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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wedding Band 101

A long time ago, when wedding rings were invented, marriages were typically sealed with plain gold circles. Today, however, there are a few more options...

If you have ever even casually glanced at the engagement section of any respectable jeweler's, you will have noticed that there are hundreds if not thousands of styles to choose from! In this modern age where individuality is celebrated from the rooftops, most bride-to-be's want "something different."

Even if you have the most basic, classic and timeless style, -the Solitaire- you may want to dress it up a bit, or personalize it to your liking.

For this reason, there are several options for your wedding band:

Tracer Bands are wedding rings that follow the contours of the engagement ring, either on just one side, or on both. This means you don't have any awkward gaps between the two rings, and the design flows nicely and looks purposeful. The downside to this is that you either have to purchase both rings as a set, or you need to have a custom tracer band made for your specific engagement ring. If "unique" or "one-of-a-kind" is your goal, then this isn't actually a downside, but it is good to know from the start!!

Wraps are wedding rings that have stones or designs that come up and over the engagement ring (usually on either side of the center stone). This offers some amount of protection to the center stone, while aligning the additional stones/designs with it. The result is that the overall appearance looks more like one ring than 2 separate elements. Wraps work best with solitaire styles, but can often be customized by a professional jeweler to fit with certain other styles!

Ring Guards are similar to wraps, but fit on either side of the engagement ring forming a type of "sandwich" effect. This is perfect for those of us who desire symmetry! The engagement ring slides down between the two sides, and the result is, again, purposeful and gives the appearance of one design!

So, whether you choose a simple, straight style, or want to have some level of interaction between your 2 rings, this hopefully helps you to know what is out there, and the terminology for it!!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Top 10 Enemies of Gold Jewelry: #1


Never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever taking your jewelry off!

I may sound like a broken record, but it really is important- in certain circumstances- to TAKE IT OFF!!!

I just read through a long list of comments on Yahoo Answers from people advising a newly engaged girl to NEVER take her ring off. In fact, I think every comment told her that this would be okay! These people are obviously not jewelers!!

First of all, never EVER taking your jewelry off results in incredibly dirty jewelry. I am a firm believer that jewelry looks best when it is shiny/sparkly. To achieve this end, it must be CLEANED!

This is much easier to do when it is off you finger since most rings containing stones have openings on the insides so the stones can be cleaned from all sides. Dirt and oils (as well as bacteria!) get caught up in these crevices and crannies causing the stones to look dull, lifeless or just plain gross. When you bought or recieved the ring, it was clean and shiny and that is why you loved it. Why would you let it stop looking like that if you could help it?

So many people come in our shop to get their rings cleaned saying, "Oh, I haven't brought it in for YEARS..." (Yes, I know you can clean it at home, but there are a lot of cleaners out there that can harm your ring, and nothing seems to work quite as well as an industrial strength ultrasonic cleaner! Also, most people do not have a profesional jeweler at home who can check that stones are tight and everything is in good working order!!) or, "Well I NEVER take it off..." When I hear this, the first thought in my mind is, "Oh dear..."

Why? 9 times out of 10, this means that when the ring is handed to me, it will have all of those years of gunk and grime so firmly embedded into the ring, that I will need dental tools to scrape it all out!! A time or two, I have wondered if the mass of dead tissue and filth found in a ring had perhaps gained sentient properties! This is, perhaps, more graphic than you'd like to be reading right now, but this happens so often that I feel I must combat this idea that constant wear is neither harmful to your ring nor to your finger!!

For example, you wouldn't take raw meat, wrap it in a wet cloth, and tie it to your wrist for a week, would you? I mean, you wash your hands and shower, so it should be clean, right? But when you handle raw meat, those juices can get caught up under your ring and soak into the dirt or dust hiding in there, then the warm, moist and dark environment formed between your ring and your finger becomes a sinister breeding ground for germs!

So, for both aesthetic and sanitary reasons, I always recommend removing your ring prior to food prep or even handwashing. Soap and lotion are 2 of the most common grime grabbers to get stuck under a ring and dull your diamonds!

If you are concerned about losing your ring or having it go down the drain, have a specific place that you can put it, which is safe and protected, while you do your household chores. I've heard of placing it in a shot glass in the back of a cupboard so it can't fall out, or a little bowl on the counter away from the sink. I actually have a place for my rings in each room of my house, so no matter where I am when I start doing something that could harm my rings, I have a safe place to put them!

Other household chores can be just as dangerous to your rings (and other jewelry). Necklaces can get caught on things as you bend over to reach lower areas, or- in one case- fall off while using a paper shredder and get shredded along with the paper!! (We never were able to determine the original design from the mangled heap brought to us, but we were able to extract the diamonds and reset them!) Bracelets commonly get hooked or snagged on things around the house and can bend or break. Cleaning agents are often abrasive (and can scratch both gold and some gemstones) or chemically reactive to the gold and can eat away at it!! Lifting furniture is a good way to get something caught or smashed, even if you don't drop anything, the weight and pressure can flatten or distort your ring!

