Keep Calm and Wash On: Jewelry Care Tips in the Days of COVID-19

Should we be taking off rings and watches when washing hands? Will sanitizers damage jewelry? Can jewelry spread the virus? If wearing jewelry is part of your everyday look, you might be wondering if you should wear it, what the effects of frequent hand washing and sanitizer use are, and how to best keep yourself and those around you safe and healthy. 

With what we know about the novel coronavirus and viruses in general, it would be reasonable to assume that it could be on any jewelry. Common sense practices like hand washing and social distancing continue to be the best line of defense in staying healthy. But don’t just take off your rings without washing them too. If you take off your rings to wash your hands and then put them back on, you’ve recontaminated your hands. 

There are some types of jewelry you may want to avoid wearing altogether for now. You may want to keep rings set with organic gems or softer stones in your jewelry box for now. Hand sanitizers can dry out and damage organic gems like pearls and coral and can damage soft stones like opals and turquoise. When in doubt it’s always best to remove them before sanitizing. 

 In addition, not all hand sanitizers are created equal when it comes to your jewelry. According to Shan Aithal, a metallurgist at Stuller, “Hand sanitizers come in two varieties: alcohol-based and non–alcohol-based. The ones with alcohol are benign to jewelry items as alcohol is the main germ-killing ingredient. However, non–alcohol-based ones typically use chlorine-based compounds as germicides. These chlorine compounds could react with water and release free chlorine. Free chlorine radical is very reactive and could cause tarnishing of jewelry, especially if it is made of sterling silver. Also, halogens are known to cause stress corrosion cracking in low karat golds, in particular, nickel white golds.” It’s worth noting too that the CDC recommends alcohol based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol.

For now it’s best to keep it simple. Stick to plain bands, like wedding bands, made of precious metals like gold and platinum. There are fewer places for germs to get stuck, like underneath settings and in recessed areas in jewelry. Precious metals also won’t tarnish or cause skin discoloration with all additional hand washing and sanitizing. 

Your safety is our priority. So in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re sanitizing all jewelry pieces with alcohol in addition to our regular cleaning prior to shipping as well as sanitizing all incoming materials prior to use. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. Stay safe and healthy out there and keep washing your hands.