Whether it’s your engagement ring or a family heirloom, jewellery can hold a huge amount of meaning.

You may wear your rings every day, or just wear that special necklace on important occasions – regardless, over time your favourite pieces can look a little dull and in need of a good clean. Plus, consider how much sweat and bacteria can collect on your jewellery – particularly during flu season – so it’s a good idea to keep them as germ-free as possible.

You might feel nervous about tending to your jewellery at home – after all, these items are precious and often expensive. Laura Lambert, founder and CEO of jewellery company Fenton & Co, recommends a professional clean every 12-18 months, or before a big event, but says "most jewellery can be cleaned at home on a regular basis."

Getting started
All you need to get started is a soft toothbrush (preferably a child’s one) and a bowl of tepid soapy water. If the water’s "too hot or too cold," it could "damage a gemstone or metal," explains Lambert, who says to gently scrub your jewellery, and "be sure to get underneath the ring to clean out any dried-up lotion or soap."

Metals and gemstones
While soapy water works on a lot of metals and gems, it does depend what you’re cleaning. "Generally, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, aquamarines, garnets and diamonds set in either 18kt gold, or platinum, can be cleaned with a soft toothbrush and some soapy water," says Lambert. "Refrain from using soap with emeralds – just water and a soft brush is fine."

"For silver, silver polishes are generally fine," she adds, "but ideally don’t use for any other metal."

Be wary of DIY tips online
The internet is full of DIY recommendations on how to clean jewellery at home, but Lambert advises caution: "We wouldn’t recommend using toothpaste or baking soda on any kind of jewellery, as you can’t be sure of the chemicals used in these products. If in doubt, visit a local jeweller for specific advice."

Invest in a soft cloth
For day-to-day maintenance, a soft cloth - like one you might use to clean glasses - is ideal for wiping fingerprints off gemstones. Opt for a microfibre cloth; a paper towel could lightly scratch the metal, or potentially make scratches appear more visible.

Remember your skin excretes natural oils, so wiping your pieces down every so often will help prevent any build-up, which could also dull their shine.

Be careful around household cleaning products
While regular cleaning can help your jewellery stay pristine and shiny, it’s also important to think about how you handle them day-to-day. If you never remove your rings or bracelets, you might want to consider doing so when cleaning the bathroom for instance. "Always avoid bringing your jewellery into contact with household chemicals (bleach, window cleaner etc.) as this can harm both the gemstone and metal," says Lambert.

Consider when you put your perfume on
If you’re used to spritzing on your perfume just before you leave the house, it might be time to change your routine. Lambert says it can damage your jewellery, so it’s better to spritz yourself with fragrance before popping on your rings, bracelets and necklaces.

Store your jewellery correctly
It’s also worth thinking about where you store your pieces – a jewellery box can look cute in your bedroom, but is also hugely functional in keeping your favourite pieces safe from moisture and humidity, which can tarnish the metals.