Congrats on your engagement – and on that beautiful new jewelry.
Okay so first things first: the best way to protect your ring is to get it insured. You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again, but insuring your ring can give you peace of mind. Your home-owner's or renter's plan might include some minimal protections against in-home burglary, but they won't help you if your ring gets damaged or misplaced.
If you haven't insured your ring yet, please open up a new tab, and start comparing plans. (I'll wait here.) You'll want to get a jewelry-specific plan or an addendum to your existing plan.
Of course, the value of your ring is not purely financial. While protecting against damage or theft will help you sleep better at night and to take the sting (or major financial hit) out of potential loss, the sentimental value isn't something you can include in a policy.
So, let's look at some ways to keep your ring looking as sparkly and clean as when you first saw it – and to protect your ring from everyday wear and tear.
When Should You Remove Your Ring?
If the first thing you said when you got your ring was, "I'm never taking this off!!!" I feel you. I feel the same way. But there are some instances where your ring will be far safer off your hand than on it.
Even though hot water and dish soap are fine for many rings, there is a risk that if a prong is loose, your beautiful stone may end up down the drain. And, when you're washing heavy pots and pans, one bad slip could mean a chip or crack. A designated dish nearby can make a convenient resting spot to keep that ring safe. (Just make sure it is nowhere near where it could be accidentally knocked into the sink!)
In a similar vein, cleaning your house or apartment can come with ring risk. Abrasive cleaners and chemicals can harm your engagement ring, and some gemstones can even etch or discolor.
For light clean up, invest in a pair of dish gloves to protect both your ring and your hands. Just remember, while gloves will protect your ring from cleaners and chemicals, they can't protect it from impact.
Before Going to the Gym
While it is fine to wear your ring to a yoga class, group fitness classes or weight lifting pose a risk to your engagement ring. Holding weights can scratch up your band or even your stone. Plus, there may be a risk of your ring getting caught in equipment.
Even a small "ding" to your ring could result in the band getting slightly out of shape, which could weaken the grip of your prongs. As a result, while the stone may not shake loose during your workout, you run the risk that is more prone to potential loss later on.
A note on the risk of your ring getting bent out of shape:
The risk of bending varies by metal. Platinum is sturdy and hard, but the surface could still be scratched or damaged by dumbbells. Gold and white gold are notoriously malleable, but they also vary in strength by carat. Check the stamp inside the band. the lower the carat, the more other metal is mixed in with the gold. The higher the carat count, the purer – but more pliable – your band will be.
The safest bet is to leave your ring in a safe, designated spot back home, far from gym equipment and sweat, gym showers, and unattended locker rooms.
But what happens if you forget to remove your ring before you arrive? Check out my favorite trick here.
Showering, Moisturizing, and Using Products
Nothing gunks up a ring faster than creamy products, makeup, or conditioner. Besides the risk of losing pave or gemstones down the drain, products can make your ring look cloudy and dull. Moisturizing products and soaps leave a coating on your ring, and this film dulls sparkle and hides brilliance.
While it may not seem like much harm could come to your ring in your sleep, the fibers of your bedding (or even your hair!) can catch on your prongs, loosening their grip on your stone over time. It's best to take your ring off before heading to dreamland.
Pro-tip: Create a one-of-a-kind ring holder If you are getting married abroad, it can be tricky to take your bouquet home with you for US Customs-compliance reasons. But, there's still a way you can enjoy the sentimentality of your wedding-day blooms without risking losing your Global-Entry rights. Ask me about how you can make a ring holder from preserved petals in your bouquet, for a lasting treasure. (And one you can use on your bedside table, to keep your ring safe while you sleep!)
Use Common Sense
Are you going to be working with your hands? Are you going into a large body of water where if your ring slips off, it is as good as gone forever? Are you using messy materials like paint, clay, or a kneading sticky dough? Operating heavy machinery? Playing sports? At risk of any type of impact to your hand or finger?
Keep your ring safe and clean – off of your hand.
