A Complete Guide on High School and College Class Ring Cleaning

ring cleaning

The overall graduation rate in the US was 88% for the 2018-2019 school year, according to US News. With graduation rates this high, it’s no wonder class rings are so popular.

But what’s involved with ring cleaning for these sought-after, commemorative rings? How can you keep them from tarnishing and remaining brilliant, year after year, when passed down from generation to generation? 

In this era of customization, your class ring might look very different from your friend’s ring, and may consist of entirely different materials. You need to learn the specific details of your unique high school class ring and how to protect it. If you dedicate yourself to proper ring care, you’ll have an heirloom that will look new for generations. 

Read on to learn all of the ins and outs of ring repairs, cleaning, and maintenance, and the answers to many of your frequently asked questions about ring ownership. We’ve got information you won’t want to miss!

The Ring’s the Thing

If you are old enough to be shopping for class rings, then the chances are good that you’ve taken at least one chemistry class. If you passed, then you probably already have an understanding of why metal jewelry requires a particular kind of care.

Metals are elements capable of reacting to other elements in the world around them, which can change their composition completely. Jewelers must combine some metals, like gold, with other metals. This is so they will become pliable or stable enough, allowing jewelers to shape them into rings. We call these metals alloys, and they each have unique reactive properties.

No, your class ring probably won’t burst into flames or explode like a beaker in a chem lab, but it could rust, erode, become discolored, or damage other metals. The way it reacts and breaks down will depend on its chemical makeup. 

When you choose your ring, you will have the opportunity to select everything about how it looks, including what it’s made out of. This includes whether the entire ring consists of a single metal or if it’s plated in a more costly metal. 

Gold or Gold Plated?

In a gold ring – whether it’s white gold, rose gold, or yellow gold – the entire ring will consist of one single alloy. In a gold-plated ring, the base of the ring will most likely be sterling silver. The silver ring base will have a thin gold coating on top. 

It can be difficult – even impossible – to tell the difference between a gold ring and a gold plated ring using your eyes alone, which is what makes gold plated rings so attractive to high school or college students on a budget. They also tend to be longer lasting than solid gold jewelry, assuming that you care for them correctly. 

Gold-plated jewelry tends to be susceptible to tarnish, which is one of the reasons you’ll want to know how to clean and maintain a gold-plated ring. If you aren’t careful, the plating can chip or scratch, revealing the metal underneath.

Most importantly, for our purposes, gold and gold plated jewelry require very different care and cleaning! While you can submerge gold in water, gold-plated jewelry does not fare as well when wet!

Don’t Tarnish Your Sterling Reputation!

If you’re not a fan of the look of gold, you may elect for a ring with a silver appearance. Sterling silver is a popular choice for class rings because it’s attractive, neutral, and affordable. Unfortunately, like gold-plated rings, this alloy tends to tarnish and requires special care. 

Sterling silver tarnishes when it’s exposed to the oxygen and sulfur in the air around us and can happen even if you’re incredibly careful. If you wear your ring daily, there is no way to avoid exposure to the air. Over time, the metal may begin to look “aged,” appearing dark or dirty, which means tarnish has set in. 

Platinum Power!

Not all silver-colored class rings are sterling silver, so you should be aware of options that hold up well to the test of time. Platinum is a metal that jewelers mix with silver to create a hearty alloy. It doesn’t tarnish or rust, which makes it a great option if you like the look of silver but are nervous about upkeep. 

Over time, platinum does tend to take on a patina. Different than rust, this just means that, after years of wear, your ring may begin to look more matte and less shiny. This often gives jewelry a more vintage look, so many platinum ring owners like it! 

While platinum-based rings may be more expensive than other options, they’re likely to hold up well, with the least amount of regular upkeep. 

Wear and Care of Your Class Ring

There are a few tips that you should keep in mind if you have purchased a ring that is susceptible to tarnish. These rules apply to any precious metal jewelry and will help you to preserve your class ring for many years.

The Air Out There

The reason that metals tarnish is that, over time, they react to elements in the oxygen all around us. This is called oxidation, and it’s a natural process. Even so, storing your jewelry in an air-tight container when you aren’t wearing it is a great way to keep tarnish at bay. 

