Help! I Dropped My Favourite Ring Down The Toilet!
Our jewellery cleaning expert Fiona explains how even after the worst of disasters that prized piece of jewellery can usually still be saved!
Over the years we've come across many cries for help with jewellery that has become dirty or damaged. With this blog I'm going to concentrate on the downright dirty and leave damaged for another day.
A while back a customer came into one of our high street stores with a small paper bag. It contained a rough, matt black ring which needed serious cleaning attention.
I asked her what had happened to get the ring in such a state. She happily admitted wearing her ring whilst cleaning the toilet bowl with bleach, a loo brush and no protective gloves. Her hands were cold and she hadn't realised the ring slipped off into the bleached water where it stayed for an hour or so.
We keep latex gloves for cleaning jewellery, so in the circumstances I quickly snapped on a pair!
The ring was checked for any stones (no stones makes life easier), any dents (no knocks or scratches - again good) and given a quick rub and polish with a silver cloth to see how easily the surface gunk would come off. The cloth removed some of the black showing the bleach damage was surface only.
For really dirty silver jewellery like this ring, and/or complex designs we use a proprietary silver dip which can be bought from stores such as Sainsburys or Robert Dyas. It's really important to read the instructions carefully as we've had to deal with jewellery cleaning accidents as well.
Usually jars of silver dip have removable plastic baskets where you can lower the jewellery in the solution and then get it out again quickly without splashing cleaner all over the place.
I immersed the ring for a couple of minutes, removed it, inspected the surface and re-soaked it for another minute or so. Never immerse silver in cleaning solution for more than a few minutes and never leave it unattended in case you forget about it.
When it came out the second time I could see the silver surface. After a really good rinse with lots of clean, warm water to get rid of all cleaning solution (the cleaning solution is quite slippery and a clean silver surface is squeaky when you run a finger over it), the ring was dried and buffed with a silver cloth to bring back the shine and remove any last traces of 'eau de bleach'.
If you're still not happy with the finish after cleaning with silver dip, then give the item a good wash in warm water with a small squirt of washing-up liquid. Use an old, soft clean toothbrush to gently scrub around the item. Rinse it with clean, warm water again and pat dry with a soft tea towel before buffing.
This customer was lucky, as the ring only had surface damage that was easily restored and the shape was quite simple so there was a good area to work with to restore the polished finish.
If the ring had been an intricate design, or needed some repair work, it would have been sent to our workshop where it would have been cleaned and polished using jewellers rouge to take off the top surface layer and bring back the ring to its original shiny finish.
Here are our golden (or should that be silver) rules for cleaning and caring from your jewellery
• Keep a silver cloth handy for light cleaning, removing finger prints, and buffing up the jewellery to a high shine. Argenteus specialised silver cleaning cloths are available from our online store for only £1.99
• Keep some silver dip handy for really discoloured jewellery or for areas where a cloth won't reach (chains, filigree work, etc).
• Always read the instructions on cleaning products
• Don't overuse silver dip as it works by removing a really fine layer of the silver surface, so it eventually wears away the shine
• When you're not wearing your jewellery, store it somewhere clean and dry.
• If you've tried the above and it's not helped then it's time to seek professional advice. Most jewellers have workshops where more professional cleaning processes can be applied. If it's a treasured item you should make sure it receives the best of attention. Never try to use cleaning products or methods if you're not properly trained or experienced as often you can just make things worse!