Caring for Your Gemstones: Protecting
Protecting: Minerals are rated from 1 to 10 on the Moh's Hardness Scale. The lower the number, the softer the gemstone and the easier it can be damaged by wear or rubbing against other things in your jewelry box. To give you an idea, a diamond is the hardest gemstone at 10, an emerald is a 7.5, turquoise is 5-6, while selenite is only 2. A diamond can easily scratch other gemstones if you are not careful about their storage, especially when gemstones have been faceted or tumbled to a high polish, but even two of the same stone can damage each other if handled roughly.
If you are hard on your jewelry, know that softer minerals like pearls or opals might last longer as a pendant rather than rings or bracelets.
If you have a favorite stone or crystal that you like to carry with you, keep it in a pocket by itself or in a small pouch to avoid chips or scratches.
Don't store or display your gemstones in constant, direct sunlight. Some colored minerals (fluorite is an example) tend to fade over time from sunlight. Don't let that keep you from wearing them! Just be mindful of where they spend most of their time when not in use.
Caring for Your Gemstones: Cleansing
Cleansing: I'm not talking about how to clean a ring that you've gotten lotion or soap scum on. I mean cleaning in the metaphysical healing sense. And if you are the least bit intrigued by the healing properties that many claim gemstones have, you might as well learn about cleansing your gems in order to keep them "working" their best.
Gemstones are thought to absorb energy from air and living beings around them. That means when you acquire one, it has absorbed the energy (positive and negative) from everyone who has handled it and everywhere it has been - from the worker who mined it, the wholesaler who purchased it first, maybe a lapidarist who cut and polished it, the retailer(s) who purchased it next, anyone in the store handling it or previously owning it, and you. It could have been all over the world. But you want it to be a clean slate for YOU, and enhance YOUR well-being. That means your gemstones need to be cleansed and programmed to be in tune with you.
The easiest and quickest cleansing method I have heard about is using water. Most gemstones are not damaged by water and you can hold them under a faucet of cool water for several minutes, or immerse them in salt water. If holding under running water and your gemstone is a crystal with a point, it should point downward. Another easy method if you have a yard is to bury your gemstone in the dirt for a day or two (and then I suppose you'll end up cleansing it in water anyway :) ). If you have a window sill that gets good light, placing the stone in sunlight or moonlight for a few hours is also a method to empty and "recharge". For no tools needed you can visualize a white, healing light surrounding your stone and purifying it. Every now and then (some say weekly, others say it depends on the stone and how much it has to "deal with") you should cleanse your stone again to keep it refreshed. For example, I have heard that selenite placed in a central location of a home helps keep peace and happiness there - I have a selenite wand in the living room that I cleanse all the time because every little bit helps! Citrine however is one of the very few gemstones that never needs to be cleansed. No, I have no idea why.
Caring for Your Gemstones: Programming
Once your gemstone has been cleared of all the "stuff" it absorbed before it met you, you are ready to program or activate it. You can program it to help you with something very specific (confidence when speaking in front of a large group of people at work for a very important presentation) or more general (help in staying positive and healthy). But of course, you need to choose the right gemstone for the job. I like emeralds (as you can tell from the photos on this page), but nowhere have I found anything that implies emeralds being good for anxiety. I would need amethyst for that. And even then, it is thought that a stone should almost call to you - not just any amethyst would do.
Sure, you may be in a jewelry store and love one ring more than another and it might be the stone or it might be the setting (or it might be the price). But think about if you've ever been in a rock shop, souvenir shop, gem mine, or some other place where you can look at unset gemstones and crystals. Did you ever look at or pick one up and think "this one is really special"? And maybe it's not the most cosmetically perfect stone, but you just have a good feeling from it? Why ask why - just accept that the stone is a good fit for you.
Holding your cleansed gemstone, imagine a peaceful, protective light around it and start thinking your thoughts. Some say to speak out loud what your expectations are "I program this crystal to...", but I tend to think in more generalized terms - visualizing good results and if a few words pop in my brain at the time that's good too. Think of your gemstone as a bowl in your hands and you are pouring your hopes and intentions from your head and your heart into it. You know how hard it is to think of one idea and not let your mind wander from it? Yeah, I know - but really try to concentrate for a few minutes.