Gold is the most popular choice of metal for all types of jewelry, but many people don’t realize that gold wears down. The quality that makes gold the perfect choice for jewelry is its “malleability”. That’s simply a big word for softness. Gold is actually only a 2.5 to 3 on a scale from 1 to 10 which rates the hardness of minerals. You may be surprised to learn that gold is actually softer than opal which is rated around 5-6 in hardness!
Now, one thing we must get straight is the difference between toughness and hardness. When we speak of hardness, we are referring to the resistance to scratching or wearing down. Toughness, however, refers to a mineral’s resistance to breaking. Gold is very tough, and will only break along a solder line, a place where the width is very thin, or a defective area of pitting (tiny air bubbles from a poor quality fabrication).
Sadly, the very quality which makes gold submit to our design processes, also makes it subject to wearing down over the years. Gold’s softness is the reason that it takes on a frosted look rather than the high polish it had when it was originally purchased. It is also the reason that the prongs (those tiny pieces of gold that hold diamonds and gems in place) begin to “flatten out” or lift up and snag after several years of wear. Let’s face it, we can be very hard on our jewelry, especially those precious pieces that sit on the ring finger of our left hands!
Though we can’t stop gold from wearing down, there are several things we can do to help slow the process:
1. Take your rings off and put them in a safe place before doing hard physical labor.
Landscaping and jewelry were not meant to go together!
2. Never wear your gold in a jacuzzi. The harsh chemicals, especially bleach, can eat
away at the alloys in your gold, leaving it porous and brittle. In fact, any
exposure to bleach can damage your ring.
3. Never expose your gold to mercury. Though digital thermometers have made this
warning almost unnecessary, if a mercury thermometer breaks and the mercury
touches your gold, it can be completely ruined in a matter of hours.
Now for the good news! Most jewelers are willing to clean and inspect your jewelry for free. Find a reputable jeweler (We just happen to know one or two!! ) that you can trust and have your rings inspected at least twice a year. When your prongs begin to wear to the point where security becomes an issue, a good jeweler can add more gold to the prongs by a process called “retipping.” When the bottoms (“shanks”) of your rings begin to wear thin, they too can be “beefed up” by having that portion replaced with a thicker piece of gold. A good jeweler can do it so well that you will never be able to tell that the shank portion was replaced.
As for that shine, girls, it ain’t got a thing if it ain’t got that bling! Bring your jewelry to your personal jeweler for polishing at least once a year. For about the same price as a new set of nails, your ring can look as breathtaking as the first day you wore it!