How to Clean a Diamond Ring

I want to come clean with a sparkly scenario. Let’s say you have a diamond ring ’cause you’re engaged, married, or have inherited something blingy. Let’s say you wear it, even daily. Does the sparkle fade after a few days of wear? Do you want to bring the brilliant diamond blingy back?

I’m not a huge ring or earring wearer, but the few pieces I do own I prefer to wear clean. I don’t know how rings get sooo dirty. The prongs and basket on a ring setting seem to be collectors of great clumps of junk. It’s gross. Besides, the grime and oil we humans seem to exude does nothing to keep a diamond fingerprint free and clean.

One answer is to bring your gems to a jeweler who will steam your rings and things clean. But I find this option expensive, and not practical for those wearing rings daily.

diamondring_cleaning1.JPG

Another answer to keeping diamond rings spotless is to use something called an Ultrasonic Cleaner. These ultrasonic cleaner things seem to be all the rage in larger city centers where diamonds are as big as home mortgages. They work by placing jewelry pieces into a chamber containing special ultrasound conducting fluid and electronically activating the machine to produce ultrasonic waves through a transducer. Phew, physics anyone? Anyways, both the fluid and the machine are expensive to purchase, the machine is expensive to maintain, and the violent shaking of these cleaners can loosen and dislodge diamonds in delicate settings. Diamond ring settings containing very small pave, channel, and bead set diamonds can easily get eaten in such machines.

I don’t want you to spend a fortune or obtain a degree in physics just to clean your rings. So I’ll share an inexpensive and easy way to keep your diamond things clean. Here’s how:

What you need:

  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol 70%, $1.75 at your local drug store.
  • Small bristle brush, .99 each at your local drug store.
  • Facial tissue, .99 cents.

How to clean:

  1. Place your ring in a small dish filled with rubbing alcohol, just enough to cover the top of the ring.
  2. Soak the ring for 1-2 minutes in the alcohol.
  3. Brush ring carefully yet vigorously with soft bristle brush. Be sure to scrub between setting prongs and under the basket and shank.
  4. Resoak ring for another 2 minutes, and then dry on a tissue.
  5. Your diamond ring will look brand new! Repeat every other day for best results.

I’ve used this ring cleaning method on all sorts of metal jewelry, including: white gold, yellow gold, and platinum. I’ve soaked sapphire and ruby gemstone rings and earrings. I would only recommend using this method on hard gems though, like diamonds, sapphires, and rubies. Softer gems like emerald, opal, amethyst, topaz, garnet, tourmaline, peridot, and moonstone should be cleaned in warm water. Organic gems like pearls, coral, shell, amber, and ivory may be best cared for by a trusted jeweler.

Are you a ring clean fiend? Have a frugal method for cleaning non-frugal jewelry?

Your two cents:

  1. Clever Dude June 17th, 2008

    I tend to just take it in to a major jewelry chain store and have them clean it on-site for free. If they’re a chain, then they can’t tell whether they sold you the ring or not. If it’s a small single shop, they’ll probably recognize it’s not the same ring, but they might clean it anyway.

  2. Hedy June 17th, 2008

    My mom had a co-worker who swore by denture cleanser. It worked,

  3. DishSoap June 17th, 2008

    Palmolive dish soap and a toothbrush do wonders!

  4. Tina June 18th, 2008

    I’ve always used toothpaste and toothbrush to clean my gold and diamond jewellery.
    For best results, soak the jewellery in warm/hot water and then use toothpaste and toothbrush to clean it.
    Use some old toothbrush of yours that you don’t use. This eliminates the need to buy anything at all :)

  5. SunkistMom June 18th, 2008

    Ive used a toothbrush and some toothpaste as well. Works great!

  6. AMK June 19th, 2008

    I do almost the same thing. I use a shot glass because it takes less liquid to cover the rings.

    And, instead of rubbing alcohol, I use the cheapest vodka I can find because it has no smell. (Which also makes it useful for mixing my own household cleaner – vinegar, vodka, a dash of Castille soap and usually lavender or tea tree essential oil.)

    So, yes, my bathroom counter often has a shot glass of vodka out …

  7. Peter Rowe June 22nd, 2008

    Ok, now how about the real story from a longtime professional goldsmith and gemologist?
    First, you’re right that ultrasonics (and steam cleaners too) have their limits and are costly, though the milk steaming wand of a household expresso maker can do much of the same thing as a professional steamer.

