Currently, constant hand-washing and sanitizing is highly recommended. But it’s keeping us prudently cleaning our hands, and in turn, cleaning our jewelry we wear on our fingers.
“To my knowledge, hand sanitizers are not capable of removing tough, albeit thin, rhodium that’s on a piece of jewelry,” says Shan Aithal, a metallurgist at Stuller, “Hand sanitizers come in two varieties: alcohol-based and non–alcohol-based. The ones with alcohol are benign to jewelry items as alcohol is the main germ-killing ingredient. However, non–alcohol-based ones typically use chlorine-based compounds as germicides. These chlorine compounds could react with water and release free chlorine. Free chlorine radical is very reactive and could cause tarnishing of jewelry, especially if it is made of sterling silver. Also, halogens are known to cause stress corrosion cracking in low karat golds, in particular, nickel white golds.”
The CDC recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content. As long as you’re doing that, your metal will probably stay in great shape.
“Soaps can contain abrasives, like Lava or that orange goo dispensed near hand-washing stations, that could damage the surface of jewelry and cause rhodium to be worn away.” , according to Aithal. It won’t damage diamonds and sapphires, but can leave a filmy residue on the stones over time, dulling the sparkle. But it’s not permanent, and nothing a quick soak in an ultrasonic can’t fix.
‘‘As with perfumes and hairspray, the alcohol in the hand sanitizer can change the surface of the pearl, the two noticeable differences being a loss of luster and a change in color.’’ Peggy Grosz, senior vice president at Assael, suggests. “Sanitized skin should not come into contact with pearls until completely dry and evaporated—wait about five minutes before putting on pearls,”