Kate MIddleton probably doesn't need to ask this.
April 29, 2012 1:28 PM   Subscribe

How do I care for my new sapphire wedding ring?

I was told by my jeweler that sapphires are "soft" and can easily get nicked, scratched, or broken. Questions:

1. Do I wear my wedding ring all the time, knowing this might happen? I don't really garden or do anything manual-labor-y. Mostly I teach classes, play with or walk the dog, cook, read, and so forth. I kind of hate to only wear it in public, as I think that suggests I only care what others think.

2. Are there precautions I can take? The jeweler mentioned being able to polish the stone if the scratches or dings get bad.

3. Am I supposed to clean it?

4. What are best practices for realizing I have this thing on my hand and not being as careless and clueless as I usually am?
posted by mrfuga0 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've had my sapphire engagement ring for over three years and haven't taken any precautions at all. I wear it all the time and the stone is still perfect. I wash it with Dawn dishwashing liquid and a soft toothbrush every few weeks on the advice of my jeweler and it shines it up and removes any grime caught underneath the stone. I wouldn't worry about it at all - my sapphire is a pretty good size and I'm sure I've banged it against things in the past three years, but as I said before, it still looks perfect.
posted by echo0720 at 1:39 PM on April 29, 2012

Erm. I'm not a jewelry or precious stones expert, but sapphires aren't soft. They're a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale (diamonds are a 10). That's not a linear scale, but sapphires (corundum) are still among the hardest stones available. I also wear a sapphire wedding ring, and while I don't necessarily like to wear it in water (showers, washing the dishes, etc.) that's mostly a matter of comfort.
posted by asciident at 1:41 PM on April 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Your jeweler was full of it. Sapphires are one of the hardest stones out there. They're even used industrially, e.g. as wristwatch bearings.
posted by Lady Li at 1:47 PM on April 29, 2012

Er - which is not to say it's not _possible_ to scratch or damage one. Maybe if you scraped it against a diamond, or really went to town on it with a sharp edge of something metal. But you'd be more likely to hurt the setting or the ring itself before you'd hurt the stone. (This also might be what the jeweler was referring to being able to polish, being a bit more generous in my assumptions about his or her competence).
posted by Lady Li at 1:49 PM on April 29, 2012

My marriage band is a ring of square sapphires like this. The sapphires were vintage sourced from other settings at the jeweler's, so they were stones that had been around the block and then recut into the eternity setting, which we were warned was unstable because the stones touched each other all the way around. My husband's is the same, except his has green sapphires.

We've been wearing them without being particularly careful for 13 years. I recently stopped wearing mine daily because of my work (but that's the only reason). They both look exactly the same and neither one of us have ever lost a stone or damaged one and they shine up great. I think it always comes down to the quality of the setting, more so than what the stones are, as far as durability. I have a couple of friends, for example, that used very soft stones like pearls and opals in their sets, but used excellent jewelers for quality settings and have not had problems.
posted by rumposinc at 2:02 PM on April 29, 2012

My 25-year-old sapphire solitaire engagement ring has never scratched or chipped. I've never taken it off through 25 years of working, gardening, dishwashing, etc. I've banged it around A LOT. It's still as beautiful as it ever was and I still constantly get compliments on it. I also use a toothbrush to clean it every few weeks, as it does get dull and grimy under the stone, but that's about it.
posted by raisingsand at 2:17 PM on April 29, 2012

I would avoid that jeweler in the future!
posted by jgirl at 3:11 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am formerly a jeweller. I am not your jeweller.

Sapphires are indeed a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale, but, we'll get to that.

Though the scale is non-linear, and corundum is used in watchmaking for points of wear, they're en cabochon, not facetted. Cleavage planes parallel to the facets can also mean that sapphires can chip if struck at the right angle, just as a diamond or any stone, even though they're "hard". "Hard" doesn't mean "not brittle". Even a corundum watch crystal is more brittle than plastic or glass.

You also have to consider the Knoop, or Vickers hardness scale - there are many items that are "harder" than sapphires, not even considering what happens when you're using gem-quality polished stones.

So, in daily use, you'll eventually see the facets wearing pretty quickly. Because they also have more inclusions, this facet wear + inclusions like crystals and cavities also means you can soon have open inclusions (like pores in skin) appear over time. This is immediately visible under a microscope, but not to the naked eye.

Sapphires are cut so that the best colour appears best when viewed directly from above. So, flaws, inclusions and even non-uniformity in color can all be covered up or less visible if the gem is cut the right way, also considering the cutters and polishers are going to be making the most of the rough stone's size and minimizing streaks - all of which sometimes compromises the durability in favour of the most carat weight and best colour. (Look at your stone upside down over white paper, and from different angles - you'll often see a difference in the intensity of the blue and differences in the secondary colours, and possibly zones or streaks.) Your stone's cleavage planes may be at inopportune angles for durability. You don't know until you know.

