Consider these tips on jewelry care:

  • Dish soap and even toothpaste are common household substances used for jewelry cleaning, but experts recommend confining them to sinks and mouths. These products are not designed for jewelry, and can be too rough on the metals. Skip the toothbrushes, too.

  • If you've ever had an ugly gray residue around your neck, wrists or fingers, you've experienced the effects of tarnished silver. Because of its vulnerability to tarnishing, sterling silver needs special care.

  • Oxygen -- which produces tarnish -- is silver's worst enemy, so always tuck away your silver jewelry pieces in places like drawers, plastic bags or velvet pouches instead of leaving them out in the open. To add extra protection, put paper anti-tarnish strips -- available at many jewelry stores -- inside the containers.

  • Usually, wiping well-kept silver with a jewelry cloth will suffice for maintenance, unless tarnish already has appeared. If you want to clean the jewelry further, use a solution specifically made for silver. Do not use silver cleaning solutions on other jewelry -- they can damage other types of metals and gemstones. A thick, homemade paste -- made out of baking soda and a few drops of water -- also can clean silver well. Rinse and dry the piece after using the paste.

  • For elegant gold, platinum and gemstone jewelry, look for a commercial jewelry cleaner, which often comes in either liquid or paste. Liquids work best with rings and any pieces with gemstones, because paste can get caught in settings. If your gold piece is 18 karats or higher, it especially needs a commercial cleaner designed specifically for fine jewelry; the high-karat gold is softer and can be damaged by harsher liquids like dish soap.

  • Pearls are among the most delicate jewels and require special care. Wipe pearls off with a damp soft cloth after each wearing because sweat, body oil and cosmetic products can erode the pearls. Keep your pearls away from hard or sharp jewelry items that could scratch them. Pearls are best stored in a soft cloth pouch, or a separately lined segment of a jewelry box.

  • If you use an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner, don't use it for porous and fragile turquoise or malachite or for pearls or other organic materials, which can be damaged by the device.

  • Store fine jewelry carefully; don't just toss it in a jewelry box. The metals, gemstones and other materials can get scratched, especially if they are softer gemstones. The hardest stones -- such as diamonds, sapphires and rubies -- are the least vulnerable to scratching, but they still need to be handled with care. Wrap pieces individually in tissue paper or velvet, or arrange them carefully in a jewelry box so that they do not touch each other.

  • When getting dressed, try to apply perfumes and hair sprays and let them dry before putting on jewelry, so that it doesn't develop a residue; this especially applies to pearls. Also, make sure all body lotion has absorbed into the skin before putting on jewelry.

  • Do not wear jewelry -- particularly rings or bracelets -- while doing any household cleaning, gardening, or other dirty work. Even wedding rings, which people often do not take off, will be in better condition if they are removed before chores. Over time, the household soaps can cause stress and fatigue in the metals.

  • Check jewelry pieces regularly for signs of wear and tear, like missing or loose stones, and obtain necessary repairs. If you have a pearl necklace that you wear frequently, have it re-strung annually with knots between each pearl, so that if the string breaks, the pearls won't be lost.