How to Remove Tarnish from Gemstone Jewelry

If your jewelry has gemstones or organic materials such as pearls, cleaning it safely can be tricky.
Once your know the right method for the job, you can safely and effectively clean your gemstone jewelry.

Below are 2 different categories of cleaning methods to address all of your gemstone jewelry cleaning needs:

  • Category 1- Hard Non-Porous Gemstones: such as diamonds, tanzanite, sapphires, rubies, etc.
  • Category 2- Soft Porous Gemstones and Organic Materials: such as pearls, shell, opal, turquoise, amber, emerald, etc.

Cleaning Hard Non-Porous Gemstones:

Jewelry that contains hard gemstones are the easiest to clean by using jewelry dips that are designed for non-porous gemstone jewelry.  My favorite dips to use are the Sunray Jewelry Cleaner and Hagerty Jewel Clean because they are all natural, and are safe and effective for all materials, even the porous ones.

The Sunray Jewelry Cleaner works great on jewelry that is dirty or mildly tarnished (just starting to take on a golden tint), where the Hagerty Jewel Clean product works best on jewelry that is showing more advanced signs of tarnish such as blackening.

These are the 2 products that I use the most frequently but there are numerous dips to choose from.  If choosing another brand, just be sure to read the label carefully to be sure it is safe for your jewelry.

You can also use jewelry polishing cloths.  Those that are untreated are safe for all gemstones.  Other polish cloths, like the Hagerty Jewelry Polishing Cloth, are specially formulated for non-porous gemstones.

The Do’s and Don’t of cleaning hard, non-porous gemstones:


    • Use a dip that is specially formulated for gemstones (check the label)
    • Use a polish cloth that is specially formulated for non-porous gemstones, or an untreated polish cloth or soft cotton t-shirt

Do Not:

    • Assume your gemstones can follow the hard gemstone cleaning method if you are not sure.  Take a few minutes to check if it is a porous or non-porous stone to avoid potentially damaging your jewelry.

Not sure if your jewelry has a hard (non-porous) or soft  (porous) gemstone? When in doubt, use the instructions below for cleaning soft gemstones.  In addition, you can check the gemstone properties page on our website for your particular stone, or do an internet search.  Typically, stones with a Mohs hardness of 8 or higher are safe for the cleaning methods listed above.

Common stones considered hard and non-porous:

  • Diamonds
  • Rubies
  • Sapphires
  • Topaz
  • Tanzanite
  • Cubic Zirconia
  • Aquamarine
  • Garnet
  • Alexandrite
  • Amethyst
  • Citrine
  • Tourmaline

Cleaning Soft Porous Gemstones:

Jewelry that contains soft porous gemstones require special care so that you do not damage or scratch your gemstones/organic materials, or remove any luster or shine.  This type of damage is usually irreversible, and easily preventable by following the steps below.

The 2 products that I use to clean this type of jewelry are Hagerty Pearl Clean and Hagerty Silversmith Wash.

95% of the time, these dips will do the trick and do so quickly.  For those pieces that have really severe tarnish, you may need to take an extra step and hand-clean these pieces.  To hand-clean severely tarnished jewelry:

  1. Start with using a jewelry dip as described above
  2. Let the piece of jewelry completely dry
  3. Start with an untreated polish cloth and use it to rub and polish the metal
  4. If there is still tarnish remaining, you can use a treated polish cloth, but it is very important that you only touch the metal and not the stones.  This step will require patience and attention to detail, but it is effective.  Be sure to wipe the metal with a non-treated cloth or soft cotton cloth after using the treated cloth to remove any residuals so they do not transfer to your stones as you wear the jewelry.
  5. Once you have deep cleaned the jewelry, be sure to follow the steps to prevent tarnish so you do not have to repeat this more intensive cleaning regimen again.  Periodically dipping and wiping your jewelry using products for porous materials will keep your jewelry shiny and bright and your stones looking their best.

The Do’s and Don’t of cleaning soft, porous gemstones:


    • Use a dip that is specially formulated for soft porous gemstones
    • Use an untreated polish cloth or soft cotton t-shirt

Do Not:

    • Use a chemically treated polish cloth
    • Use a dip that has ammonia or is not specially formulated for porous gemstones
    • Use brushes or rough fabrics (they will permanently scratch your stones)
    • Use a sonic cleaner

Common stones and materials considered soft and porous:

  • Pearls
  • Shell
  • Emeralds
  • Coral
  • Onyx
  • Opals
  • Turquoise
  • Tiger Eye
  • Lapis
  • Jade
  • Amber
  • Others

It can be relatively simple and fast to remove tarnish from your jewelry, but it is important that you use the right method for the job.  I hope you have enjoyed this series of posts on Jewelry Care!  

You can find this info on jewelry care, as well as other information about gemstones, metals and their properties on the Resources page of our website.

This post is part of a multi-post Jewelry Care series and focuses on how to remove tarnish from Gemstone Jewelry.  The other posts in this series explore other means of cleaning your jewelry with an emphasis on natural jewelry care.  The other posts can be found here:

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