Your Jewelry and Cold & Flu Season

Cold weather
Image: New York Daily News – DelMundo for News/Anthony DelMundo

We’re officially entering “that time of year” – the air is getting nippy, cough drop sales are on the rise in most places, and people are standing in line for flu shots. But what possible connection does this have with your jewelry?

Here are 3 things to know about how cold & flu season affects your jewelry:

  1. Hand sanitizer can discolor white gold. That’s right – the alcohol in common hand sanitizer reacts with the rhodium finish often used to make white gold jewelry (and sometimes sterling silver) more shiny. During this time of year, hand sanitizer is a great way to to stop the spread of harmful bacteria – but it’s not always the best friend for your jewelry. Nurses and other health professionals, social workers, and teachers who use alcohol-based cleansers regularly may notice the rhodium finish begin to dull, darken or even wear off. It may be necessary to have the rhodium refinished by a jeweler.

    Our tip: When using hand gels, apply to your fingertips and the palms of your hands to reduce contact with jewelry. Some may prefer to put their rings in a pocket briefly until their hands air dry.

  2. Opals don’t like freezing cold! Opals are a silica-based precious stone with water trapped inside the crystals, making them extremely sensitive to pressure and temperature changes. Wearing opal jewelry in icy weather or exposing it to very cold water (like what comes out of the tap on a cold winter’s day) can cause these fragile stones to crack.

    Our tip: Keep your opal pieces stored in a more comfortable place during freezing weather. When cleaning your opal jewelry, use only lukewarm water and very mild hand soap with a soft cloth.

  3. Limit your jewelry’s contact with harsh soaps and hand lotions. As the weather gets cooler, the dry air and frequent handwashing has us using lotions and moisturizing creams more often. This can leave ugly buildup on your jewelry.

    Antibacterial soap and detergents can damage the finish of many gemstones, and can be especially harmful to organic pieces such as pearls.

    Our tip: Take off your rings and bracelets before using strong cleaning products. (Please remember never to place them on the edge of the sink!) Clean your jewelry routinely with a soft toothbrush and mild, lukewarm soapy water to remove filmy residue and other debris.

  4. With luck – and a little TLC – both you and your jewelry will make it through the winter in great shape!