On an absolute hardness scale, rather than the Mohs scale, diamond is 4 times harder than a sapphire, even though they're only separated by a single point.
That's important. In short: Absolute hardness sapphire: 400 Absolute hardness diamond: 1600. Not even close.

So, to answer your questions more specifically:

1. Do I wear my wedding ring all the time, knowing this might happen? I don't really garden or do anything manual-labor-y. Mostly I teach classes, play with or walk the dog, cook, read, and so forth. I kind of hate to only wear it in public, as I think that suggests I only care what others think.

If you want to. You should always, as best practice, bring it by your jeweller's every six months or so to have them look at it under a microscope for loose prongs, chips or issues with the stone or metal being compromised (certain chemicals can degrade them). Wear it as you like and think best. You can decide after a few check-ups if you're being to hard on it. Buy yourself a jeweller's loupe (10x is fine) and inspect it as often as you like. Honestly, truly, nobody but you and possibly your husband is going to really pay attention to when you're wearing it or not, and you have to choose whether to enjoy the heck out of it and take the knocks as they come or wear it maybe more sparingly to maintain its good condition as long as possible. Your choice entirely.

2. Are there precautions I can take? The jeweler mentioned being able to polish the stone if the scratches or dings get bad.

Don't wear it swimming (concrete edges and chlorine = bad. Concrete can chip and scratch, and chlorine can pit the metal and degrade any solder joints) and be careful not to strike it when you're wearing it. That could mean you don't rock climb bare-handed, or mind yourself around metal subway railings and walking along brick walls. It depends on your lifestyle. In the circumstances you descriped, it should be pretty fine. Yes, he can polish the stone, but that should be a once every ten-year thing, not a yearly thing. You'll lose carat weight; you could lose good cutting proportions and make the girdle more brittle if it's thin; and if all your good colour is near the top, you could lose some intensity.

3. Am I supposed to clean it?

Yes! As often as you like. Warm water, a little ammonia to break up the grease and dish soap to encapsulate it and carry it away. You can use a soft brush underneath, being careful not to snag the prongs. It's more important that stones are clean underneath, as sapphires are already more velvety and lustrous rather than sparkly - you want them clean for as much refraction as possible. You don't need to buy fancy cleaners, and it's best not to use an ultrasound until you've checked your ring under a microscope. Sapphires are pretty much all treated in some way, and it's best to be gentle if you don't know what's been done.

4. What are best practices for realizing I have this thing on my hand and not being as careless and clueless as I usually am?

Just be mindful. But, things happen. And while rings like that are lovely and special, most things are fixable. Learn to look at it yourself, but the best thing you can do is see your jeweller for regular check-ups and follow his suggestions to re-tip or tighten the setting as necessary.
posted by peagood at 5:27 PM on April 29, 2012 [8 favorites]

Notwithstanding the chorus of posters above, my ex had a lovely sapphire engagement ring with an emerald cut sapphire. Doing the dishes one night, she broke a plate and ended up with a small, but visible pit in the face of the sapphire. I think we were told somewhere it could be fixed with a tiny droplet of glass to seal it, but we never did it.

I wouldn't be worried about it generally. The gold, if you've got gold, is going to be much softer than the stone. But accidents happen.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:27 PM on April 29, 2012

PS, after all that --

I have seen many many many rings that people have worn for years thinking they looked great, but I've seen them under microscopes. I am sure lots of rings are just fine at arm's length - but they are maybe not the best they can be. Here is a page with a good image of what a good variety of daily wear on (what is probably a synthetic) sapphire (still corundum) looks like close up. Here's another, and Here is another (worse) one. Again, buy a loupe and check it frequently yourself, and you can be your own best judge of how it's wearing. (And congrats!)
posted by peagood at 5:41 PM on April 29, 2012

I've had my ring 17 years. I wear it every. single. day. The setting is pretty much like this (my sapphire is smaller, but the shape and the trillions are the same), and I've never had any problems. I get it checked/cleaned by a reputable jeweler on a regular basis. I take it off if we're doing serious yard work, but other than that I don't worry about it.

The setting matters. My best friend had her sapphire re-set because she kept losing the little baguette diamonds on the sides, and the sapphire kept coming loose.
posted by hms71 at 6:09 PM on April 29, 2012

« Older I can haz sauce?   |   Should I tell them I eventually want to teach? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.