How to Make Smart Choices for Jewelry That Lasts
In the coordinating podcast episode, Episode 24 Making Smart Choices for Jewelry That Lasts, which you can listen to by clicking on the link and box above, I share tips and features to make jewelry selections that will save you from costly repairs, and ensure a lifetime of wear and enjoyment.
I love sharing tips shoppers may not think about before it’s too late – after a diamond or gemstone goes missing from a ring setting, or after the plating fades from the metal of an item of jewelry, and a silver or gold tone begins to show through a gold or silver plated item.
As long as you’re an informed shopper, jewelry that’s made with any gemstone, or plated, you can make it last based on its wear potential.
Always, purchasing your jewelry from jewelers and designers who use quality materials, and have high levels of integrity is the best investment you can make in your jewelry. - Brenna Pakes, Jewelry Navigator Click To Tweet
Busy people need to make smart choices for jewelry that lasts.
In this episode, and post, I share tips and features to make jewelry selections that will save you from costly repairs, and ensure a lifetime of wear and enjoyment.
Thanks so much for joining me, and if you haven't subscribed to the podcast yet, you can do that on iTunes, Podbean ( the link above), Spotify, and Google Play Music, so you can hear jewlery stories and tips on the go or at the gym!
Tips for Making Smart Jewlery Choices
When it comes to choosing jewelry you’ll wear on a regular basis, like engagement rings, or a special gift of significance, like a stand in for a class ring, (see “No Ring Left Behind” post and podcast) or even just a ring you like SO much, that you could wear it every day, there are some things to think about!
Things to Think About What Jewelry You Wear and Purchase
Main considerations are:
- stones and their hardness and durability
- metal choices (platinum vs white gold)
- what you do for a living or on a daily basis
- the clothes you wear (What??!!! – YES!! Clothing is a HUGE culprit for jewlery damages! Keep reading to find out why.)
Rings are Subjected to the Most Risk
We’ll start with which jewelry pieces are exposed to the most risk:
Jewelry on Hands Needs to Be Durable, especially if it’s worn regularly or daily, below are some important things to consider when choosing a ring as a gift, or something for yourself, or even to know about rings you already have or will inherit.
Hardness is the biggest factor when choosing stones in new designs, or wearing rings you aleady have.
- The Mohs Hardness scale was established by early geologists to determine the hardness of minerals and rocks.
The basis of the hardness scale is the harder minerals scratch subsequent softer ones, so as they found different ones, and identified them, the assigned a harness to them based on this scale of relative hardness.
Diamond is the hardest at 10, and talc is the softest at 1.
For the sake of safe jewelry wear, anything under a 7 needs extra care, but ideally, the more often you wear a ring with a gemstone in it, the higher its hardness should be.
See the table feature for a comparison of some of the more common gemstones set into jewelry.
But don’t give up on those softer stones, like opals, apatite, and chrome diopside!
Just because a stone is softer, doesn’t mean it still can’t be enjoyed in jewelry – you just need to be take extra care when softer stones are set in rings.
Softer stones are safest set in pendants, necklaces and earrings, away from the active motions of hands.
Now that you know some stones aren’t the best choices to wear on a daily basis in rings, let’s talk about how the stones are set, and what styles you should look for with rings and jewelry you want to wear a lot and what types of setting are the most secure.
So, It’s not enough to consider what’s set in your rings and jewelry, but also your activity level and vocation:
For instance, I know first hand that Flight Attendants are always pushing and pulling soda inserts in and out of the carts;
pushing them up the aisle makes rings susceptible to banging against seats or on doors, cabinets and overhead bins during pre-departure
Other careers associated with high levels of activity, especially with their hands are:
- Athletes, workouts and exercise
- Nurses, dental hygenists and doctors (anyone who needs to wear latex gloves for protection)
- Day care workers
- -changing diapers
…and really any activity where you’re moving around a lot, doing things with your hands.
In these cases, rings may be knocking up against equipment and items you may not notice.
