This week, we’re welcoming back everyone’s favorite guy for our regular series, Tips from Tim. I sat down with Tim and asked him what the top five questions are that he gets as a jeweler. Read on for his professional take on these common queries…
This is definitely the most common question I get from our clients. Everyone wants their jewelry to be sparkly clean and for it to always look how it does after we professionally clean it. My best suggestion is to avoid soap (it tends to gum up the delicate spaces in jewelry) and skip the special bottles of jewelry cleaner.
Opt instead for something you probably already have around your house: Windex! The ammonia in Windex will dissolve dirt and oils and the solution doesn’t leave residue on your ring. Take a soft bristled toothbrush, dip it in Windex, and gently scrub your ring focusing especially on the back behind the diamond where lotion and soap tends to build up. Rinse with warm water and you’re done. Note: do not use Windex on delicate gems like opals or pearls – you can really ruin the luster of these porous materials.
Truthfully the answer is: however it feels most comfortable to you. That being said, it’s important to remember that your fingers will change size throughout the day (and year) so it’s very normal to experience some variation in how your ring will fit. We recommend that you ring fit snug – almost like a hug – but not tight, about 90% of the day. The remaining 10% will probably feel 5% looser and 5% tighter, depending on variables such as the time of day and how much salt you ate.
We think it’s better to defer to sizing down (i.e. tighter) rather than up so that you don’t run the risk of losing your ring, but you want to be conscientious that it’s not too tight (if you have a red indented “ring” where your ring sits, it’s too tight). It’s also very, very normal to need to resize your ring multiple times within your life. Which leads us to…
Our answer here is always “probably, but we need to see it before we can tell you exactly how.” There are some basic caveats, though: the material needs to be a fine metal such as sterling silver, gold, or platinum. We can’t size tungsten, titanium, or other “industrial” metals. We can stretch or squeeze stainless steel but we can’t cut it and resize it, meaning you are limited by how far up or down you can go.
If the ring has gemstones in it, we will need to examine what those gems are and how they are set. If it’s a more fragile stone such as turquoise or emerald we will most likely need to remove the gemstone in order to size it because these stones cannot “take heat,” meaning they will crack if we put a torch to it. Finally, how the gems are set matters. If it’s an eternity style setting, we may not be able to perfectly hide the sizing. If it’s a channel setting, we may be limited in how much the ring can be adjusted without realigning the channel.
In the end this is a subjective question since both materials are perfectly good options, but there are big differences in how each metal will act and wear over time. The primary difference between white gold and platinum is that white gold is alloyed to look white. This means that other elements are added to gold, which is naturally yellow-hued, to create a whitened effect. These alloys usually contain nickel which a surprisingly large percentage of people are allergic to. For custom designs we can request nickel-free white gold but it’s a special alloy that usually costs a little more, and most “off the shelf” jewelry is not made this way.
White gold does degrade in color over time. After (usually) a few years of wear, you’ll notice your bands reflecting a slight yellow hue rather than the bright white of its original state. Some people prefer this – it certainly softens the sometimes harsh white of fresh white gold. If you don’t like it, we can always rhodium plate the piece to give it that whitened effect once more.
The benefit of platinum is two-fold: it’s a naturally white metal, meaning it will never degrade in hue over time. It’s also denser than white gold and therefore more ideal for maintaining structural integrity over time. Platinum is a bit more expensive than white gold and for many, it’s the definite superior choice for its color (which many find to be a more pleasing, softer white) and longevity. That being said, white gold is more than sufficient for many pieces so don’t let anyone tell you one way or the other which is better: it’s all up to you and what you want from the piece.
The most obvious answer here is, of course, diamonds. Until 2009, diamond was known to be the hardest material known to man. There are technically two materials in existence harder than diamonds but they have long compounded names and you will probably live the rest of your life blissfully unaware that they exist. Diamonds are incredibly heat tolerant, resist to scratching, and while they can chip (how do you think they are cut, after all?) it’s very hard to do it unintentionally.
After diamond, moissanite is a great option for another incredibly hard material that is white in color. These gems definitely have a different luster than diamonds so take a look at a few in person before deciding if they’re right for you. The benefit of moissanite is that it’s a vastly more affordable and yet remarkably durable alternative to diamonds.
Stepping down a bit in hardness, sapphires and rubies are also a great alternative. We usually tell people that in order to understand the practical difference in hardness between a diamond or a sapphire/ruby is that with a lifetime of daily wear, it’s unlikely you will see many (if any) significant surface abrasions on a diamond whereas with sapphires or rubies, you may see a few scratches under a loop. So, in every practical sense they’re a great alternative that will last you well.
Thank you, Tim!
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.