Clueless about jewelry. How do I take care of this diamond ring?
May 30, 2014 12:37 PM   Subscribe

I am a woman who has never, ever been into jewelry. I lose earrings, I tangle necklaces, I hate the way anything feels on my wrists. The only pieces of jewelry I treasure are a relatively inexpensive pair of earrings I wore at my wedding, and my wedding band and diamond engagement ring. I've been married for nearly two years now, and need some advice on the logistics of caring for my engagement ring.

My ring was custom-made by a local artisan who is no longer local as she moved out-of-state. The first year I had the ring, I brought it to her once (while she still lived here) and she cleaned it and touched up the bezel a bit. Now it's been over a year since I've done anything to it, and most things I read online say you're supposed to get your ring cleaned/checked once a year or so. It seems that most people bring their ring back to the store where they bought it, but obviously I did not buy mine at a store and my ring-maker is now thousands of miles away.

The ring is not super flashy or expensive - it's a half-carat and yellow gold - but it is one-of-a-kind, very sentimental, and it's set in an unusual type of setting. Maybe I should just bring it to a jewelry store, but I'm not really sure how that works. How much should getting a ring like this cleaned/checked cost? I am pretty intimidated by jewelry stores and the fact that I know nothing about this stuff.

Any advice?
posted by emily37 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I was browsing around a local jewelry store looking at watches and the guy offered to clean and check my ring at no cost. It took about five minutes. Go to a locally owned place, not a department store, and they'll be nice and treat you well.

Also, PS. I have been married almost 12 years and that's the only time anyone has ever done anything at all to the ring. I don't know that you really need to expend a lot of effort to make this a priority.
posted by something something at 12:41 PM on May 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you go browse at nicer jewelry stores they often offer to clean/check your ring while you shop. Repairs vary a lot depending on what needs to be done and the store. For day to day cleaning you can use a toothbrush or get an inexpensive sonic cleaner.
posted by tealcake at 12:42 PM on May 30, 2014

Total jewelry hound here. Clean it using this jewelry cleaner. Self contained, works great, takes no time. And take it in periodically to a nice jeweler to ask if they could inspect it to make sure everything is secure. Any reputable place will do it for free.
posted by bearwife at 12:44 PM on May 30, 2014

I come from a long line of jewelry-loving ladies.

Buy this wash for $5 and wash it at home. I use it on all my jewelry except for organics (pearls or amber).

For setting, just check the claws and make sure they aren't worn down.

You say the diamond isn't large or extraordinary; for nicer jewelry I wouldn't leave it with an untrusted jeweler because they like to make substitutions.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:45 PM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, cautionary tale -- I lost the ruby in my beautiful and unusual engagement ring at a baseball game because I DIDN'T get the ring inspected in time to save the stone from falling out. I replaced the stone but still mourn for the lost one, because that was part of the ring my husband found and gave me, and because the new stone, though beautiful, does not look quite the same.
posted by bearwife at 12:46 PM on May 30, 2014

oh and about this:

most things I read online say you're supposed to get your ring cleaned/checked once a year or so.

It's really a fallacy I don't know why they promote it. Clean it at home 1x/month (or more/less depending on whether you get hand cream on the diamond which will kill the sparkle). Otherwise the only thing to worry about with jewelry is, as I said, if the claws / mounts (those little clips beside the stone) are worn down. I missed out on this and lost a little diamond that way. You can typically see it with a naked eye, or magnifying glass if the stone is really small.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:49 PM on May 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yes, most (independent, local) jewelers do it free. I usually ask to get it cleaned when getting batteries in a watch changed (since that's mostly when I have to go by the jeweler!), but if I notice it seems dull and lusterless, I'll make a special trip and they do it no problem. It's basically zero cost to the jeweler, and it helps build customer loyalty for when you do want to buy jewelry. I try to go on weekdays when they're not very busy. (Weekends can be a madhouse, as can the week right before and after big jewelry holidays like Christmas and Valentine's.)

