Jewelry is worn on the body, in a wide range of environments. Since it is not merely put into a case and displayed, jewelry wears down imperceptibly over time. Precious metals such as gold and platinum can become misshapen, and the polish of their surfaces can be dulled by scratches. Even diamond, the hardest substance on earth, becomes scratched after years of use. No matter who securely prongs may hold a gemstone, they can be raised by a single thread of clothing. A shock can crack a stone, making it fall out of its setting and break. Armed with an understanding of the hardness and durability of gemstones and how gems can change over time, as well as the characteristics of gold and platinum, we should try to use jewelry carefully and intelligently so that it does not lose its value.

The diamonds seen in old rings that are put up for auction often have chipped girdles. There are most likely the result of having been struck accidentally against hard surfaces over many years of use. The facet lines on rubies and sapphires that have been used for many years are also often quite abraded. As seen in photograph 5 on the next page, emeralds may crack and fall out of their settings. There is no problem with everyday use, but if a ring is worn while doing heavy work, it may strike against something and cause gemstones to break. Jewelry should be worn carefully, under the assumption that it is fragile.

Gold and platinum are alloyed with other metals to give them the hardness that is necessary for use in jewelry. 18-karat (18K) yellow gold is 18/24 gold, with the remaining 25 percent consisting of alloys such as silver and copper. 950 platinum (pt 950) represents 95 percent platinum with 5 percent palladium, ruthenium, or iridium as a alloy. The types of alloys used are based on the manufacturer’s experience, and serve to improve the jewelry’s durability and manufacturability. Pure gold (24K) and pure platinum (pt 1000) are too soft, and unsuited for jewelry use.

It is wise to remove gemstone rings when doing kitchen or garden work, or during sports. People in certain occupations, such as a bartender who regularly breaks ice with an ice pick, should do so with the knowledge that this could damage a ring. Just as people have different clothing for dressing up, working, and playing sports, having several rings, pendants, earrings, and brooches to choose from for different situations, considering the types of pressures that they will be exposed to, is one way to avoid damaging jewelry.

When dirt and oils collect on the back of a gemstone, most of its brilliance will disappear. No matter how beautiful your gemstones are, if they are dirty it is no different than wearing low-quality material. Diamonds are especially attracted to oils by nature; cleaning the back of them with soap and a soft brush such as a toothbrush about once every thirty times they are worn will restore their beauty to a surprising degree. Ultrasonic cleaning may cause the prongs holding gemstones to become loose, and may remove the oils in impregnated materials such as emeralds and colored-stone cabochons, diminishing their beauty. Ultrasonic cleaning devices should be avoided.

It is best not to make repairs to antique jewelry (jewelry that is more than 100 years old), even if that means minor inconveniences. Such a piece will have weakened as a whole over time, and it is difficult to restore it to its original condition simply by repairing portions. Antique jewelry should be thought of as an inheritance of humankind and used with extra care as its beauty is enjoyed.

Though not related to wear and tear, one must also be careful to avoid having fine jewelry stolen or misplaced. For safekeeping, it is best if jewelry is separated, with one-third of your jewelry kept on hand according to the season and the other two-thirds stored in a bank safety-deposit box. This minimizes the risk of something happening to them. When going out, make it a habit to put jewelry in your pocket or purse when removing it. Unfortunately, there are many cases where jewelry is carelessly left on a bathroom sink.

Dirt is stuck on the back of this ring, robbing the diamonds of their brilliance.
Cleaning the back of the ring with something like a toothbrush will restore the diamonds' brilliance.