How to Find the Most Durable Jewelry
Written by Anna Currell
December 9, 2022
While delicate jewelry is gorgeous, some pieces aren’t always realistic for everyday wear. Especially if you work in a physical job or spend a lot of time in and around water, it might be difficult to rationalize purchasing an expensive piece of jewelry that could get damaged easily. Look for durable jewelry instead; certain materials can hold up against dents, scratches, or damage better than others. Let’s explore gemstone and metal durability and discuss how you can find strong jewelry that suits your lifestyle.
Gemstone Durability and the Mohs Hardness Scale
The Mohs hardness scale ranks the hardness of a mineral from 1 through 10; the higher the number, the harder the gemstone, and the lower the number, the softer the gemstone. The scale was developed by geologist and mineralogist Friedrich Mohs in 1812, and today it’s used all across the jewelry industry to help understand and work with gemstones better.
The scale is qualitative, which means that the numbers on the scale aren’t determined by a measurement, but rather by a mineral’s relative hardness compared to others. Basically, this means that the rankings indicate how easily a gemstone can be scratched by another material. A low ranking gemstone is more susceptible to scratching when it comes into contact with a higher ranked gemstone.
Diamonds (ranked at 10) can only be scratched by other diamonds, a ruby (9) can scratch an emerald (7.5-8), and so on down the scale. If a turquoise (5) and a topaz (8) went head to head, the softer turquoise would probably end up with scratches while the topaz would likely come out unscathed. This table will help you visualize where the most popular gemstones fall on the Mohs hardness scale:
|Gemstone||Mohs Hardness Scale Ranking|
|Emerald||7.5 - 8|
|Aquamarine||7.5 - 8|
|Garnet||6.5 - 7.5|
|Peridot||6.5 - 7|
|Opal||5 - 6.5|
|Turquoise||5 - 6|
|Coral||3 - 4|
|Pearl||2.5 - 4.5|
How to use the Mohs hardness scale when shopping for durable jewelry
Now that we know the hardness rankings of popular gemstones, let’s look at how to put them to use in your quest for durable jewelry. To protect jewelry that comes into contact with many different surfaces and elements during the day, you’re better off with something on the higher end of the Mohs hardness scale. For jewelry that likely won’t see lots of day-to-day roughness, like necklaces or earrings, it’s okay to go with a lower ranking.
This is why we often see diamonds (10) used in rings and pearls (2.5-4.5) strung on necklaces. Of course you can still buy a pearl ring, for example, but to avoid any abrasion or damage you’ll want to take it off while you’re doing physical activities like lifting weights, washing dishes, using chemical cleaning products, or swimming.
How to Find Durable Metals
In addition to scratch-resistant gemstones, the most durable jewelry will be made using strong metals that are less likely to tarnish or wear down over time. Your best bet is to find jewelry made from precious metals like sterling silver, gold, platinum, and rhodium. Choosing a durable metal doesn’t mean giving up the beauty of a piece. Precious metals are the best of both worlds: they’re strong and long-lasting, while also being very lustrous and shiny. Other durable metals include tungsten, palladium, stainless steel, and titanium; although they’re used in jewelry less often, they’re all relatively strong materials that can hold up against everyday dents and dings fairly well.
It's also important to understand the composition of your jewelry in order to assess its durability; jewelry can be either plated, filled, or solid. The purer the metal, the more durable it is. Solid gold is as pure as it gets, and the less gold is present in your piece the more tarnish you can expect to see over time. Gold-plated jewelry is more likely to tarnish because the plating can wear thinner with time or exposure to chemicals, water, or bacteria. Take a look at the chart below to get an idea of the level of gold in each type of jewelry:
No matter how durable it is, no piece of jewelry is indestructible. Metal can erode, gemstones can break or chip. It's always a good idea to take good care of your jewelry by keeping it in a safe spot while not wearing it, taking it off during high-risk activities, and cleaning it with a soft cloth at the end of each wear. For example, to keep their most valuable jewelry safe, many people opt to wear a silicone wedding ring band when working out or using their hands for projects.
If your jewelry does see any kind of damage, rest assured that our expert jewelers are here to help. There are all kinds of ways that jewelry can be mended, whether you need a gemstone replacement, ring shank repair, or chain soldering repair, and we’d be happy to get your pieces back to perfection.