How to Maintain that Brilliant Sparkle
Even the most type-A among us will look down from time to time, and see how cloudy the stone looks. Frequent hand-washing, moisturizing, and hand sanitizer are definite culprits. At the end of the day, this precious jewelry is on our hands, which we use all the time. It's inevitable that your ring will start to show some signs of wear. Luckily, there are many things you can do to restore your ring to sparkly glory!
Note: Certain stones respond differently to certain cleaners and are more prone to etching. Softer stones like Morganite can react badly to certain chemicals, resulting in a permanently cloudy ring. Soft semi-precious gems like pearls are notoriously easy to damage. Use caution with alcohol-based cleaners and hand sanitizer. While these are likely safe for most rings, if your risk is gold-plated, you run the risk of tarnishing the base metal, and dull the plating.
Check in with where your ring was purchased, or with a trusted jeweler for tips on how best to clean your rings.
Those bright blue cleaners are often made using ammonia, which is deemed safe for certain rings and stones, and can help restore shine. Many come with small brushes, which can be used to loosen any trapped debris. In a pinch, you can always soak your ring in Windex, and use a soft toothbrush to remove the more stubborn build-up.
While many of these cleaners say you don't have to rinse your ring after cleansing, I don't like the idea of ammonia against my skin. I always run it under some lukewarm water (make sure your drain is plugged!) and blot it dry before putting it back on.
Using Ultrasonic Cleaners to Deep-Clean Your Engagement Ring
For a grossly satisfying, easy, at-home cleaning method, Ultrasonic Cleaners, which use high frequency sound waves to shake debris from your ring, offer an excellent solution.
A Word of Caution When Considering an Ultrasonic Cleaner:
Ultrasonic cleaners may not work for all gemstone types. For example, while sapphires and diamonds are considered fine for ultrasonic cleaning, others, like emeralds, can become permanently cloudy after ultrasonic cleansing. GIA has an excellent list of do's and don'ts of ultrasonic cleaners, which you can check out for more details.
Once you've confirmed it is safe to use your ultrasonic cleaner, you can add your ring to the chamber, fill with water (and, for a deeper clean, a drop of dish soap), and watch the plumes of skin cells and hand-cream-gunk shake free from your beautiful ring.
The vibrations offer a deep clean in just a few moments. The thing is, all that shaking can be problematic if you have a ring with pave stones. Over time, it can shake them loose! This doesn't mean you can't use ultrasonic cleaners, but maybe consider gentler methods for the everyday clean, and break this out for less frequent deeper cleans.
Pro-tip: If you do use an ultrasonic cleaner with a pave ring setting, bring your ring in for check ups now and then. Your jeweler can confirm that the pave are still well-set, or can reaffix a loose stone before it goes missing.
Traveling with Ultrasonic Cleaners
When traveling abroad, ultrasonic cleaners, like many hair tools, do not do well in converters. They can blow fuses (ask me how I know...) and the machine will become inoperable. Plus, they can take up valuable suitcase space. For these reasons, I recommend them for at-home use only.
Dish Soap (Shoutout to Dawn!)
My hands-down favorite at-home method is a little warm water and a gentle dish soap, like Dawn. After a little soak, a soft-bristled toothbrush scrub can get all the nooks and crannies. Just as it cuts through grease, dish soap helps break down the natural oils from your hands that get caught in your ring setting. While some soaps may leave a film over your stone, dish soap offers more of a streak-free shine.
I always, always bring Dawn with me when I travel, and to every wedding. Not only does it combat those inevitable spaghetti alla bolognese stains, but it is an easy, packable, and quick ring cleaner for a last second touch up before the ceremony.
Before special events, holidays, or even just when I need a pick-me-up, I schedule a complimentary steam cleaning at Natural Sapphire Company, where we designed and purchased my engagement ring.
By far, steam cleaning is my favorite cleaning method – the result is breathtaking. Steam cleaning removes particulate and restores shine. It also gives you an opportunity to have your setting examined, to ensure the prongs are snug, and everything is in ship-shape. The ring stays extra brilliant for days after (longer with frequent at-home touch ups).
I always recommend that brides schedule a steam cleaning before the big day, to ensure the ring is at the height of sparkle. While we can touch up day-of with dish soap (or, with certain stones, clear alcohol, like Vodka), the squeaky-clean starting point ensures the best result!