Engagement rings are not only tangible investments in the future of a relationship, they're also investments in a more traditional sense. Men and women save for months to purchase these special symbols of love and fidelity that will be treasured for years to come.
Properly caring for fine jewelry can help it retain its luster and beauty, as well as its value. According to a 2011 Engagement & Jewelry Survey from XO Group Inc., formerly The Knot Inc. and owners of TheKnot.com, the average American engagement ring costs $5,200, and wedding bands only add to those costs. Upon making such significant investments, it's no surprise that couples prioritize proper care and cleaning techniques to protect their jewelry, and the following are a few ways to do just that.
* First examine all the prongs on settings, clasps and other components of the rings to make sure they are secure. Otherwise, pieces or stones could come loose and be lost during the cleaning process. If anything is loose, bring it to a jeweler for repairs.
* When cleaning, try soap and water first before moving on to harsher chemicals if necessary. Soft, porous jewelry, such as opals, pearls and turquoise, should only be cleaned in this type of solution to ensure they look their best. Select a mild cleanser, like a gentle clothing detergent or dish soap. Add a few drops to two cups of warm water and quickly dip the jewelry. Use a soft, dry cloth to dry and buff, then lay gems flat to air dry further. If stones need a little more elbow grease, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to scour gently.
* White vinegar is another tool to use when cleaning jewelry. Drop gemstones and gold jewelry into a small jar of vinegar for roughly 15 minutes. Agitate the jar to dislodge any debris. Remove the jewelry and rinse off under water, then dry off.
* Ammonia also can clean jewelry quite effectively, but its aroma may turn people off. Diamond jewelry, in particular, can be soaked in one cup of warm water mixed with 1/4 cup ammonia for roughly 10 to 15 minutes. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean any grime from the crevices of the setting and beneath the diamond. Rinse off and allow to dry before wearing. If diamonds are set in platinum, ammonia will also clean the setting effectively.
* For silver jewelry, use aluminum foil to clean tarnished silver. Line a tray with a piece of crumpled aluminum foil and place your jewelry on the foil. Sprinkle a layer of baking soda over the jewelry, then pour boiling water over it. The tarnish will transfer from the jewelry to the foil. You may need to flip or move the jewelry around so all sides come in contact with the foil. Remove and rinse with water. Otherwise, try a specialized silver cleaning paste or solution purchased at the drug store.
* Many jewelry stores will clean jewelry free of charge, especially if couples return to the store where the rings were purchased. Some use high-pressured steam to loosen dirt and debris, while others use jewelry cleaning solutions.
When jewelry isn't being worn, it should be carefully stored inside a jewelry box or the box in which it was shipped or purchased. Place jewelry back in the same place each time so it does not get lost. Try not to take off expensive rings in the bathroom and leave them on the sink, where they are vulnerable to falling down the drain.
Remove rings and other jewelry if you will be using your hands to mix messy foods or to work with paint, soil or other materials that might put jewelry in jeopardy. Removing jewelry prevents scratching and keeps particles from lodging in the stones or setting.
Caring for jewelry can make it last a lifetime. Then jewelry can even be passed down to other generations.