For women who aren’t accustomed to wearing fine jewelry on the regular (which, let’s be honest, is most of us), rocking a pricey diamond ring for the first time is a bit like babysitting a newborn. You’ll emerge from post-proposal euphoria, glance down at your sparkly new addition, and think: How do I take care of this thing? And then the questions keep coming: Should I wear it to sleep? Take it off when I shower? Can I really clean it with dish soap?
All valid questions! Since an engagement ring will likely be the most expensive piece of jewelry you’ve ever owned, it’s no wonder that many newly engaged women feel clueless about how to incorporate it into their daily lives. Here, a few insightful tips from industry experts.
Clean your ring regularly.
“Buildup of dirt or oil will block the light interactions in the stone, so there’s no point in having a beautifully cut diamond if it’s going to be dirty,” says Tom Burstein, Christie’s international jewelry director. “If you’re not cleaning it, then you’re not doing the stone justice because it’s not living up to its potential.” Luckily, cleaning your ring isn’t a labor-intensive process—just drop it into a mug of warm water mixed with a few drops of soap or mild dishwashing detergent. Let it sit for a few minutes (or even overnight), then gently scrub the stone and basket with a soft-bristled baby toothbrush, rinse, and pat dry. Burstein recommends cleaning it at least once every few weeks, and when you do, “make sure you cover the drain!”
Diamonds are tough—but not invincible.
Perhaps you’ve heard that it’s impossible to damage a diamond? Not true, says Burstein. While the stones are considered the hardest naturally occurring metal in the world, they can still fracture, bruise, and chip. And Burstein explains that it’s not a function of time either: “Prong mountings are very secure and it takes a pretty aggressive knock, but it happens. I’ve seen a month-old ring with a big chip in it,” he says. “It’s like driving a new car off the lot and getting rear-ended.”
Know when to leave it on and take it off.
Sure, it’s tempting to slip your ring off every time you wash your hands, but try and resist the urge, says Daniela Balzano-Hull, the New York store director for De Beers. “It takes a while to get used to having this beautiful ring, and you want to protect it as much as you can, but so many brides end up washing their hands in a restaurant and leaving the ring behind.” Still, there are other occasions that experts recommend going ringless—like a day at the beach. Balzano-Hull warns that swimming can greatly affect your body temperature, causing your finger to shrink in size. The rules for when you should and shouldn’t wear your diamond also depend on the type of stones you have, adds Burstein. “If you have a more delicate ring with micro pavé stones, don’t wear it to play tennis or golf or during rigorous exercise. The stones tend to pop out more easily than others,” he says. As for sleeping? Both Burstein and Balzano-Hull agree the decision is strictly a matter of comfort and personal preference.
Get the rock insured as soon as possible.
“We highly recommend it is insured the moment it leaves the store,” says Balzano-Hull. Most companies—either homeowners insurance or renters insurance—will add the ring to their existing policy with a rider that includes a valuation of all the characteristics. “The valuation comes from the jeweler and goes above and beyond just the purchase receipt,” explains Balzano-Hull. “Some men will buy the ring, leave it, and not propose for a few months, so it’s important that document goes to the insurance company right away.”
Be cautious when it comes to resizing.
Seasonal changes in temperature, weight fluctuations, and traveling can all affect the fit of your ring—so keep that in mind before jumping to have yours resized. At De Beers, Balzano-Hull prefers to size buyers in the late afternoon (2:30 p.m. specifically) or after they’ve exercised, to accommodate for swelling. “We also always ask clients where they live. If they’re from somewhere tropical and they’re trying the ring on in New York, we suggest going one size larger,” she says, adding, “I never recommend making any changes during pregnancies. Most women will just wear a wedding band or not wear anything at all.”
However, if you notice that your ring is consistently loose year-round, size down. “The looser it is, the more wear your diamond is going to have and the more your setting is going to become out of shape,” says Burstein. Another crucial tidbit to keep in mind: If the ring is from one of the major jewelry houses—like Cartier, Harry Winston, or Graff—make sure that resizing it doesn’t disrupt the signature. “We see beautiful pieces from the ’30s and an unknowing jeweler just cut the signature out,” says Burstein. “The signature is one of the most important things.”
Keep a close eye—and ear—on it.
Some jewelers, like De Beers, advise buyers to come in for a “prong check” once a year, which allows the jeweler to examine the ring and make sure it’s in perfect condition. But Burstein says that if you have a classic setting—such as a solitaire set in platinum—having the ring checked isn’t entirely necessary, so long as you keep an eye on it. “Look at the prongs yourself. Are any shorter than the others? Put the ring between two fingers, hold it up to your ear, and shake it a little bit. If you hear anything, then you have to get it tightened,” he says.
Think before you upgrade.
The idea of “upgrading” to a larger stone is one way for couples to celebrate major milestones or life events. But before you pull the trigger, “make sure it’s large enough to make a difference,” warns Burstein. Which is to say, a larger carat size doesn’t always equate to a larger-looking stone. “Remember that karat is simply a weight—not a size. Make sure that the stone appears physically larger. Or if you’re looking for an upgrade in color or clarity, it should be noticeable. Otherwise, it’s not worth the money.” Another thing to keep in mind? “It’s good to rely on people and the Internet for information, but too much technical information can hurt the process. If you find the stone or the ring you love and it fits your criteria, get it,” he says. “And never forget what the ring was meant to symbolize in the first place.”