Did you get a lovely piece of jewellery for Eid or Christmas - or both? Lucky you. Or have you got jewellery that's been hanging around waiting for the wheel of fashion to turn so you can wear it again? In either case, it's worth looking after it properly. Always store jewellery in a padded box, preferably the one it came in. This keeps jewellery safe, maintains humidity levels, keeps out dust and prevents breakages. If you prefer a large jewellery box, keep pieces separate. Hard gemstones, particularly diamonds, can scratch softer metals. Softer gemstones, such as topaz, can crack. Before putting them away, fasten the clasps of necklaces and bracelets and put earrings in their special mounts.
When jewellery is worn it gets dirty, eventually making the metal and stones look dull. Gold and platinum jewellery set with diamonds, sapphires, rubies, garnets, amethysts and most other transparent gemstones, can easily be cleaned at home. Use a small plastic bowl, not the sink in case something slips down the drain. Fill with lukewarm water and add the merest drop of mild washing-up liquid. Drop the pieces in the water, one at a time, stir gently and leave for a few minutes to start dislodging the dirt. If the pieces are very dirty, use a very soft brush, such as a baby's toothbrush, to clean them. This is especially useful on rings, where dirt can get lodged behind the stones. Do not use a cloth when cleaning rings because it could catch on the claws holding the stones. Rinse in another bowl containing clean plain water and lay each piece on a clean dry cloth. Finish drying by gently polishing with a chamois leather or a spectacle cleaning cloth.
Before discarding the washing water, drain it through a sieve in case a stone has been overlooked. Note that emeralds should not be washed - take them for professional cleaning. Pearls should never be immersed in water. Wipe them with a barely damp cloth, then polish gently with a chamois leather to bring up the shine. Look after your jewellery and it will give you pleasure for years to come. Let Lorelei Lee, the exuberant and illiterate heroine of Anita Loos's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, be your guide: "A kiss on the hand may make you feel very very good, but a diamond and safire (sic) bracelet lasts for ever."
Rachel Simhon is the author of The Housewife's Handbook (Bloomsbury). Available at www.amazon.com