6 Ways You're Ruining Your Jewelry Without Knowing It
We all have special jewelry pieces that we treasure because they were a gift or used to belong to a loved one or maybe they remind us of a special time in our lives etc. If not cared for properly, they could become worn, damaged, and keep us from continuing to enjoy them for years to come.
Over the years I’ve worked for several high end jewelry brands and consulted on a lot of repair work. Across the board it seems people are the most upset when their jewelry needs repaired and they feel as though they did nothing to warrant it.
“I'm not a construction worker!” was a common plea from frustrated customers. In most cases, we would discover it was the result of not removing jewelry during routine or daily tasks over the course of many years that ultimately caused the damage and not one high impact event.
So, to keep you out of the repair shop, here are a few activities to think twice about doing with your favorite jewelry on.
Rings are very susceptible to damage while gardening and it's important to remember that just because you put on gloves doesn't mean they are completely protected. If you are gripping a tool such as a shovel very tightly and using it with force, this can cause your rings to become misshaped or out-of-round without realizing it.
This can cause all kinds of other problems especially if it is set with gemstones. They are much more likely to get knocked loose or fall out and if your ring is out of round because that means the settings are likely stretched and will need replaced (not repaired).
2. Household Chores
Have you ever knocked your ring against the washing machine while putting a load of laundry in or dunked your hand in a bucket of floor cleaner without thinking and afterward wondered if it will damage your rings?
There are so many chemicals and solutions that we use for cleaning around the house and almost none of them are good for your jewelry.
Jewelry is carefully crafted and is often finished with a polished surface or a surface treatment called a Patina. Chemicals containing bleach for example are super harsh and can strip this patina and affect the finished surface leaving it looking dull or even disintegrating the metal.
Most gold that jewelry is made from is alloyed with other metals to make it tougher because pure 24 karat gold is far too soft on its own. Bleach and chlorine (pools, hot tubs, etc) can break down these other alloys and over time cause issues such as cracks and weakened solder joints.
3. Wearing it to the Gym
Think about your routine at the gym: you are gripping metal weights and grasping handles on exercise machines while your body is producing salty sweat that is coating your jewelry (causing tarnish).
Bracelets and necklaces are likely to get caught or snagged as you are moving around and you may find yourself retracing your steps to figure out where it fell off. If they don’t get caught on something, they are likely to get tangled together and could break when trying to separate them.
4. Showering & Swimming
TL:DR - Body products and chemicals can build up on the surface of the metal and cause tarnish.
Gemstones and precious metals cannot withstand contact with pool/hot tub chemicals. Pool chemicals are harsh and can dull, discolor and disintegrate metal over time. Salt water can blacken sterling silver and there are other factors such as sun block and heat that increase the tarnishing process. Body products and shampoos from your shower can build up on the surface of the metal and cause tarnish and dulling effects and remove the luster on pearls and other sensitive gems. Earring backs can be worked off and washed away when soap and water are in the mix.
Earrings get misshaped and post earrings could be damaged by the pressure and weight of your head on top of them (plus it can hurt!). The metal post can only be bent and re-straightened a few times before it breaks off.
It is understandable to want to leave post earrings or small studs in for days, however you should make an effort to check and tighten them each morning if you are going to do this. Letting them go for days or weeks without securing the backs is putting them at risk to go missing. They are held on by friction and even threaded backs can work their way off if not checked often.
Rings catch on fabric and blankets pulling on prongs without you realizing it. It is also very common for your fingers to swell throughout the night and this can be uncomfortable and problematic if the ring get stuck. Necklaces can become entwined with your hair and tangled together and knotted. Usually with this happens, the chains need to be replaced and if they are gold it can be costly.
6. Getting Ready for Work
There is a popular saying: jewelry should be the first thing you take off at night and the last thing to put on before you start your day.
Hairspray, perfume and lotion are some of the biggest factors that contribute to tarnish. Spraying sticky hairspray at your earrings and spritzing concentrated perfume at your silver and gold jewelry will build up a coating with the metal making it look dirty and speckled.
Hand lotion that is put on over your jewelry will get into the cracks of the design, collect dirt and keep light from shining through your gemstones. It’s pretty gross to think about but it can harden underneath certain types of stone settings and cause stones to be worked loose over time if not cleaned. This sounds a little crazy but I have seen it happen.
Many gemstones such as Turquoise, Opal and Pearl just to name a few can be permanently stained by body sprays and products and it’s better just not to risk it.