Caring for Emerald Jewelry: A Guide for Cleaning and Maintenance

February 12, 2019 3 min read

emerald jewelry cleaning and maintenance

We just sold the most amazing oval emerald in our Portland, Maine store; a 5 carat oval in a simple yellow gold mounting. One of the customer's biggest concerns was how best to care and maintain this high-end and rare gemstone so that she can always enjoy it and eventually pass its beauty to a family member.  

In this post, you will find information about how to care for your emerald jewelry, whether antique or modern, so that it looks beautiful for generations! Curious about what we have available for sale? Click here to view all emerald jewels.

Emeralds and Their Inclusions
All emeralds have inclusions. Emeralds form in a turbulent environment which means they form with many fissures, fractures, and internal inclusions. Their inclusions are actually one of my favorites because they form in three phases (solids, liquids, and gases). In rare cases, inclusions will form where these three phases are together in one inclusion. The photo below shows a series of liquid inclusions with a solid (the square) and a gas (the circle) bound by the fluid.

A three phase fluid inclusion of halite, water, and carbon dioxide within an emerald.
Photomicrograph by Nathan Renfro, courtesy of the Gemological Institute of America .

Our Emeralds 
The vast majority of the emeralds that we have for sale at Market Square Jewelers come directly from Colombia, the finest emerald source in the world. To date, we have made two trips to Colombia in the past five years in order to stock our inventory with these high quality gemstones. We are due for another trip soon! 

Cedar Oil Treatment
The vast majority of the emeralds coming from Colombia have been cedar oil-treated and our stones are no exception. This is a simple treatment where the emerald is immersed in cedar oil (which is quite thick and viscous) under heat and pressure. The heat and pressure allow the oil to penetrate the stone, which fills in the natural surface reaching fissures/inclusions within the emerald. Once the emerald is cool, the cedar oil returns to it's very thick, sticky state, which makes it hold very well within the emerald.

Cedar oil is used because its refractive index is very similar to that of an emerald (basically meaning is reflects light the same way) so it's a great way to camouflage/reduce the appearance of the natural inclusions to the naked eye. It's a very stable process and is semi-permanent. Over a long period of time, the emerald will loose some of this oil, and re-oiling is something that can be re-done to keep the emerald looking it's very best. 

Emerald Care and Cleaning
With all emeralds, care must be taken when cleaning, as ultrasonic cleaners or harsh solvents/chemicals can remove the cedar oil completely. Jewelers use ultrasonic cleaners for most gemstones, but never for an emerald. The vibrations and chemicals used to remove dirt and debris from a diamond ring, for instance, could remove all the cedar-oil from an emerald. Never put an emerald in an ultrasonic cleaner!

We recommend simply water and an old toothbrush to clean the emerald. Please, no harsh chemicals, no scrubbing your floors wearing your emerald jewelry, and again, no ultrasonic cleaner!  

We are happy to answer any questions you may have about emerald care.  Please feel free to contact us here.  

See what Market Square Jewelers has available for antique and vintage emerald jewelry here. 

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