This is how the scenario will play out: The wedding will be a success. You’ll merge your lives and all worldly possessions, and then one day your wife will be handing you something when you notice her engagement ring is filthy. Has she been working on a garden you’re not privy to or cleaning the car? What are those little spots in the crevices of the design and in between the diamonds of her eternity wedding band?
Then you look at your wedding band and notice that it’s scuffed and, as you rub your finger over it, you feel something a little grimy. It’s that time of the relationship when you need to talk… about cleaning your rings. You’ve split up all the chores, learned to put the cap on the toothpaste, and now toss the dirty laundry in the hamper instead of on the floor. She’s learned to live with your deteriorating socks and the stained high school football jersey you wear while yelling at the TV during Sunday sports. How hard can it be to ensure your rings get back to their original condition?
Good news: It’s relatively simple but there are a few rules to follow and it depends on whether you are talking about modern engagement rings, antique/vintage engagement rings, or plain and gem-set wedding bands.
Why Do Your Rings Need To Be Cleaned Regularly?
You and your wife wear your rings daily; therefore they experience much more wear and tear than other types of jewelry. The natural oils in your skin, all the things you touch during the day, washing your hands, and not drying them totally all contribute to dulling the sparkle of a diamond and altering the original finish of a solid wedding band. Your wife’s make-up and hand lotion can get caught in the intricate work, prongs, or other parts of her ring. This is why rings should be brought in for cleaning once a year, if not more often.
Can All Rings Be Cleaned the Same Way?
Modern engagement rings and wedding bands with gemstones need to be cleaned differently than solid metal bands. Moreover, contemporary designed rings also require a different type of upkeep compared to antique/vintage styles.
Professional Care: What It Is and How Much It Costs
Once a year, you should have your rings cleaned by the jeweler who sold them to you. If this isn’t possible, get some recommendations on the most trustworthy jewelers in your area and have the ring professionally cleaned and brought back to its original finish.
The diamond or diamonds and settings should also be checked to see if anything has come loose; if so, they should be tightened and fixed immediately. Antique rings that are from the early 20th century with diamonds and/or precious gemstones and set in platinum or high-karat gold (18k) can usually be cleaned in the same way as a modern ring. You just have to be more gentle to ensure that the stones don’t come loose.
The finish should be left to its natural patina — antique rings look much better when they show their age; it gives them personality and character. This does not mean that the jeweler can’t get out all of the dirt and residue from lotion and other products that your hand comes in contact with. He will need to proceed with caution and be an expert in his field. Victorian rings should be cleaned only by a jeweler who specializes in early period pieces.
How long will it take to clean a ring?
It depends on everything: the ring, the jeweler, and the day. If it’s a reputable jeweler, you bought it from that store, and there’s not much of a crowd, they might do it on the spot in ten minutes. If they’re busy, they’ll tell you when to come back and pick it up. Simple rings can be cleaned quickly, but it may take a while if there are many small stones that could come loose.
Wedding bands without stones and solitaire engagement rings with plain shanks (not pavé or channel settings) can often be cleaned by a professional jeweler in an ultrasonic machine and then the jeweler can bring it back to its original finish. Generally speaking, we don’t advise people use ultrasonic machines at home; you could damage your ring if you don’t know what you’re doing.
How much should a cleaning cost?
Could be free, could be $25-$100. When you go into a store, ask about their policy; if you bought it there, they will usually clean it for free.
Should you worry about theft or gem swapping?
Generally speaking, if you go to a reputable jeweler — especially one that friends or family have suggested — you don’t have to worry about the stone being “swapped” out. Use common sense: Don’t take risks and go to a store that you know nothing about.
DIY Care: How to Clean Rings On Your Own
Cleaning your ring yourself is a relatively simple process. All colors of gold platinum, palladium, and sterling silver in contemporary engagement rings and wedding bands can be cleaned in the same way.
Do not use any chemicals you purchased or that the store might have given you.
Do soak them in a gentle dish soap such as Palmolive, Ivory, or Dawn mixed with warm water for a half hour or more. It’s much easier, safer, less toxic, and odor-free this way.
Do not clean rings over the sink; you must ensure your ring or any diamonds don’t go down the drain.
Do rinse them with another cup of water over a strainer over a bowl. Dry them delicately with a soft cotton cloth. You can also dilute Windex with a little water and let a diamond engagement ring soak for around 20 minutes to a half hour.
Do not use a toothbrush on the small diamonds in the band of a ring as they will be more prone to get loose or fall out.
Do use a soft or medium bristle toothbrush with a little of the homemade solution and go over your solo or big diamond(s) with it.
You can use a toothbrush with soapy water to go over your wedding band with no stones. If the ring once had a matte, satin, brushed, or sandblasted finished, after you clean it, you can try and bring that finish back with an ultra-fine piece of steel wool. But, you will often need to go to a professional jeweler to bring it back to its original finish.
Antique engagement rings from the early 20th century onward can be cleaned in the same way. Wedding bands from these periods, as well as solid-gold wedding bands with patterns (no stones) from the 19th century can also be soaked in a bath of water and Palmolive. However, an engagement ring from the 19th century (Victorian era or earlier) should be very lightly cleaned with a cotton cloth and brought to a professional antique jeweler for any type of major cleaning.
As mentioned earlier, many antique rings look better with the patina that comes from age; therefore, you might want to hold off on doing any cleaning of your own and have a jeweler check the stones to see if any dirt is caught between the different surfaces of the ring.
How to Keep Your Rings in the Best Condition Possible
To cut down on cleaning your rings, you and your wife should try not to wear them in these situations:
- In the shower
- In the pool or ocean
- While you are exercising
- While you are engaged in any type of sport
- While you are doing any type of yard work or fixing or building things around the house
- While putting on moisturizer or perfume — wait till they dry
- While you are cleaning
- While you are doing laundry
- While you are cooking or near where you are cooking.
There is a great story about the smoldering 1930’s movie star Marlene Dietrich. She took off her 37.41-carat cabochon emerald ring, while she was helping bake a cake in the kitchen at a dinner party, and when she was done, she realized it was gone. The other guests helped her look for the ring. It was only during dessert that the ring was discovered by one of the other guests — inside a piece of the cake!
How to Not Lose Your Ring While Cleaning
If you take off your ring for any of the above tasks, you should have a ring dish or ring tray that you put it in and it should be in a place that is out of the way of what you are doing. By the way, this is a great gift idea (the image below shows a few design options but you can find much more modern bowls too).
If you take off your rings for long lengths of time, and have a safe in the house, you should keep it there or in another secure place you will remember. That’s the key to not losing stuff: Have a regular spot for it.