It’s a good idea to consider a full or partially bezel set center stone this can remedy two issues:
- avoids prongs getting caught, bend or sheared off
- the stone can be set lower – that’s ideal for nurses and medical practitioners who are constantly washing their hands or taking gloves on and off all day
If you do choose to have a ring with prong set stones, and you work in environments with high levels of activity, try to have the stones set as low as possible.
Dont’ worry!!! Diamonds will sparkle even if you set them in black dirt – it’s what they do and how their optical properties make them return light
If your ring is already prong – set – it’s ok!
just be cognizant and aware of when you’ll be most active and maybe take your rings off during these times.
Moving furniture and lifting heavy items is never a good idea to do while wearing rings anyway, so take them off!
Other factors that can endanger your stones and ring settings is
What you wear:
- jeans with pockets,
- coats and jacket pockets
- gloves in the winter
Clothing fibers and strands catch on prongs and can easily pull a prong back – if your stone is set in a four prong head, and if one of the prongs is already compromised, you’re really risking losing your stone!
I always recommend working with a jewelry store that is an independent – NOT a chain store, and one with its own repair shop on site.
Do your homework – ask around, and read their reviews.
A jewelry store should always have your best interests in mind. If you feel they’re pushing you to have a repair done, or re-set a stone, get a second opinion.
The last thing to consider when choosing jewelry that will last is the metal type.
The most common metals used in making jewelry are gold, which include the alloyed combinations that make white, yellow, rose and green gold, platinum, palladium and sterling silver.
After the mix of precious metals, there are also the options of plated metals, like rhodium and gold plated sterling silver, or vermeil.
Gold plating will wear off, but gold filled and gold vermeil choices will last longer.
Just know these plated choices won’t last as long as a solid gold choice, starting at 10kt and up.
White gold is a combination of yellow gold, and white metal alloys, like palladium, nickel, zinc and copper, and nowadays, with a finish of rhodium.
Because it’s not a pure white metal like platinum or palladium, the shiny white – silver will wear down to a yellowish – white.
This is easily remedied by having the ring rhodium plated.
Platinum, palladium and sterling silver are pure white metals – which most people refer to a silver color, but the jewelry trade calls white.
All of the precious metal alloys are durable enough for jewelry, but there are some characteristics you need to keep in mind:
white and yellow gold and palladium are all fairly similar in their wear, as far as maintaining their shape and their hardnesses.
But platinum scratches and bends easier than gold – it’s malleable, and when it bends, it won’t break, but this characteristic needs to be kept in mind for a couple reasons.
when a platinum prong is pulled away from its stone, it will bend, but most likely not break
where with a white gold prong is more likely to break or shear off
gold when scratched or rubbed is removed,
platinum is only displaced, like play dough, it can be pushed back into place.
Because it’s softer and more malleable, over time, platinum gets a soft brushed finish – or patina – as a result of minute scratches
some people like that, but if you want a high polished shiny silver metal for rings you’ll wear a lot, platinum may not be the right choice.
I feel that’s one reason why so many of the filigree and engraved rings are platinum – one they’re easier to engrave and work with and two, the engraving disguises the scratches unlike a smooth finish would show them.
As far as all the other jewelry items, bracelets endure a lot of wear, and you need to be most aware of whether a bracelet is solid metal, hollow or partially hollow.
Anything hollow is going to show dents and bend easier.
Watch when you put cuff bracelets on and off – open the open side just enough to fit over the narrowest part of your wrist bone then rotate it across the front side.
when you open and close it, the metal weakens and will tear and break
About Brenna, the Jewelry Navigator
A Graduate Gemologist with a degree in geology, Brenna has worked in the retail sector of jewlery for nearly 15 years.
With a heart for the small business owner and independent designers, Brenna fills the gap between trade show and shopper looking for unique jewelry to define life and experience.
By sharing the missions, stories and creations of artisan and independent jewelers, Jewelry Navigator brings jewelry to the shopping public that may otherwise go undiscovered.
Visit jewelrynavigator.com for more, and follow on Instagram @jewelrynavigator