    But alcohol isn’t the best cleaner. The diamonds get dirty from grease, oils,dead skin, soap scum, etc. What cleans that? Detergent and hot water. Take a saucepan, fill with hot water and add some good strong liquid detergent, and if it doesn’t already have it, a bit of ammonia. Hang your gold or platinum and precious stone jewelry over the edge of the saucepan on a hook made from an unfolded paper clip, so it’s suspened in the solution. The solution will be much the same strength you might use to scrub the kitchen floor, and it will, when simmering, dissolve the gunk in short order. After about five or ten minutes, if there remain bits, use a soft toothbrush to loosen, soak a bit more, and rinse. THEN, if you like dip in alcohol and dry. The alcohol will dry without leaving water spots. An optional step, but you can do it. The main thing is hot, detergent laced water. In jewelry shops before we had ultrasonics or steam cleaners, such a saucepan is how we cleaned jewelry before working on it, and how the polishing compound after buffing was removed. This does work, folks, and works well. Note that this needs to be stones that can take this. Not jewelry held together by glue, nor made of plated cheap metals. No stones like pearls, malachite, turqoise, or other porous and fragile gems. But fine for your diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and the like. If you’re not sure whether your jewelry is safe for this, then instead of the strong detergent used hot, instead use hand dishwashing liquid, in warm water, and soak for longer. maybe overnight. Gentler, and almost as effective. And a couple things Never to use. Toothpaste is sometimes touted. it’s abrasive, and will scratch the metal, and some soft stones. Don’t use toothpaste. Same thing for scouring powder. And NEVER use anything with bleach of any kind. Most are based on chlorine bleach compounds, which react to gold and silver, damaging them. Hope that helps. If you wish more, got to google groups and ask on the rec.crafts.jewelry newsgroup. (I’m the moderator of that group) Lots of other jewelry pros there to help.

  8. Peter Rowe June 22nd, 2008

    Oh, and one other comment worth making. Anytime your jewelry is cleaned, there is the possiblity that diamonds or other stones may be slightly loosened. Dirt working under stones not only can loosen it a bit, but then hide that fact by holding them in. After cleaning, the stones then are loose, and in some cases, can be easily lost (the big problem with steam cleaning and ultrasonics is that those loose stones are then forced out of the mounting by the cleaner, and are easily lost). Loose stones can be a problem with new jewelry where slight errors in stone setting haven’t yet been corrected, or with old jewelry where metal holding the stones has worn away. The fix is simple. After cleaning and drying, use a pin or sharp tweezers or the like touching each stone (especially the little ones) on one side then the other. If loose you can see it “rock” in the mounting, changing the way light reflects on the stone. Larger center stones can be literally wiggled with the tweezers (be gentle here. Just a light touch) to see if they move in the prongs or mountings. They shouldn’t. If any movement at all is seen, take the jewelry to a professional to have the stones tightened. If it’s new, take it where you bought it, and it should be free. If it’s old, find a competent repair shop. Please don’t try to glue the stones. That makes a mess, looks horrible, and is hard to remove when it’s time to do it right.
    Hope that helps.

  9. Kerry June 22nd, 2008

    @Peter Rowe Thank you for jumping in. My jeweler is an advocate of using Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, and I’ve seen excellent results when using a soft brush. Using toothpaste does indeed sound too abrasive. Thanks for cleaning up loose ends!

  10. Athena May 15th, 2009

    No wonder my ring looks so great after I do the dishes. :)

  11. Kerry May 15th, 2009

    @Athena VERY FUNNY! LOL :D

  12. Peter Rolwe May 15th, 2009

    @Fox Your jeweler is correct in that isopropyl alcohol is very gentle, and because it dries without water spots, the jewelery can look great after cleaning. It’s fine if your jewelry is not very dirty, and just needs a little touch up cleaning. But alcohol is only a so-so solvent for the grease, oils, and residue that can build up in a ring, especially under the stones. Add in dried soap and lotions, and some skin residues that build up inside a ring and under the stones if it goes some time without cleaning (gunk some jewelers refer to as “ring jam”…) then alcohol simply isn’t strong enough to cut through that junk. As I mentioned, detergents are stronger, and the aspect of a hot solution is important too, since the gunk softens and partially melts, making it much easier for the cleaning solution to act. Now, if you use just alcohol, and leave it for a day or two, especially if you agitate it a bit now and then, perhaps it will do the job. But who wants to wait that long.

    By the way. People may now and then see commercially sold jars of jewelry cleaner. They come with a jar of solution, a little basket to hold the jewelry and a little brush usually. The solution is often colored with some nice looking dye, and maybe some scent, to help justify the several dollars cost. But that’s just marketing. The solution itself is not too different from ordinary hand dish washing detergent in water. It works best when used frequently, and when the jewelry is left to soak, perhaps overnight. If you make a similar solution, and warm it up (microwave it, but not with the jewelry in it yet, if you like. Not to boiling. Just hot) then it will be quite effective, quicker than that commercial jar, and much less costly.

