the stone in place are small and delicate and often cannot be cleaned by manual methods. Jack Levenson, owner of the Jewelry Box of Lake Forest in suburban Los Angeles, advises ring owners to have the prongs checked and cleaned “to ensure your diamonds and gemstones are safe and secure.” The store also offered free ultrasonic cleaning and prong checks during April 2012.



Ultrasonic cleaners are also highly effective at restoring the lustre to earrings. Over months and years of wear, a gauzy film made up of dirt, sweat, and other contaminants can dull the shine of the gemstones and precious metals in most earrings that hand washings cannot fully remove. Note that using a chemical cleaning solution in an ultrasonic cleaner is much more effective than cleaning with water alone. There are several cleaning solutions specially formulated for jewelry cleaning.

vintage bracelet

Estate Jewelry

Owners of antique or estate jewelry have found that ultrasonic cleaners can also restore a good-as-new shine to older pieces. Jewelry that has been stored in drawers, storage units, or other spaces can accumulate dust and dirt from years of neglect. Many professional firms have used ultrasonic cleaners to improve the appearance and presentation of older pieces and, as a result, raise the asking price for these restored items.

Cautionary Tale

Many professionals who handle antique jewelry can attest to the effectiveness of ultrasonic cleaners. However, the vibrations that the machine produces can damage fragile stones, including pearls, opals, and emeralds. Also, users should avoid turning on the heater when using ammonia-based cleaners in the tank, as the heated ammonia can generate dangerous fumes.


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