When you receive or gift a ring you're essentially receiving or gifting a symbol. A symbol that represents your feelings for that special person in your life, so they'll always know how much they mean to you. Therefore, you want that symbol to last as long as possible.
So how long do sterling silver rings last? The answer is- If wore all the time, On average, sterling silver rings last between 20-30 years, if well maintained.
If only worn occasionally and properly stored they will last forever.
Sterling silver is also one of the most common metals, next to gold, that rings are made from - making it a classic type of metal for rings and a timeless symbol of love and appreciation.
Even though sterling silver, on average, lasts 20 years there are ways that you can stretch its longevity to last as long as several generations!
But, before we get into how to make sterling silver last long enough to pass down to your great grandkids, let's go over some of the common terminology and why it's necessary to understand these terms if you want your ring to last.
- Purity refers to the purity of the metal. This takes into consideration the malleability of the metal and how fast that ring will tarnish or rust. For instance, a ring that is .850 needs less care than a ring that is of .875 purity. This is because the .875 ring will rust quicker and bend easier due to the purity. Therefore, you should know the purity of the ring so that you can properly care for it.
- Oxidize is a term used to describe a process of design. When a silversmith wants to darken parts of the ring for effect, they will allow that part of the ring to oxidize That being said, oxidized portions of the ring may lose clarity faster if they are excessively cleaned, so knowing if your ring has been oxidized and where will help you to care for it properly.
Though this is not a term, another noteworthy aspect of caring for your ring is paying attention to certain exposures. Exposing your ring to excessive chemicals (even household), sweat, rubber, chlorinated water, sulfuric substances (including eggs, onions, mayonnaise, and latex), and prolonged sunlight can cause your ring to tarnish faster.
So you'll want to make sure that you limit your rings exposure to these substances, or eliminate it altogether.
Clean it Properly
All types of metal can be cleaned, the key is knowing how to do it at home. Your warranty may only cover one or two cleanings a year (if you're lucky) and sometimes you may simply not have the time to go and get it professionally cleaned.
Luckily, there are plenty of options to providing your ring an at-home cleaning that makes your ring sparkle like new - without having to worry about the excessive use of silver polish or other silver cleaners that may damage softer stones such as opal or topaz.
Here are a few different cleaners you can make at home that will keep your ring sparkling like new!
Soap and Water
This is a classic when it comes to cleaning pretty much anything. Simply combining warm water and gentle dish soap (like Dawn) can gently clean your ring without you having to worry too much about tarnishing or breakage.
Use a polishing cloth, if available, to gently rub the ring clean. And never soak your ring in the water as this will cause rust.
This should always be your first choice. However, if you are for some reason out of dish soap and the store is closed (Maybe it's 3 am and you just realized your ring is filthy...no judgment), here are a few alternative cleaning methods.
Baking Soda and Water
Make a paste out of baking soda and warm water and gently brush the paste over the ring with a soft cloth or soft-bristled toothbrush. For etched designs and engravings, use a smaller amount of the paste and thin it out with water before brushing it over the design to get in the crevices.
Then, simply rinse the ring under warm water and pat dry.
Olive Oil and Lemon Juice
Combine about a ½ cup of lemon juice with 1 tsp. of olive oil, dip a soft cloth into the solution, wring it out, rub along the surface of the ring, rinse and dry.
White Vinegar and Baking Soda
For hefty amounts of rust, use this cleaner. Add 2 tbsp. of baking soda to a ½ cup of white vinegar and soak the tarnished ring for two or three hours. When that's done, simply rinse and dry (and be prepared for a fair amount of bubbles)!
Now that you know how to maintain your ring at home, let's talk about the benefits a warranty can potentially bring you.
Baking Soda, Aluminum Foil, Salt, and Hot Water
This is a great way to do a deep clean on your sterling silver jewelry without spending money on professional cleaning. Simply line a glass roasting pan with the aluminum foil (dull side down) and place your sterling silver on the foil.
Then, pour the boiling hot water over the silver until they are fully covered and add 2 tbsp. of both salt and baking soda and stir until dissolved.
After you’ve let the silver sit for 5-10 minutes, use salad tongs to remove the silver. If you’re using gloves, do not use rubber as they contain sulfur and will cause a chemical reaction. Then simply rinse and dry.
While doing this, prepare for some rancid smells coming off of your jewelry. Don’t be alarmed by the smell, it’s just rust, but maybe open a window just to be on the safe side, especially if you’re sensitive to pungent odors.
Use a Combination
If the tarnish on your silver is especially stubborn, you can use a combination of any of the above to make your silver look like new. My favorite, in succession, is:
- the baking soda and water,
- then the olive oil and lemon juice,
- then the soap and water.
Maintain and Utilize your Warranty
Warranties are not only fantastic for lost and stolen rings. Many warranties also cover yearly or bi-yearly cleanings at no extra charge. These are great because the jewelers are able to inspect your ring during the cleaning and can let you know if there are any weak points, cracks, missing stones, or areas that are starting to bend.
This can help you to catch a problem before it becomes a problem so if your warranty covers cleanings take full advantage!
You can even ask your jeweler to inspect your ring during the cleaning and request that they let you know if they find anything to ensure that you know as this is not standard practice for every jeweler or jewelry cleaner.
If the cleaner is unable to inspect the ring, you may want to take it for a yearly inspection (which may also potentially be covered in your warranty) to ensure that your ring doesn’t have any minuscule cracks or abrasions.
Know when to take it off
Much like exposure, there are plenty of reasons to take your ring off so that it doesn't get lost, damaged or, heaven forbid, broken.
