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How To Clean Labradorite (And What NOT To Do)

cleaned polished labradorite

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How To Clean Labradorite

Labradorite is a beautiful stone, but it’s also not the most resilient one. You’ll need to take a bit of care when cleaning it, whether it’s a raw specimen or already set in jewelry. It’s just a matter of patience and making sure not to do anything too harsh.

So, let’s get to it and I’ll show you how to clean your labradorite and what not to do when trying to make it sparkle.

What Not to Do When Cleaning Labradorite

Labradorite is fairly hard, at 6-6.5 on the Moh’s scale, but it also has some vulnerabilities that make some methods unsuited for cleaning it.

The main problem is that a lot of labradorite has internal fractures. If you’ve ever cut and polished it yourself, then you’ve seen them. Bigger pieces tend to lose some mass as it goes through the saw. Not due to the blade’s kerf, but instead because the vibrations can shake loose bits with large internal fractures. You may also run into problems when grinding and polishing for the same reason if you’re not careful about selecting the right crystalline structure.

Just because the piece is finished doesn’t mean that it’s lacking any internal flaws.

There are two common methods for cleaning jewelry and stones that work great for a lot of things but aren’t suitable for labradorites.

Never use an ultrasonic cleaner with a labradorite. If there are no internal fractures, it will likely be fine, but any small cracks on the interior will begin to open up due to the vibration of the machine.

You also never want to steam clean your labradorite. They simply get too hot and the changes in temperature can cause cracks to appear or worsen depending on the initial state of the stone.

Needless to say, the odd practice of boiling jewelry to clean it is also right out.

The bad news is that these are all low effort ways to get most classic gemstones and their settings clean with little attention on your part. The good news is that you won’t have to invest in any new tech in order to get your labradorite sparkling.

How To Clen Rough Labradorite

Cleaning rough labradorite up is easy enough.

You’ll need the following:

  • A stiff nylon shop brush
  • A bowl of water
  • Dish detergent

Rough should be cleaned vigorously, especially if you intend to work it down the road. Some smaller crystals may break off, but your goal is to expose any near-surface cracks now in addition to cleaning the stone up for better viewing.

Brush vigorously to remove any parts of the matrix or dirt that are still stuck to the stone’s face. If you feel anything move under the brush then re-attack the spot, trying to dislodge the material that’s still there.

Don’t try to speed things up with vinegar. While it may not produce much of a reaction, labradorite is still a plagioclase feldspar, and the calcium content may be vulnerable.

If you find that the dish detergent doesn’t completely remove everything you may need to get in there with a steel dental probe or other fine-point tool. Try to find something stiff but softer than the labradorite, but stainless steel usually works well.

At that point, just keep the stone in the bowl of water and begin scraping at the stains on the stone.

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Once properly cleaned, the labradorite is ready to be cut, polished, and set if that’s your final intention. For display purposes, it still may be best to sand down any surfaces where you’re having trouble reducing matrix, a 220-grit piece of sandpaper will be useful here.

If you’ve self-collected a piece and are having trouble removing dry debris (think plant matter or sand particles) from the exterior, you may be able to use a 2-3% hydrogen peroxide solution to remove them through the chemical’s bubbling reaction.

In any case, dry the stone when you’re done and try not to soak it for too long.

How To Clean Polished Labradorite

Similar to cleaning rough labradorite, cleaning the polished stuff is simply a matter of elbow grease.

Use the same setup as above, but finish with toothpaste before the final rinse. This will help ensure the polish remains even. A nylon brush shouldn’t scratch the stone, but oftentimes cleaning a polished piece also means removing the scratches. 

In this case, however, we won’t need to pick through cavities and fractures to get them cleaned up. Well, most of the time anyway. If you do run into this problem then hydrogen peroxide is ideal since it bubbles a bit and doesn’t react with the labradorite.

Once cleaned, you should observe the stone itself. Sometimes the “dirt” people see are actually scratches from frequent handling, rubbing against other stones in the collection, or even just shipping.

In that case, a felt wheel on a rotary tool with a bit of Zam or cerium oxide can be applied to re-polish the stone. This is a quick and relatively easy process, just move the tool in small circles until you’re satisfied the polish has been restored.

How To Clean Labradorite in Jewelry

One note: jewelry that has been constantly worn for a long time and builds up some muck in open spaces should be handled by a professional, particularly in the case of high-transparency cabochons (think Rainbow Moonstone, a labradorite variant) with open backs.

In very bad cases, the cabochon may need to be removed from the setting since the usual methods for fine jewelry are ultrasonic or steam cleaning.

Fortunately, most people’s jewelry doesn’t get that bad.

You’ll want the following:

  • An old toothbrush or nylon brush
  • Dish detergent
  • Toothpaste
  • Water
  • A Sunshine Cloth
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Clean the piece gently with your brush and dish soap, then assess whether you need to go any further. Remember to get everywhere you can on the piece, the dirtiest places are often the ones we think about less such as the backs of pendants or the underside of rings.

Once you’re finished you may want to use a bit of toothpaste, especially if you don’t have a polishing cloth. The minute abrasives in the toothpaste will help scrape off organic gunk and work out scratches on some of the softer precious metals.

Finally, finish it off with the polishing cloth. Sunshine Cloths are my preferred brand and seem to work magic on mild scratches and “cloudy” metal. They’ll also take off the tarnish that affects sterling silver and low-karat gold. You can scrub fairly hard with these, just don’t overdo it enough you break the piece.

With that done you should have a nice, sparkling piece of jewelry with clean labradorite. If you have a bit of skill yourself you may also want to re-polish the piece. A rotary tool with felt and Zam works well, letting you touch up the labradorite and the metal with very little risk.

If anything further needs to be done I recommend contacting a local jeweler, getting your stones and metal cleaned is usually very cheap and it saves you the effort and risk of a deep cleaning.

Jeremy Hall
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