In short, there are literally hundreds of reasons to take your jewelry off, (hopefully in the course of this "Top Ten" list we've brought a few to your attention!!) but if you still can't remember or refuse to because of sentimental attachment, FOR THE SAFETY OF YOUR RING AND YOUR FINGER, bring it in- OFTEN- to be cleaned and checked! This ensures that your ring stays clean and sparkly, that your prongs and shank are strong, and that you can, still, remove your ring!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Top 10 Enemies of Gold Jewelry: #2

Don't let this happen!!!

Never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever removing your jewelry!!

This is especially a problem with rings, since there is so much significance placed on the wearing of rings. Many, if not most, people have a ring that they always wear, and they "feel naked" without it. (I do too, this is totally natural.)

Whether it is sentimental attachment or just habit that causes your ring to never leave your finger, there are problems with this practice.

Besides the dirt and goo that accumulate from never removing your ring which causes your ring to look, well, sad; never taking it off could result in being unaware that you cannot remove it! As mentioned in an earlier post, this can lead to a lack of circulation or worse- having your finger grow around it to where it needs to be surgically removed!

Sadly, I've noticed that the people who "never ever" take their rings off, are the ones who also "never ever" look at their rings. Whether this is because they believe that their rings are indestructable and will -magically- "never ever" wear out or change, or because it becomes so much a part of their finger that they don't think about it, I'm not sure, but it is precisely because I love my rings so much and I am so sentimentally attached to them that I do take them off!!

I want my rings to look as clean and shiny as they day I got them, I want all of my stones to still be in the ring, I want, I want, I want... but why not?

I love looking at my rings, that is why I notice when something looks wrong! Do all 4 of my prongs look evenly spaced, or has one gotten knocked off to the side, putting my stone at risk? Can I see all the smaller stones? If not, is it because they are dirty, or missing? Is any one stone less sparkly than the others? Could it be cracked or chipped or scratched? Diamonds may not scratch, but they CAN crack and chip, and other stones can be scratched and worn down over time!

People come to see me when they lose a stone an seem to be shocked that it could have fallen out. When I ask, "When is the last time you had it cleaned and checked?" I am greeted with a blank stare. With, "Do you take it off before bed?" the response is invariably, "No, why?" A brief glance at the ring tells me what I already know- they prongs are all worn down past where the edges of the stone would have been! When there is no metal left to hold the stone in place, the stone does not stay in place- it falls out!!

This blatant neglect seems so odd to me. If they had only brought their ring in regularly for cleaning, we would have caught on that the prongs were thinning and could have retipped them before the stone fell out! If they had only looked at their ring, they might have noticed it for themselves!

If you are wearing your ring 24/7 because you love it soooo much, then you might not be showing your love in the best way possible! They say, "If you love something, let it go..." I say, if you love it, let it go- to a jeweler, for professional cleaning and checking!! It's a little longer, but it gets the point across!

The more you wear your ring, the faster it will wear out. Rings are meant to be worn, but if you don't wear them to bed or while doing household chores or things like that, it will wear out significantly slower. Like a car, it will need regular check-ups and routine maintainance, but with these you can keep your ring running much longer than your car!!

So, while your really, really should take your rings off for certain activities, I'm fairly certain that most of you won't. I hope that maybe one or two things might have clicked and will help you to avoid jewelry doom, but if nothing else sticks, remember this: If you never ever, ever, ever take off your ring for any reason, or even don't take it off as ofen as you should, BRING IT IN to a professional jeweler, OFTEN!! Get it cleaned and checked as often as possible to ensure the safety and integrity (and shiny-ness) of the ring. Be aware of your jewelry, look at it, notice how it changes and do something about it if it doesn't look like it should!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Top Ten Enemies of Gold Jewelry: #3

Bed Sheets.

And who doesn't love fresh, clean bedsheets? One of the great, simple pleasures of life, these household necessities aren't as innocent as you may think!

The dark secret lurks in what happens to your jewelry when you go to bed. While you are sweetly dreaming, your bedsheets act as a slow but steady sandpaper on your jewelry!

Prongs especially are at risk, since they stick up the highest and are relatively thin compared with other parts of the piece. As prongs wear thin, they become easier to bend or break, and when they do- you lose your stone!!

Prongs can, of course be retipped or crowns replaced as they wear out. Bringing your jewelry in to be cleaned and checked by a professional jeweler at least twice a year (just like getting your teeth cleaned!!) is essential to this, so that the jeweler can keep track of the wear patterns you have established. As prongs do wear thin, your jeweler can recommend preventative maintainance, or in the case of breakage, he/she can repair/replace as necessary to make sure your stones are tight and secure!

Jewelry is meant to be worn, so it is natural that it will eventually wear down and need repair. How quickly or how often it will need repair, however, is up to you! By taking it off before bed, you greatly increase the life of your ring, and protect your pendants! (Really, there aren't any chains out there designed to be worn to bed- you toss and they twist and the links stretch and the whole thing snaps! It is better to only wear your jewelry while you are concious!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Top Ten Enemies of Gold Jewelry: #4


There seems to be a trend of thinking you should keep your jewelry on when you go swimming- I mean, you wouldn't want it to get lost or stolen while you are splashing and having fun in the pool- right?

