This coronavirus pandemic has certainly managed to affect every aspect of our daily life. With the guidelines suggesting frequent handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, you may be wondering how this affects your jewelry. In particular, rings.
Since I haven’t been able to find any one good article on the subject, I decided to write my own. After all, diamond and gemstone rings are certainly something to be protected. No matter what type of gemstone or diamond your ring might be made of, the last thing anyone wants is to dull the brilliance. And then there’s the metal itself to worry about...
Here is a guide to help you keep your jewelry safe while keeping yourself safe during this time. I’m also including information on certain stones that should never be exposed to any liquids.
For those of you that don’t want a detailed explanation, I’ll give a short answer here. Yes. Yes, using hand sanitizer and/or washing your hands frequently even with just soap and water can and will have an effect on your jewelry and gemstones. To what degree depends on the type of metal and type of gemstone in your ring.
Also, truly the best way to protect your jewelry during this time is to take it off. However, since like most I assume, I am apparently not willing to do that, so here are the precautions you should take.
First let’s start with metal, in particular..sterling silver, white gold, and yellow gold.
Quick tidbit: alcohol-free hand sanitizers, besides not being recommended by the CDC, are more likely to damage your jewelry. The recommendations in this article will apply to hand sanitizer that is 60% alcohol.
Sterling Silver (.925)
This is definitely the metal that you will need to be the most cautious with as it is more susceptible to tarnishing. While that damage might not be permanent, it will cause your ring to tarnish more quickly. It can also cause a dulling of the appearance of the metal. Hand sanitizer will also leave a residue that you will need to wipe off. To clean this residue off your ring, simply use a silver cloth or hot soapy water. I personally recommend using an old toothbrush as it is fantastic to clean inside the nooks and crannies of jewelry. Particularly necklace chain but it also works well on rings. On that note, soft head toothbrushes are the only type I recommend.
This is another metal you want to be careful with because the chemicals in hand sanitizer react with the copper that gives rose gold its color. This reaction can cause the ring to tarnish. If you get hand sanitizer on your ring, using a jewelry cleaning cloth is sufficient for cleaning off your ring. Significant exposure may cause tarnish that will need to be professionally cleaned, or (result in??)permanent change in the color of the metal.
This metal is more likely to be damaged by hand sanitizer, second to Silver. Frequent use of hand sanitizer can speed up the wear and tarnishing of the plating. It is not recommended to expose your white gold jewelry to hand sanitizer as doing so will cause your piece of jewelry to need to be replated with rhodium.
This is the metal that is least susceptible to damage from hand sanitizer. There is no film or layer that can become tarnished or worn down. While not being as susceptible as the other metals, it still stands to reason that not exposing your ring is the safest option.
Again, the best way to avoid any problems is to simply remove your ring before applying hand sanitizer. Ensure that your hands are completely dry before replacing your ring(s).
To clean/sanitize the metal itself, a mixture of water and antibacterial soap along with your soft toothbrush is sufficient. However, NOT all gemstones can be soaked in water as I'll explain below.
Before we get to the gemstones, it is worth noting that the settings on your ring are also at risk of loosening and/or weakening from overexposure to water/chemicals. This will result in stones being lost and needing to be replaced and the setting repaired. Most jewelry only requires cleaning if it has become tarnished or dull.
Diamonds, Sapphires and Rubies
There is a risk of dulling the luster of your precious stone with frequent use of cleaning agents, along with the risk of loosened prongs that hold your diamond in place. Again the best option is to remove your ring, apply hand sanitizer, let your hands completely dry, and then put your ring back on.
Kunzite, Tourmalines and Emeralds
These are all soft stones that do not have the durability of Diamonds, Rubies, and Sapphires. Extra care should be taken and it is recommended to avoid harsh chemicals such as hand sanitizer.
For the above gemstones, filling a small bowl with warm water and a bit of antibacterial soap is recommended for cleaning. You can soak your ring for about 5 to 10 minutes, and using a soft bristle toothbrush gently scrub around and behind the stones. Dry with a soft cloth.
Hand sanitizer can damage or dry out the surface of your Opal, causing visible cracks. A porous stone, the risk of permanent and irreparable damage is greater than other gemstones. Opals should absolutely be kept away from alcohol-based products and submersion in any liquid.
The alcohol in hand sanitizer can alter the actual surface of the pearl, causing it to lose its luster and even change its color. Pearls shouldn't come in contact with water at all.
If your pearl does come in contact with water, direct sunlight, high temperatures, and or cleaning products you should immediately wipe clean with a soft cloth.
Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli
These stones fall into the same category as Pearls and Opals. Contact with water and or harsh chemicals is absolutely not recommended.
For these softer, porous stones, a bit more care is needed. To clean, fill a small bowl with lukewarm, not warm, water and a few drops of mild dish soap. Dip a soft, clean cloth into bowl and gently wipe down the outside and inside of your ring. Go over the ring with another soft, clean cloth that has been dipped in lukewarm water without soap to help remove any residue and finally dry with another soft cloth.
It is not recommended to soak the softer stones. Keeping our beloved jewelry safe during this pandemic requires a bit more maintenance than usual, but completely worth it.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my article and that I’ve answered any questions you may have. Remember, the safest way to protect your jewelry from hand sanitizer and frequent washing is simply to take it off.