At the start of the global health pandemic caused by the virus named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes, named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the top advice suggested to all of us was to disinfect surfaces and objects and wash our hands frequently with soap and water. But not everything can be scrubbed with soap or wiped clean with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), contaminating germs can get caught under your jewelry pieces, especially rings. And studies have shown that germs are more likely to show up on the skin surface under your rings because that area gets less attention during hand washing.
Another thought: Just because your rings come into contact with hand sanitizer and warm soapy water doesn’t mean the gemstones are getting the same kind of cleaning your hands receive. In fact, subjecting your diamond ring, for example, to too much soap and sanitizer can eventually make the diamond cloudy.
The best way to keep your rings sparkling and germ-free — and keep the fingers that wear your rings clean — is to remove them when washing your hands or applying sanitizer.
At Luxious Jewellery, we generally suggest cleaning rings and other fine jewelry pieces by soaking them in warm water with a mild dish soap, such as Ivory soap. Then use a designated toothbrush with soft bristles (or a designated clean makeup brush, if that’s all you have handy) to get to the little crevasses in the mounting of your ring. (Designated means, one you keep separate from your bathroom and use only for cleaning your jewelry.)
For detailed recommendations on how to clean your birthstone, we strongly recommending finding your stone’s cleaning instructions in our Birthstone series here on the Custom Jewelry Blog.
The gems most at risk for damage by hand sanitizer are the delicate and more porous stones such as pearls, amber, opal, tourmaline, emerald, and turquoise. The alcohol in the sanitizer will dry these gems out and could cause cracking. Silver is also delicate, so if your stones are set in silver, use the warm water and gentle dish soap method above for cleaning.
For harder stones, such as rubies, diamonds, and sapphires set in either solid gold or platinum, you can use isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide if you have it lying around the house. If you don’t, most disinfecting wipes contain isopropyl alcohol and you can wipe your jewelry pieces down, then use a soft bristle brush like those mentioned above to work some of the liquid into the tiny little spaces. These gems can also be soaked in warm water with mild soap if that’s all you have.
When cleaning your jewelry, wear gloves if you can, since the area under the fingernails is an especially good hiding place for germs and bacteria. And maybe for the next few weeks (or months if that turns out to be the timeline for this) and while the pandemic is peaking, leave your more precious pieces at home when making a quick run to the grocery store, pharmacy, or other essential reasons for leaving the house.
Another reason you might want to put your jewelry away for the time being is this: This excellent habit of continuously washing our hands has the disadvantage of promoting dry skin. Hand lotion is great for tender skin, but it can wreak havoc on your rings. That’s because the buildup from lotion can become lodged between gemstones and their settings, which can damage the piece over time.