Unfortunately you ring runs into as much or greater danger by going into the water with you!!

Chlorine chemically reacts with the alloy metals in gold to form pits and cracks. Essentially, over time, it will eat away at your jewelry until it either looks like the surface of the moon or cracks into many pieces!

Rings or other jewelry should NEVER be cleaned with or come in contact with bleach (which is related to chlorine)!! This could result in a blackening of the gold and the appearance of small cracks- even in as little as a few hours!!

Tests have shown that a 14K gold ring soaked in household bleach for 24-36 hours will dissintgrate completely and be beyond all hope of repair!!

While pure gold shows no reaction to the bleach, gold jewelry is an alloy (10k, 14k, 18k etc.) consisting of 10/14/18 parts pure gold to 14/10/6 parts other metal(s). It is these other metals which dissolve in the bleach, but because the two metals become essentially one in the alloy, the pure gold cannot maintain the shape and integrity of the original piece.

Repairs are only a partial solution in this situation. When a crack or break is repaired, it is welded back together with gold solder (so that there isn't any karat difference between the piece and the joint), but when the alloy metals in the actual piece are depleted, no amount of solder can replace them! In fact, there is no way to repair chlorine damage to gold, short of melting it down, adding new metal, and re-casting it!

Since this is one of the enemies of gold that eventually results in unrepairable damage, it is even more important that you DO NOT wear your gold jewelry in the pool or hot tub, or while using household cleaners/ laundry agents containing bleach!! Even regular tap water contains trace amounts of chlorine, and over time can contribute to things like cracked prongs or shanks. This would take place over a long period of time, but we typically recommend removing your jewelry before washing hands, doing dishes, or taking a shower anyway (for both hygenic reasons and to keep it looking nice)!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Top 10 Enemies of Gold Jewelry: #5


Not the planet, but the Element. Also referred to as Quicksilver, Mercury is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature.

While not used in many things most people handle on a regular basis, mercury is used in thermometers, barometers, float valves, some electrical switches and other scientific apparatus as well as fluorescent bulbs.

So, even though the likelihood of mercury to gold contact is slim, if it does happen, you are in for some unpleasantness because of another unique property which mercury posesses.

When mercury comes into contact with gold, or most other metals, it actually dissolves to form an amalgam with it. This means that the 2 metals are now bonded into a new substance can cannot be separated (except by toxic means)!!

Mercury amalgams are actually useful or desireable- when made on purpose, such as dental fillings or the reflective coating on mirrors. However, when mixed with gold, it discolors your jewelry in an undesireable way.

The worst part is that the only way to separate the 2 is to heat the piece until the mercury vaporizes. In fact, this very process was used in 17th century France to create gold plated objects- just add mercury to gold and use it to coat an object, then heat it until the mercury is depleted thus leaving only a thin layer of gold behind! This process was, however, banned by the end of the 19th century because of the (obvious) harmful effects such as blindness!!

Some metals do not form amalgams with mercury, such as iron and platinum, but really- the best policy is don't play with mercury, and if for some odd reason you must- don't wear your jewelry!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Top 10 Enemies of Gold Jewelry: #6


Now, there are many ways your hand can suddenly swell up. There are even a few ways it can do so gradually. No matter the cause, swelling endangers both the ring and the finger if the ring isn't removed before it's too late!!

The first thing that comes to mind when we think of reasons for a hand to swell up like someone blowing air into a rubber glove is injury. You smash your hand in a door, hit it with a hammer or have something heavy fall on it and suddenly, amidst howls of pain, your hand is rapidly increasing in size!

While removing your ring is not likely to be the first thing you think of, it should be!!

As your hand swells, the ring will restrict blood flow to the finger and could cause serious damage or loss of the finger depending on the extent of the swelling! If a trip to the hospital is necessary and the ring doesn't slide off easily, they will cut it off and they will not worry about the integrity of the setting or whether they cut through the engraving on the inside!

On a side note, if your ring is Tungsten, they will not cut it off- they will smash it off... with a hammer!

Another emergency reason to get your rings off quickly is an allergic reaction, although the swelling is temporary it is still crucial to remove your rings while you still can.

More mundane and less threatening reasons for swelling include heat, humidity, excercise, and even eating too much salt! While these won't usually result in any danger, they can cause discomfort and it is usually better to have your rings off until they fit better!

Long term swelling resulting from weight gain (yes, no one likes it, but it does happen!) or pregnancy is a common cause of rings being cut off. Since it happens gradually, many times you don't realize until too late that it isn't coming off!

Especially when you are pregnant, this can be a very traumatic experience and one that could easily be avoided. We always recommend removing your rings before bed (and for many other things, but that's a big one) and this one simple habit will allow you to notice if your ring is getting to where it doesn't come on or off so easily. If you reach this point, the best thing to do is to either have it resized or stop wearing it until it does fit!!

Resizing a ring is a lot faster, easier, cheaper and better looking than trying to repair it once it has been cut off!