Ultrasonic Cleaning Restores Glitter to Estate Jewelry

Bad economic times have forced many families to rethink what they really need and how selling unused property might help out financially.  Newspaper ads offering to buy estate jewelry and other valuables attest to this.  Here’s how one company is adding value to estate jewelry:

As a firm dealing in estate jewelry and other family heirlooms we’ve experienced a tremendous increase in purchases, but also in sales as customers take advantage of lower prices to either resale abroad or to hold for the expected economic recovery.  Since many of the pieces we buy appear not to have been used in years, our staff was spending an inordinate amount of time restoring them to a presentable appearance.  This enables us to ask a higher price.

Well, you never know where a good idea will strike.  I was visiting my dentist and asked about the machine in which she placed her instruments.  She introduced me to the concept of ultrasonic cleaning as the first step in cleaning and sanitizing dental tools – and I immediately made the connection.

A web search brought me to Tovatech and Elma ultrasonic jewelry cleaners.  The process uses inaudible frequencies  – in this case 37 kHz – emitted by what are called transducers placed in the bottom of the cleaning tank filled with a cleaning solution. These create minute bubbles that implode when they contact items placed in the cleaning baskets, ring holders and racks.  The implosion creates shock waves of approximately 20,000 psi on a microscopic level that literally but safely “blast off” tarnish and dirt.

The beauty of the process is that unlike hand-wielded cleaning brushes and cloths ultrasound cleans wherever the cleaning solution can reach. Not only that, it is much faster and quickly restores most antique gemstones, gold, silver and platinum to a like-new condition without scratching or other damage.  In fact, the only jewelry items not recommended for the process are fragile stones such as pearls, opals, emeralds and amber.

Cleaning Deeper

Gemologists and estate jewelry firms that clean and restore jewelry, whether new or antique, should understand the ultrasonic process before purchasing a unit. The Elma unit we purchased has features that increase its efficiency and save us time.  For example when new cleaning fluid is introduced it must be degassed in order to clean efficiently. Our unit degasses new solution in 10 minutes, after which we can start the cleaning process.  If we use a cleaning solution that does not contain ammonia, it is heated before the cleaning process begins.  As people in our profession know, ammonia does a great job in cleaning jewelry, but it gives off vapors if heated – not a good idea health-wise.

Another function called ‘Sweep’ automatically shifts the frequency of the sound waves to so jewelry and gems are cleaned uniformly. Ultrasonic cleaners without this feature have dead zones where no cleaning takes place.

Summing up, if you are looking for a way to speed up your jewelry cleaning service check into ultrasonic cleaning.  Unlike a lower cost model we used earlier – and found to be seriously wanting in terms of performance – our Elma unit has been working perfectly.

About Rachel Kohn

So how did an MIT Ph.D. end up selling refrigerators? When I figured out that a lot more scientists buy lab refrigerators than innovative leading-edge instruments. I hope that my many years of lab experience will help you find the right equipment for your work. Before co-founding Tovatech I worked in business development and project management at Smiths Detection, Photon-X, Cardinal Health, and Hoechst Celanese. And before that I spent 12 years as an R&D chemist at Hoechst Celanese and Aventis working on advanced drug delivery systems, polymer films and membranes, optical disks, and polysaccharides. Some day, eventually, I’ll make enough money to develop an innovative technology that will change the world. Read More