To provide you with an idea of “when it's better left off than lost”, here are a few times during your day that you should always take your ring off to decrease the chances of damage or loss. Because why take the chance?
- Take your ring off while doing household chores to reduce the amount of harmful chemicals getting on it.
- Take your ring off when you're in or around any type of water to reduce exposure to chlorine or prevent loss or damage.
- Take your ring off whenever you are going to be in prolonged amounts of sunlight. Sunlight increases the amount of tarnish on your ring and causes it to occur faster.
- Take your ring off whenever performing heavy lifting or strenuous handwork. This way you don’t have to worry about snapping your band while working on a car or other home improvement project.
- Take your ring off anytime you are going to be working out or sweating. Sweat also causes tarnish, not to mention it can cause your ring to get slippery and fall off without notice, so it’s best to keep your ring in your gym bag while working on your physique.
- Take your ring off while cooking or baking (or just leave it out of the kitchen period… unless you’re just getting a glass of wine).
- Take your ring off while you’re doing your makeup, hair, or getting ready for a night out in general. No one wants to show off a ring caked in weeks or months worth of foundation application.
Which brings me to my next point…
Know where you store it
Always place your ring in the same place when you aren't wearing it. Never leave it on a low counter (especially if you have kids) or in a damp area (as this will increase rusting).
This may seem like a given, but too many rings have been lost down sink drains due to being left on the counter when doing dishes, so just walk the extra few feet to the bedroom jewelry box or the linen closet with the ring box in it to make sure your ring stays safe and dry.
Having a “safe place” of sorts for your jewelry is essential to its well-being. This prevents you from losing or misplacing it and also protects the ring and your other jewelry from damage or bending. When thinking of a safe space for your ring, make sure that your ring is, in a way, comfortable.
Maybe save the ring box so that you can place it back in when it’s not being worn. This way, the ring is cushioned and not getting buried under ten tons of other jewelry, which can cause your ring to warp or get knocked around.
Use Ring Cushions
I call them ring cushions but, in actuality, they're more like ring sizers. These soft cushions can be used for more than simply making the ring fit or feel more comfortable against your skin.
Ring sizes are usually made from soft rubber or latex and can be adjustable. These can also protect the ring from wear and tear, bending or other damage to the bottom of the ring.
If you have young children that you are constantly picking up and setting down, this is a dual win. The ring sizer will protect the ring from slipping around, cutting into your finger, and will protect the ring from bending after all the lifting, so I highly recommend these.
Now that you know how to maximize your rings longevity, let’s talk a little about the personalization process and some of the processes that may potentially weaken the band or cause the ring to get damaged faster.
Embossments vs Engravings
Embodiments are almost like a stamp and are much deeper than engravings.
Think of an embossed dog tag versus an engraved ring. Engravings are the thinner lines etched into the ring such as a name or saying. Embossments are great for designs and shapes but aren't fantastic for intricate designs.
However, embossments can weaken sterling silver bands quicker than an engraving due to the heaviness of the design. If you have a thin ring band that's embossed, it may bend or snap faster than an engraved band of the same thinness.
Therefore, when you're personalizing your ring with a design make sure you understand the band size and width before deciding on the type of design and process you want.
Know your Stones
Knowing what type of stones and how soft or hard they are will help you to determine the best way to care for your ring at home. Some stones, such as topaz and blue azure, are much softer than other stones and require special care when being cleaned.
These stones cannot be used excessively with silver polish or your stones will start to deform and look dull.
Knowing the type of stones you have will also dictate the size of the band. Large stones will need a thicker band while smaller stones can be placed on a thin band. A large stone on a thin band may cause stress on the band and lead to cracking or breakage.
Intricate vs Simple Bands
If you want an intricately designed band, you may have to make a few adjustments to your overall idea to keep the ring lasting as long as possible. For instance, an intricately designed band may be extremely thin and wrapped in individual layers, which leads the ring to be more fragile.
A thick band with an intricate design (let's say it's embossed) is also subject to being more fragile because it's still technically thin.
Knowing how much the person you're gifting the ring to works with their hands and moves around will assist you in choosing the perfect, lasting design that they'll love.
While we're on this subject, let's also go over some every day do’s and don'ts to prevent lost stones or ring damage. Most of these we've already gone over, but it never hurts to re-remind ourselves.
- DO take your ring off whenever dealing with water. Water can cause your ring to slip right off, cause rust and tarnishing, and get lost down drains or at the bottom of pools. Therefore, make sure you're taking the ring off and placing it somewhere safe whenever you're dealing with water.
- DON'T apply creams or lotions with your ring on. Lotions can cake up on your ring and cause tarnishing or make it slip right off your finger! Always make sure that your hands are completely dry before putting your ring back on so that it doesn't slip off unnoticed.
- DON'T lay your ring down and leave it… especially in damp areas. When you lay your ring down, you need to know where it is. Not only is leaving your ring somewhere a good way to lose it but leaving it in a damp area is a recipe for rust and tarnishing. Speaking of…
- DO have a designated area to place your ring when it's not on your hand. Having a designated place for your ring when you aren't wearing it is essential. You should always know where it is at all times. Make sure the area is a nice cool, dry place and far from dampness or curious little hands.
Rings of any kind are a special gift - a symbol of the positivity and happiness that someone special brings to your life. As long as the ring is protected and well maintained, it may last much longer than your lifetime!
But, things do happen, which is why maintaining and taking full advantage of your warranty is important. Making sure you take care of the ring is equally important to how long the ring will last and will determine whether this ring may just become an heirloom for generations to come.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it's time to start thinking of the perfect gift for that special someone in your life. Why not get them something special this year and get them a ring that can become an heirloom for generations to come?