A history of hygiene

Mar 21, 2014

“The way it’s dirty, I’ll put the ring in the bleach. I don’t want to get salmonella!”

One of my colleagues, about ten days ago…


photo : inkhara.com

If I am quoting to you today the heartfelt cry of one of my colleagues at the sight of a particularly dirty ring, it is for a good reason. We’re going to talk about hygiene tonight, and more specifically about the hygiene of your jewellery. Yes, because a piece of jewellery is worn in contact with the skin and therefore deserves, like you or me, a little attention. To illustrate this, I’m going to tell you a story that happened to us almost a fortnight ago at my work. Admittedly, it is a bit extreme, but as it is fully relevant to the subject of this article, I’ll go ahead.

The story begins with the arrival of our administrative colleague in the “polishing” workshop of my company. She brings us a plastic bag containing, at first sight, a tissue. On closer inspection, the handkerchief has red stains… As I was about to take the packet, she told me to put on gloves to unwrap the pieces. And I can certify that it is not common to put on plastic gloves to unpack jewellery that arrives at the “polishing” workshop. So I unwrap the handkerchief, which turns out to be stained with blood, and I discover what looks like a pair of earrings, which is covered with blood, skin residues and a filth like I’ve never seen before! At this point, the three of us had our hearts in our mouths.

Our colleague then explained to us why. This pair of earrings dates from the 50s and 60s. The client to whom they belonged had just had them removed urgently because she had never – NEVER! – removed her earrings. Over time, the holes in the ears had filled up as can happen, and the ears had healed around the earrings, which were about 6 mm long, simple studs with diamonds of almost 1 carat each. Add to this the various residues, such as shampoos, creams, daily dirt, and we have a real big problem. So this lady went to see her doctor, who referred her to a dermatologist urgently because she had caught an infection. So it’s amazing that she didn’t develop this earlier. So she had an emergency operation and her curls were removed. Unfortunately for her, she won’t be able to wear jewellery in her ears again, but she was keen to have them restored. Now, I’m talking about an extreme case and jewellery that has not been removed for 50 years. This explains the condition of the earrings that came into my hands.

So, of course, after bleach, ammonia, a cleaning at more than 70 degrees and a repolishing, they were back to their original appearance. And they looked great!

The reason I’m telling you this is to tell you that jewellery needs to be washed, cared for and worn at your jeweller’s from time to time to keep it nice and clean. So, of course, you can clean them yourself in most cases: a bowl, a little warm water (not iced, not boiling, it’s important!) and a little classic washing-up liquid. You soak them for a few minutes and scrub gently with an old toothbrush and that will already improve the daily routine. But never wash emeralds, pearl necklaces, mother-of-pearl, coral, ivory, enamel and stones you don’t know. You should also avoid venturing out with very beautiful jewellery and watches. If in doubt, do nothing and go to your jeweller. This avoids foolishness and disasters.

See you soon!

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