How many times can you wash your hands while singing “Happy Birthday” in a single day? How much hand sanitizer can you squirt in 24 hours? These are questions you never thought you would have to ask—but these are strange times, and getting stranger by the minute. If you are still out and about—not even going to a restaurant or a bar, but simply sitting six feet away from your best friend in the park—you might be wearing your rings. Perhaps because you always wear them, or simply that it cheers you up to look down and see them on your fingers; twinkly steadfast companions at a time when sadness and fear threaten to envelop us.
But rings and hand soap—rings and alcohol-heavy sanitizer even more so—are unhappy bedfellows. Serious cleansers can cause precious stones to become dingy and cloudy. I have my own routine for dealing with this situation: I put my beloved children in a cup of warm water and a blast of Windex, and content myself by watching little dirty specks float to the surface. (Hey, I am stuck in the house and I am bored—how much Netflix can I watch?)
But suspecting that this might not be the only, let alone the best method, I reach out to my friend Elizabeth Doyle of Doyle & Doyle, the beautiful antique jewelry store in the Meatpacking District. Once upon a time (well, really only a few weeks ago, but it feels like a century) I used to hang out with her at the shop and while away the hours playing with the wonderful jewelry there.
As I suspected, my jailhouse cleaning regimen was totally eclipsed by Elizabeth’s erudition. “The safest way to clean your rings at home is with warm water and a mild dish soap—I use Ivory,” she says. “For stubborn dried and caked soap or hand lotion, soak your rings for a while to loosen up the debris. Then brush your rings with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Make sure to get behind your stones in the mountings where dirt and grime can accumulate.” She goes on to say that cleansers should not be used on any organic gems, like coral or pearls. “The alcohol in the sanitizer can dry out the gems and lead to surface damage or cracking. Hand sanitizer is also not safe on porous stones like opals or turquoise.” She adds that lovers of Georgian and early Victorian pieces should also take special care: “Water can get into rings with closed-back mountings and affect the appearance of the stones. Also, locket rings or any ring that has a photo of some other decoration under glass should not be washed with water.”
But of course, sometimes the simplest advice is the best: “When in doubt, it is always better to take your rings off before washing your hands,” Elizabeth adds. And one last thing—don’t kill your darlings! If you are resting your rings on the sink while you scrub, please be sure the drain is closed, okay?