    @Athena. yes, funny. But if you wash dishes in a ceramic sink rather than, say, stainless steel, be a little careful not to bang your diamonds on the sink. Many people are surprised to learn that diamonds, thoough durable and very hard, can still be a little brittle, especially in certain vulnerable directions. Ceramic kitchen sinks are rigid and hard. Not hard enough to scratch a diamond of course, but hard enough to impart some force to the diamond if you bang the two together accidentally. Hit it at just the wrong angle, and you can chip the diamond. So be a bit careful here. Also, if your ring isn’t regularly cleaned, AND you haven’t had it checked or check it yourself for loose stones, especially the little side ones, then remember that if, while washing dishes, you clean off the gunk that’s helping to hold an otherwise loose little diamond in the ring, then that diamond might end up going down the drain. Safer to be sure the stones are secure by cleaning in a container such that if anything falls out, it’s not lost…
    Cheers
    Peter

  13. Peachykeen November 2nd, 2009

    A jeweller I trust told me to use equal parts household ammonia and water in a sealed jar and simply soak overnight.I do swish the container gently once or twice before I retire for the evening. In the AM, I just use a soft baby tothbrush as described earlier.Since I take them off at night anyway, I have clean diamond rings all the time!I only soak them every other night.I would strongly recommend that you have all of your diamond wedding rings (and the diamond rings you wear most often) checked by your favourite trusted jeweller at least every 6 months for any signs of wear or repairs that may be needed even if they look just fine to you.
    BLEACH EATS GOLD.If you use any kind of cleaner with bleach, you should take off those precious rings and please wear rubber gloves to protect your hands and nails.
    I hope this helps!!

  14. Megan July 17th, 2010

    My aunt has worked in the jewelry business for years & her jeweler gave her this trick:

    Put enough ammonia in a cup/bowl to cover your jewelry & place the cup/bowl (minus the jewelry) in the microwave long enough to get it really hot (maybe 30-45 seconds). The liquid should be bubbling. Then drop your jewelry in, cover w/ a plate or saran wrap & leave in there for 20 minutes or so. No scrubbing necessary…I use a chopstick to swirl my rings around for a moment but they come out WAY shiny & it gets all the gunk out from around & under the setting, too.

  15. Christina September 23rd, 2011

    Thanks so much for this! I have engagement photos tomorrow and wanted my ring to look it’s best without spending any cash. This worked great and my ring is as sparkling as ever! :)

  16. kelly hamilton December 28th, 2011

    I have a continual problem with my rings. I have a gorgeous wedding set, but im a dog groomer and the tiny hair gets stuck under my settings in the basket. iv tried everything i could think of to get the hair out. Including the ultrasonic cleaners. Does anyone have any ideas on how i can get the hair out of the basket without damaging the ring? Any suggestions are appreciated. thanks

  17. jim January 14th, 2013

    Actually isopropyl alcohol iis far better that detergent. 70% will dissolve all non-polar solutes and the remaining water will grab the polar.

    Just for reference I am in charge of cleaning and maintenance of showroom pieces for a Birks location in Eastern Canada.

  18. Peter January 14th, 2013

    Jim, you are correct in cases of simply soluble materials. The distinction to make here is that in cleaning jewelry that’s been worn, as opposed to things needing cleaning from being in a showroom case, is that what gets under and behind stones isn’t just grease and stuff. It’s a mix of those greases and skin oils and waxes and who knows what all else, combined with insoluble dirt, skin cells, and other stuff. It can form a rather tough hard to penetrate mass. Just soaking in alcohol, or detergent, for that matter, will take a long time to work through it, if at all. What really causes the cleaning to work well isn’t the solvent or detergent, but rather the heating of that solution, which can then melt or soften that mass of gunk, allowing it to break up and dissolve. An alcohol based cleaning solution doesn’t take as well to being heated like that since it then evaporates or at the least, gives off fumes you may not wish to be breathing. Recall that in my post describing how to clean the dirty jewelry, I said the solution can be actually simmering on the stove. The detergent helps by breaking up surface tension, but it’s the heat and water that’s really doing the work. Yes, isopropyl alcohol is great for this too, and for some things, maybe even gentler. But it’s not as aggressive for that really caked in “ring jam”. It might be mentioned too, just as historical reference, that in the jewelry trade shops, before the advent of ultrasonic cleaners and steam cleaners, there was still the need to clean the jewelry after polishing, which leaves the work with caked on deposits of those grease and wax based polishing compounds. The classic method was the “boil out pot”. A simmering pot of water with a good deal of cleaning agent added. Some shops just used strong detergent and ammonia, others just used lye. More dangerous, but very effective on those polishing compounds. Still, people using this method always knew it was really the heat that did most of the work. Birks, huh? Nice stores. at least the ones I’ve seen were. :-)

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