How to Clean a Rough Gem From a Mine


Clean, smooth gems can be used to great effect in jewelry or in craft projects. Or, they can simply be decorations or additions to an existing rock collection. But when a gem is extracted from the ground, it is rough and dull. It takes some preparation and specialized knowledge of the particular rock to convert it into a smooth and shiny gem.

Things You'll Need

  • Rough gem
  • Bowl (large enough to submerge gem)
  • Warm water
  • Soft, nonabrasive cloth
  • Commercial jewelry cleaner
  • Toothbrush or nonabrasive brush
  • Soak the rough gem in the bowl, filled with warm water. This step will simply loosen up dirt, debris and other materials that might be sticking to the gem. Keep the gem soaking for an hour to an hour and a half.

  • Wipe the gem dry using the nonabrasive cloth. While doing this, much of the debris should fall away, leaving only the more tenacious dirt and rock attached.

  • Scrub the gem with the moistened toothbrush. This requires extra care, for even when using a toothbrush or a nonabrasive brush, there is a risk of cracking or scratching the gem. Continue until you have removed most of the visible debris.

  • Allow the gem to air dry for an hour. According to Elva's jewelry, a gemstone jewelry dealer, you should never use a hair dryer, even on a durable gem like a ruby, as the heat can excessively dry out the gem and make it more susceptible to cracking.

  • Polish the gem using a jewelry cleaner certified specifically for that gem. It is essential that you only use chemical cleaners that are made specifically for cleaning rubies if you are cleaning a ruby or diamonds if you are cleaning a diamond. Otherwise, certain chemicals may erode or even discolor the gem. Porous gems, such as turquoise, can never be cleaned using chemicals, as even the most seemingly benign chemicals can seep inside and crack them from the inside, according to Jewelry Center. If there is an appropriate chemical cleaner, simply mix the cleaner with water and let the gem soak for the time suggested by the particular cleaner (usually between 30 and 45 minutes).

  • Wipe the gem dry with the soft cloth.

  • Smooth the gem if desired. The process of cleaning is done, but if you are interested in shaping or smoothing the gem stone, you will need to invest in the appropriate tools, such as saws, lapidaries or sanders.

Tips & Warnings

  • Delicate handling at all points is necessary, or you risk cracking or scratching the gem.
  • Some gem stones, like rubies and diamonds, are much harder than most materials, so don't work with them over desks or counters that may be scratched.


  • Photo Credit Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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