Plus while you're waiting for them to clean it, you're browsing the display cases and falling in love with expensive sparkly things, which can only work out well for the jeweler!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:49 PM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice so far! My setting does not have claws but is a round full bezel. Any way to keep an eye on this, or anyone know if this is more/less likely to hold a stone well?
posted by emily37 at 12:50 PM on May 30, 2014

But DO clean the stone regularly; I have a pair of diamond stud earrings and the difference after I've cleaned them is drastic.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:51 PM on May 30, 2014

round full bezel - assuming its an open bottom, clean the bottom (where gunk would accumulate) and make sure the stone isn't loose. Bezel as you may notice looks like they've folded the metal around the stone, so it should be even more obvious if it is worn away.

The thing that worries me a little is that you say it was 'artisan' place which (having done a bit of jewelry work myself, and having shopped a lot) may be less sturdy than a mass-produced bezel. Especially if she had to touch up the bezel after only 1 year. The 'artisan' bezels I've seen are not as sturdy and they literally wrap the metal 'by hand' around the stone (bezel is the easiest setting to do for someone who is just learning how to make jewelry). So the quality of the bezel will depend on the skill of the artist at that point.

In this case I would magnifying glass it and see how sturdy the metal looks or take it to a regular ring store and have them size it up if you're not comfortable. Or find another artisan but then you'd need to be careful about what combination of metal the original one was using. (You could certainly email her to ask her recommendation.)

you can me-mail me if you want to send a large picture and I can offer further suggestions but this should send you on your way hopefully.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:04 PM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

BUT all that being said, if the stone looks well set then I wouldn't worry too too much as a bezel wraps around the stone and is more sturdy in general. (Which is why they teach it first in jewelry making class.)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:06 PM on May 30, 2014

Response by poster: One more question, o jewelry expert! There is indeed some "gunk" in the area under the bezel - will soaking the ring in one of those jewelry cleaners take care of it? I am worried about poking anything in there (like a toothpick) as I'm afraid of loosening the stone.
posted by emily37 at 1:17 PM on May 30, 2014

The stone in your ring should not move at all. Try to jiggle it and try to move it side to side. I've watched my jeweler check my stuff and he takes a tweezer and tries to move very stone..

As St. Peeps said, bezels are....variable. They are excellent for protecting the sides of a more delicate stone, but not always great at holding a stone in place. It really depends on the skill of the craftsman and to some extent of the variation in temperatures that metal endures.

On a durable stone like a diamond an old toothbrush is a great option to clean the ring. You can also buy and ultrasonic cleaner if you'd like.
posted by 26.2 at 1:23 PM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Soaking in a jewelry cleaner will most definitely take off the gunk. (The one I linked to comes with a little brush for scrubbing or use an old toothbrush like 26.2 says. If you're in Canada its available at Canadian Tire.) Soak for 10min and then scrub with the brush. Rinse with water & dry on a towel. (Make sure your sink is stopped before rinsing; don't want to drop it down the drain!)

Toothpick will not dislodge the stone unless the stone was poorly set to begin with. Which if I were you I'd rather find out myself if the stone is loose as opposed to losing the stone somewhere random. But honestly if the stone was that poorly set that a toothpick would dislodge it then chances are you would have lost the stone long ago.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:52 PM on May 30, 2014

oh I've said before but will repeat: don't use that cleaner on any organic gems as: pearl, opal, amber etc.

They also recommend separating metals e.g. I dump all my silver in and let it soak, then remove the silver and dump all my gold in and let it soak.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:16 PM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a full round bezel and I just use either an old or a baby's toothbrush to clean it whenever it starts looking grungy-- I don't even think I used cleaner last time but I did put a stopper in the sink just in case. When I had it appraised they steam cleaned it which took approximately 30 seconds and I could see it the whole time. I think many of the chains have warranties tied to getting the piece checked by them every six months to a year, and since white gold is very popular and often needs redipping that tends to be why most people have them cleaned so often.

I noticed at one point that the stone in my ring was making a very, very light noise when shaking the ring, and it almost looked like it was moving (which is for me much harder to tell in a thicker bezel setting than a claw setting.) I took it back to the store that set it and they confirmed that it was in fact loose so they tightened it, since the moving diamond was only exacerbating the situation by wearing down the metal further. I haven't had any problems since, but if you do notice any kind of noises I'd find a reputable place to look at it. You could possibly email the artisan and ask if she has any local-to-you recommendations.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:33 AM on May 31, 2014

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