In general, jewelry should not be worn while:
· sleeping; because fingers can swell during the night, making rings impossible to remove for bathing or other activities in the morning; because prongs on rings can snag on blankets, thus loosening their grip on stones; because necklaces and bracelets become strained, stressed, kinked and broken when subjected to tossing, turning, and body weight.
· swimming; because chlorine is one of very few chemicals which actually reacts with gold, and eats it away—swimming pools, hot tubs, and jacuzzis have very high chlorine contents, which actually wears away your precious metal (that’s why jewelry looks so clean when you get out of the pool—you really wore away some of the metal, thus hiding scratches!); and because water makes rings fit looser, leading to a possible loss.
· bathing; because long-term exposure to low levels of chlorine is as bad as short-term exposure to high levels; and because soap, shampoo, and conditioner do nothing nice for the appearance of gemstones or textured metal.
· doing housework or yard work; because you can expose your pieces to every possible negative force: chlorine (from household cleaners), abrasives which can scratch metals and gems (from other household cleaners), violent vibrations which can gradually loosen stones (from vacuum cleaner or lawnmower), heavy lifting which can bend rings and loosen stones, and complete destruction (a tumble through a garbage disposal or vacuum cleaner).
· working out; because lifting weights (either free or on machines) can lead to bending rings, possible stone loss, the kinking of neckchains, and the breaking of bracelets; because other athletic activities can cause swelling of the fingers, thus making rings dangerous to wear; and because sports can make necklaces, bracelets, and rings instruments of pain for yourself or others.
· using hand-held tools; because of damage to your rings (either through denting, poking, or scratching) or to your fingers or hands.
· lifting heavy items; because of damage to your rings by denting or distorting, and possibly loosening stones; and because of possible damage to your fingers or hands.
· Make your jewelry the last thing you put on before you leave your home (assuming you aren’t about to go out and do any of the “restricted” activites listed above!). That will keep your pieces from getting dingy from exposure to soaps and cosmetics.
· Establish a “safe place” to keep jewelry when you are not wearing it. When at home, your “safe place” should be a suitable jar of jewelry cleaner (or in the case of items which have porous gems, in a special pouch). That way, not only is your jewelry in a location you remember, it’s cleaning at the same time! When away from home, think carefully first: “Rather than remove my ring to wash my hands, and risk forgetting it or knocking it down the drain, should I just leave it on, and be sure to clean it later, when I get home?” If you are good at establishing and keeping habits, you can have a “safe place” in your suit pocket, purse, or briefcase. A simple bag or pouch will do.
· It is unwise to take your jewelry on vacation. To begin, hotels will not take responsibility for items left in rooms, even if kept in a wall safe. You will also sign a waiver of responsibility if you use a hotel safe deposit box. When youare away from home, you are less likely to maintain a “safe place,” so it is simply best to leave your jewelry at home. Many people have difficulty with this, but consider which is worse: having strangers not know you are married versus having other strangers walk away with your jewelry.
· Insure, insure, insure! Jewelry pieces are small items with high value. . .for those reasons, they are coveted by thieves and robbers, and more likely to be lost or damaged than most valuable items you own. The biggest favor you can do yourself, unless you are prepared to replace items out of your own pocket, is to insure your jewelry against all perils. Be prepared for the unexpected—loss, hotel theft, mysterious disappearance, freak accident, clasp failure, prong breakage—by submitting your retail replacement value jewelry appraisal to your insurance agent, so that a jewelry rider may be attached to your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
· Do not ignore loose gemstones or diamonds. While most small jiggles, wobbles, or spinning is not imminently dangerous, why risk it? Remove the piece, and keep it in its “safe place” until it can be brought to your jeweler for inspection and repair. Playing with a loose stone is not to your advantage, and never try to repair a piece of jewelry yourself.
If your piece is made of several metals, always reference the metal which is least durable (furthest down the list), and treat that piece accordingly.
· 18K gold: either yellow or white, 18K gold is often considered the “crowning glory” of a fine piece of jewelry. While unsuitable for a very rough wearer, due to its softness and ease of scratching; this metal’s forgiveness makes it ideal for setting colored gemstones, especially more fragile ones, or for invisibly-set gems of any kind. A very unwise choice of metal for prong-setting a diamond, however. 18K gold items need to be checked for wear once a year. A polishing cloth will keep them looking their best.
· Sterling silver: while considered a precious metal, silver can be problematic. Often, silver items are inferior in craftsmanship; due to the difficulty of justifying a higher price for better labor, since it’s “only made of silver.” Sterling silver pieces crafted in Europe are more expensive and generally much more finely made than items manufactured in Central or South America or the Far East. The second difficulty is that silver is more difficult to repair, due to the nature of the metal itself, which is resistant to soldering. Silver is a soft metal, which means thin or delicate items are easy to break. Consequently, any moving parts should be treated with care, and anything which bends of its own accord (such as a post on an earring) should not be bent back, as the repeated bending back and forth will cause it to break. The best way to fight tarnishing (which, if left unchecked, will eventually cause pits to form) is to prevent it. Consider purchasing tarnish-resistant bags, such as those used for sterling flatware. Otherwise, try to polish your sterling jewelry as often as possible with a polishing cloth. Use polishing creams or dips only as a last resort, as they can cause slinky styles to lose their suppleness.
Great care is taken to set gemstones and diamonds in jewelry. Often, such techniques are a mystery to the consumer. Knowing a little more about how stones are set can help you better care for your jewelry and gems.
· Bezel- , gypsy- or flush-setting: all variations of a similar technique, these are the oldest setting techniques, as well as the safest. This is the ideal choice for stones which have corners which need protecting, or for wearers who are rough. Here, a lip of metal surrounds the entire perimeter of the stone. To set a stone by this method, first a hole the same shape, but slightly smaller size, must be fashioned. This can either be done in wax (the preferred method for any fancy-shaped stone) or in solid metal. Into the edge of that metal opening is carved or engraved a groove. The stone is then gently pressed into the opening until it “clicks” into the groove. Then, the metal which is now above the girdle edge of the stone is hammered down onto the stone, thus locking the stone in place. Ideally, a bezel-set stone should be open underneath, for light exposure and ease of cleaning. To clean (assuming a non-porous stone), simply leave overnight in your jewelry cleaning solution, and rinse underneath and above under running tap water. Simply dab a facial tissue underneath the stone to sop up any remaining water without leaving lint. In normal wear and use, a bezel-set stone is protected from any blows from above, and rarely becomes loosened. However, care should be taken to avoid subjecting the underside of the stone (which is not subjected to abuse when worn) to blows, sharp objects which might poke or push on the stone, or anything which might subject the stone to pressure from the underside. A bezel-set stone is meant to take the most pressure from above, since that is how stones are abused during wear. While this setting style is probably fairly durable from the underside, it is not designed to be abused from that direction.