How can I get my jeweler to really clean my ring?
November 14, 2011 5:38 PM   Subscribe

How can I get my jeweler to actually clean and polish my engagement ring?

When we bought my engagement ring, we were told we'd have free cleaning and polishing for life. Now I know why.
Every time I visit to have the ring cleaned, the jeweler uses a high-pressure air hose on it and checks to see if the stones are loose. That's it. I assume it would take more time/cost them more money to actually do a full cleaning/polishing.
The problem is, because it's platinum, it really needs to be polished, but I can't seem to to make this clear to him. He just brushes me off and rushes off to the back of the store to air-clean it.
I'm not an assertive person--is there some specific word I should be saying to let him know I want the full bells-and-whistles car wash?
posted by ellaminnowpea to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ultrasonic bath?
posted by holterbarbour at 5:53 PM on November 14, 2011

This is pretty easy, find another Jeweler. Back in the day, when I worked at a jewelry store while in college, we cleaned rings in an ultrasonic bath... we would do it for anyone for free, just took a couple of minutes... a great way to gain customers.

You don't want to continue to do business with someone that brushes you off like that.
posted by HuronBob at 5:54 PM on November 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

Yeah, most jewelers will give the jewelry you have on a good cleaning for free while you browse.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:56 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ultrasonic cleaners actually are not that expensive if you want to buy one and do this for yourself. Admittedly, that wouldn't polish the jewelry, but it will get it cleaner than anything else.
posted by dfriedman at 5:59 PM on November 14, 2011

So you walk into the store, hand him the ring, and say "I need this cleaned, please." He takes it to the back of the store and uses the air hose. He brings it back to you, and you notice that it hasn't been polished. Then what do you say?
posted by decathecting at 6:09 PM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ultrasonic cleaning isn't polishing. I know exactly what you mean about jewelers saying they've "polished" it when they've basically done what I can do at home in the US cleaner. You want the mild scratches and so forth buffed out so the band is shiny again.

Find another jeweler for an actual polish and cleaning.
posted by jerseygirl at 6:10 PM on November 14, 2011

Why do you think platinum should be polished? The high shine is usually a result of rhodium plating. Platinum doesn't tarnish, like silver.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:37 PM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Platinum doesn't tarnish, but it gets damaged easily.

IANAJeweler, but I took jewelry classes from a local metalsmith for several years.

If what you're telling the jeweler is "my ring needs cleaning", he's interpreting that to mean "there is some kind of surface gunk or grime on the ring that needs to be cleaned away" — if that were the problem, ultrasonic cleaning would probably do the trick nicely.

Since that's not the problem, he might understand what you want better if you say something like, "I'm not happy with the way the finish of the ring has been damaged by everyday wear — see, these scratches here and this little gouge here [or whatever you're noticing]. What can you do to fix that and restore the finish?"

I found this page with some good info about platinum, how it compares with white gold in terms of wear and damage, and why it shows the damage so much more than gold does. On the up side, platinum is a tougher metal than gold or silver, so refinishing platinum jewelry doesn't remove metal from the piece the way it does with gold or silver. If you choose to, you can get it repolished multiple times over the years without it damaging the ring the way it would if it were made of one of the softer metals.
posted by Lexica at 6:38 PM on November 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Are you in NYC? The reason why they don't really do a proper cleaning is because they are not equipped to do it.

Some stores have a steam machine, some have an ultrasonic cleaner, but if you need a proper cleaning and polishing, that requires special stuff.

It needs to be boiled out, polished, boiled again with lye, and then rhodium. That costs money and takes about an hour. A lot of regular jewellers do not have the staff nor the capability to provide this sort of service.

If you are in NYC, I can help with that.
posted by Yellow at 6:41 PM on November 14, 2011

Best answer: IANJY. I am formerly a jeweller, who worked for a store that offered free cleaning.

First, I am wondering if your jeweller is using steam, not an air hose?

That said...

Free cleaning and polishing is just that - cleaning and polishing. We first checked the stones with the microscope (always do this first) as some rings should not go in an ultrasonic cleaner (due to the properties of the stones (for example, emeralds are oiled or treated with fillers for stability reasons; opals will shatter; pearls will degrade or shatter; and some diamonds also have stabilizers or issues such as cleavage and fractures) and used either an ultrasonic machine (a professional one - the home quality ones are iffy) or we used proper cleaning fluids and little brushes as necessary. Sometimes a ring was so worn or a claw was snagged we'd put some ultrasonic cleaner in a ziplock baggie, and the ring inside that in case it fell out and then float it. If a ring was really cruddy, I'd run it over to a nearby bench goldsmith to have it steam cleaned, or put in the "pickling" solution - an acid bath, depending on the ring. Sometimes rings were really, really cruddy - toothpaste and conditioner and lotion and pastry and all of the DNA that's usually under the stone too - these needed a progressive series of cleaning techniques. Diamonds are inherently attracted to grease. Water will bead up on a diamond, but grease will coat it, so you need to clean it with the proper solution.

