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Rock those natural stones (but carefully)

Natural stone jewelry is showing up so many ways, you’d better know how to care for it.

We’re talking stones other than faceted gemstones, ranging from jasper and agate to druzy and rose quartz. Those more used to precious stones might think other rocks are just rocks. But these present a few situations worth noting. And they’re not indestructible, though lots are tough.

Some have rough edges or faces, like druzy – which you’ve probably seen, even if you haven’t known what it was. Picture the inside of a geode. These sparkling crystals are minerals formed on the face of another stone. (For you diamonds-only people, picture pavé.) Druzy, also spelled drusy, drusie and druse, occurs in different colors; it’s also sometimes dyed or coated. These can be fragile.

Stones in general can chip or crack, be scratched, get dull or break. And a big one that loosens, in a ring setting, say, can take a nice nick out of your tile floor, or the dog’s head, if you’re not careful.

Three main suggestions, to keep them at their best:

1 Protect. Keep them away from chemicals, including products like hairspray, perfumes and household cleaners, especially bleach (but also acetone, ammonia, denatured alcohol and turpentine) and away from oils. Check settings of big pieces regularly. Take pieces off to swim, shower or bathe.

2 Clean gently. Wiping with a soft cloth should do it. If something’s actually gotten dirty, you can usually use warm, sudsy water (simplest, with no moisturizers, is best), then rinse and dry with a cloth. Don’t soak them for more than a few minutes; that can damage a stone’s finish. If you have a piece that’s mixed-media, be precise in your cleaning of different parts. Don’t use chemical or ultrasonic cleaners.

With druzy, take special care with the fine crystals: You might use distilled water to rinse, for maximum shine. Don’t dry with paper towel, since bits will catch in the crystals. You can pat with a cloth then blow it dry, on a cool or barely warm setting; quick swings in temperature aren’t helpful for any stone. Be especially careful with druzies coated with metallic compounds, since the coating is very thin and can come off.

3 Isolate. Don’t store them with harder things – precious stones are harder than many of these, and even metal clasps or chains can scratch some of them. On the other hand, some of these can scratch metal finishes. Store them alone, or bagged or wrapped in cloth. Designer Krista Hanline of Charlotte’s CeleneStones says, “I’ve learned that keeping jewelry sealed preserves the pieces.” She says she actually doesn’t clean the druzy pendants she’s made, just seals them in plastic zip bags and stores them in dark areas in her jewelry boxes.

In the case of the jasper-and-silver ring shown here – a piece from Charlotte’s Hope and Anchor and Black Shamrock Design & Jewelry – Hope Nicholls says to care for it as you would other sterling: Wear it! With the stone as background, protected structurally by the silver, it will stay burnished best by wear. Wash your hands with soap and water, keeping the ring on, and dry gently. “At some point, if you are careless with bar soap,” she says, “you might need the nooks and crannies cleaned out by a jeweler.”

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