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Engagement Ring Cleaning: The Process

Annabelle / April 8, 2019

That sparkly band on your left ring finger is your favorite thing; after all, it’s the physical representation of your love! So what to do when it gets less and less sparkly after days and days of wear? It’s obviously time for you to clean it, of course. But a quick scrub in the sink isn’t going to cut it- read on to learn more about engagement ring cleaning.

How Your Engagement Ring Gets Dirty

The amount of dirt on your jewelry is proportional to the number of things you do in your daily life- if you’re an avid gardener who doesn’t take off their ring, chances are you’ll see some soil on there! But aside from the obvious routines that can make your jewelry dirty, there are other mundane activities that dull your engagement ring.

  • Putting On Hand Lotion: Your moisturizer can be responsible for some gross and hardened gunk in the nooks and crannies of your ring, especially if it’s an intricate design. Over time, other specks of grime stick to the lotion in the cracks, forming a dark, congealed mess.
  • Cleaning: The process of cleaning dishes or bathtubs with chemical products hurts the surface of your ring and any soft stones set in the design.
  • Cooking: I spy a diamond, a ruby, and…a speck of black pepper? Leave the rings off while you’re cooking; you only need to season your food, not your jewelry.

The Engagement Ring Cleaning Process

When you bring your ring into the jeweler’s, it goes through a series of steps before returning to you in pristine condition.

Stone Setting & Tightening

engagement-ring-cleaning

A diamond engagement ring with loose accent stones.

That engagement ring on your hand comes into contact with a lot of things on a daily basis, and over time that wear affects the setting, or the metal that holds the stones down in your ring. It doesn’t take much for the bits of metal to wear away, leaving you with a dangerously wiggly stone or no stone at all!

Once your ring comes in, the jeweler will test the stones with a tool to see if they’re loose. If they are, they’ll tighten or rebuild the setting as needed.

stone-setting loose-stone-inspection

A diamond ring being inspected for any loose stones.

If the ring is missing stones, the jeweler has to measure the setting and match the replacement stones to the original ones in the ring. This matching process takes into account color, clarity, carat weight, and cut to ensure that the replacement looks as similar as possible.

Polishing

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The shank of this vintage engagement ring was terribly scuffed; we got it back in shape with some polishing.

Aside from dirt, your ring can get incredibly scuffed up over time. Soft metals such as high-karat gold is especially prone to dents and scratches, which means that your ring is due for a polishing at least twice a year. The jeweler takes the ring to a polishing wheel, which is powered by a motor, and buffs out the surface to return it to a shiny, smooth finish.

polishing dirty jewelry

A ring in the polishing process.

A high-shine finish isn’t the only look an experienced polisher can create, however. If your engagement ring is matte or hammered, the jeweler can recreate this look using different polishing wheels and other jeweler’s tools.

Cleaning

After polishing, the ring goes to cleaning. This cleaning is markedly different from what you can do at home in your bathroom sink; the jeweler uses two industry-grade machines in order to remove all the dirt from your jewelry.

  • Ultrasonic tank: The ultrasonic tank is a tank of water or cleaning solution that the ring is immersed in. Once the jeweler turns it on, the tank uses soundwaves to agitate the liquid. This causes bubbles to “attack” the jewelry and remove the grime stuck in cracks that you can’t reach by hand.
    ultrasonic cleaning dirty jewelry

    A ring going through the ultrasonic cleaning process.

  • Steam cleaner: The steam cleaner is a nozzle of high-pressure steam that is used to blast your jewelry. While that sounds aggressive, this method of cleaning is quick, efficient, and harmless.
    stone-setting jewelry-cleaning

    A ring being steam cleaned,

Plating

Some engagement rings are gold-plated, and wear can cause the color of these engagement rings to fade or darken. The jeweler first polishes and cleans the item to ensure that the surface is smooth- plating an item with a rough surface will result in an uneven plating job. The ring is then submerged into a gold plating tank that contains a solution made from water and metal salts, and electricity runs through the liquid to chemically bond the gold to the surface of the jewelry.

A special type of plating known as rhodium plating is often reserved for white gold and sterling silver rings. Rhodium is a strong, bright silvery metal that is used to enhance the look of white gold jewelry, which is naturally darker and yellowish or brown in color. When a white gold ring is repaired or polished, it will be rhodium-plated before it is sent back to you.

engagement-ring-cleaning

An engagement ring before and after rhodium.

You’re ready to get started on your engagement ring cleaning! Check out our jewelry spa service below.

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