At home you can use warm water, dish detergent and a little ammonia (Windex is fine) and a soft toothbrush, always brushing in the direction of the prongs and being careful not to snag a bristle under a claw. It is more important that the bottom of your diamond is clean, as that is where the light is refracted from and where it gets its sparkle.

We polished with a proper polishing cloth containing a high concentration of rouge, or other scratch removal methods that we were taught, by hand. It is not a time/money issue - it is considered a full cleaning and polishing, and together with the cleaning, it's proper maintenance for your ring.

Platinum, in particular, is dense yet soft. It will take a fine network of scratches and develop a lovely soft patina over time yet still remain a pure white. Most people want this patina - it's what makes it old and soft and rich-looking, not hard and shiny. It will not retain a high polish for long with constant daily wear. You will be scratching it daily, as many metals are "harder" than platinum.

You can ask to have your platinum ring rhodium plated as part of re-finishing. Rhodium is the harder platinum metal that they cover white gold with to make it look white. There are six platinum metals - ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum. They have similar properties, but some are "harder" and "wear" differently. It will wear off over time, but your ring will be shinier. It can be re-done from time to time - but you'll lose metal along the way. The plating is only about 5 microns thick.

So, what you are probably looking for is a re-finishing. But you do not want constant refinishing. You will lose metal, and your ring will grow thinner and misshapen over time.

It's harder to work with platinum due to the higher melting point, so it's best to use someone that specializes in platinum. Platinum polished by mechanical methods means you lose metal by buffing to get the whole ring down to the level of the deepest scratch. Because your wear on the ring due to personal habits will be uneven, you can't do that in spots, or your ring will soon look lumpy. You have to polish the whole ring, using a series of abrasive brushes, wheels, burrs and and then finally sometimes rubber wheels and needle files. The other method is to bring the surface to the melting temperature again - either with expensive lasers or on the bench with the torch, but still you need to do a finishing polish. Again, you lose metal and take the chance your stone will become loose.

So - you could possibly ask your jeweller for your ring to be "refinished" - but it will likely not be free. What you can ask is "How best can I maintain the appearance I want?"
posted by peagood at 6:43 PM on November 14, 2011 [42 favorites]

Best answer: When we bought my engagement ring, we were told we'd have free cleaning and polishing for life. Now I know why.

You were told or you had it in writing? Because if you were just told that and can't find anyone else who was told the same thing then you might as well claim that you were told that you would get a free Hawaiian vacation each year. In other words "Contract or it didn't happen" . Sorry to be harsh but that's that way much of business works. Businesspeople lie all the time. The purpose of this free cleaning appears to be more to get you back in the store (in order to sell you something else) rather than actually maintaining the appearance of your rung.

I'm not an assertive person--is there some specific word I should be saying to let him know I want the full bells-and-whistles car wash?

The specific word begins with an "L".
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:54 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nice answer, peagood...this is why askme is such a great place...!

anything I said previously about cleaning rings can be ignored!
posted by HuronBob at 6:54 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

The problem is, because it's platinum, it really needs to be polished, but I can't seem to to make this clear to him.

Dude, platinum builds this patina on it over makes it look less shiny...but real platinum people KNOW that this is the way to wear it.

Getting it shiny again will cause you to lose some of the platinum material. I don't know if that is true with ALL precious metals, but definitely true with platinum.

Ultrasonic baths and stuff...but don't go for the shiny cleaning...
posted by hal_c_on at 8:57 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow peagood. Awesome response!!
posted by pearlybob at 9:24 PM on November 14, 2011

Response by poster: I don't know the language of jewelry, so that's basically what I was asking -- what is the right thing to ask when I want the scratches and scuffs removed? However, I didn't know about the patina effect that platinum has, so maybe I'll just wear it for a while yet and see how I like it. Thanks for the answers--very helpful!
posted by ellaminnowpea at 11:18 PM on November 14, 2011

Best answer: Polishing Platinum, and a more detailed description, for interest.
posted by peagood at 5:09 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Rhodium plating, as said above, it what my wife asks for very 18 months
posted by phritosan at 10:18 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

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