If cleaning at home, I recommend using a soft bristled toothbrush, hot water, and regular dish soap, then letting your pieces air dry if possible. Make sure you always put a plug in the sink in case a loose stone pops out during the cleaning process! If you have access to an ultrasonic cleaner, these give the best results. You can buy little ones for at home but I don’t find they give the same results as industrial ones. This space is developing though I have seen a lot of at home jewellery cleaners pop up recently (such as the Juli brush) so it would be interesting to try.
It very much depends on the piece and which types of stones are in it. Most coloured stones I would not recommend putting in an ultrasonic as it can cause damage to certain gems. Many large jewellery stores won’t clean any pieces in an ultrasonic for this reason. The soft toothbrush is the best option here.
Pearls are very delicate, so I would not recommend cleaning them yourself at home but rather taking to your jeweller or the store you purchased them for a professional clean. I don’t work with silver but I think if there are no stones involved then a regular silver polish works wonders – the same that you would use for silverware in the home.
It very much depends upon the metal in question. Precious metals such as gold and platinum shouldn’t tarnish much. However, white gold has a layer of rhodium that can wear off over time; if you find that this is happening to your piece of jewellery, take it to your jeweller for a refurbishment (basically it gets redipped in rhodium). The trend of wearing stacks of metal bracelets and rings together can cause problems as the metals can scratch each other. Again, this is something to see your jeweller about for a professional polish.
It’s important to keep your precious jewellery in the correct conditions. Ideally you want a box with separate compartments rather than having it all in together potentially allowing pieces to cause damage to each other (diamonds can scratch gold, necklaces can tangle, etc). Also be aware of your softer stones and take extra precautions with them. Pearls especially need extra TLC! Finally, invest in a safe to store your collection in: the idea of losing all those sentimental pieces at once to burglary is devastating, but it does happen far too often.
I really think that you should listen to your intuition and buy pieces that you are drawn to or that speak to you. Jewellery collection is extremely personal! I would recommend slowly adding to your collection over time so you have space to appreciate each piece and to add layers that are sentimental and meaningful to you, rather than buying a lot all at once based on what’s currently on trend.
I love looking at historical jewellery collections and antique jewellery. I spend a lot of time flicking through old jewellery auction catalogues! Seeing the wonderful personal collections of great jewellery collectors is also very inspiring. I actually have just purchased a big vintage coffee table book on Elizabeth Taylor’s collection which I can’t wait to sink my teeth into!
I think a gold chain necklace, diamond studs, and a diamond tennis bracelets are all pieces that can be layered or pared back depending on your personal style.