If you’re wearing your class ring after high school or during college, you might not have the cash to buy a special jewelry box or bag. Luckily, an air-tight ziplock bag does the same job for a lot less money! Just don’t lose it or accidentally throw it away!

Don’t Let There Be Light!

In addition to oxidation, exposure to sunlight, heat, and moisture can all speed up the tarnishing process. If you’re using a plastic sandwich bag to store your ring, you’ll want to keep it in a cool, dark place like a drawer. If that’s not possible, just make sure it’s not left in direct sunlight.

Keep Them Separated

Precious metals and metallic alloys want to react to everything. It’s always a good idea to store special jewelry separately when possible. This can prevent unwanted chemical reactions and also means it’s less likely to get scratched or tangled. 

An Ounce of Prevention

If you want to stay a step ahead, you can store your class ring with an anti-tarnish strip, piece of chalk, silica gel pack, or anti-tarnish cloth. These help to eliminate moisture from reaching your ring. Moisture can easily get trapped in plastic bags, so it’s a good backup plan – so save those silica gel packets the next time you buy shoes! 

Wear It Proudly!

Although it will gain some air exposure, wearing your class ring regularly will also expose it to the natural oils in your skin. It’s a great way to keep your metal jewelry looking shiny and stave off tarnish. Just make sure to remove your rings if you’re using any strong household cleaners or swimming in a chlorinated pool. 

Ring Cleaning Basics

Even if you are doing everything right, rings tend to get dirty. Class rings in particular, which tend to have raised seals and engravings, can collect gunk if you aren’t careful. It’s best to clean your rings occasionally before that gunk can build up.

Even though you should avoid getting your rings wet or submerging them regularly, it’s okay to get them a little wet during cleaning as long as you dry them thoroughly. The best way to clean your ring, regardless of material, is with warm water and a little bit of dish soap. Use a soft cloth, not a corrosive tool like a brush, to prevent scratching softer metals like gold. 

If you do have visible dirt or gunk on your ring, it’s appropriate to soak your ring in soapy water for 3 to 5 minutes to loosen the grime. Rinse it with a little bit of cold water when you’re done, and dry it thoroughly with a soft cloth like a washcloth. 

Of course, you always have the option to bring your ring to a jeweler and have it professionally cleaned. Jewelers have tools that can help get into the smallest nooks and crannies. They can use steam and other cleaners and polishes that will not damage your class ring.

If taking things into your own hands, don’t use commercial jewelry cleaners unless you are 100% certain that they won’t erode any plating or finishes on your ring. Avoid using ‘life hacks‘, such as cleaning with toothpaste, as they contain chemicals and corrosive additives that can do more harm than good. 

If your ring has tarnished, you can remove it by soaking the ring in a mixture of 2 Tbsp baking soda and 1/2 cup white vinegar. It will fizz and foam when combined, but this is normal! Leave the ring in the solution for no longer than three hours, and the tarnish should clear away easily!

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have concerns about the cleaning and maintenance of your ring, then chances are that you have other questions. There is some college class ring etiquette to be aware of, such as where to wear a class ring. 

What Hand Do You Wear Your Class Ring On?

Traditionally, West Point students, who originated the class ring tradition, wore their class ring on the left hand. This posed problems when it was time to say their wedding vows! Today, the average student wears their ring on their right hand so they can save their left hand for another important ring!

What Finger Does a Class Ring Go On?

Unsurprisingly, most students elect to wear their ring on their ring finger! There is no hard and fast rule about an “official” college ring finger, however, so feel free to wear your ring on the finger that feels the most comfortable. 

When Should I Order My Class Ring?

You will know it is ring ordering time when a representative arrives at your school’s campus! Often, you’ll see posters advertising this visit. Most commonly, you will order your ring in the Spring of your junior year or the Fall of your senior year. 

When Do You Get a Class Ring in College?

This will vary based on the traditions at your college. You will usually receive your ring during a special ceremony in the spring of your senior year. 

Are Class Rings Worth It?

If you take good care of your class ring, you will be the owner of a gorgeous heirloom that will last for life – or longer! Your class ring symbol meaning will be unique to you, and there will be no other ring like it in the world. You’ll be joining a long tradition that began nearly two hundred years ago!

Furthermore, your ring is your ticket to participate in many meaningful school traditions, such as a junior ring ceremony or “turning of the ring” ceremony. It will serve as a symbol that will mark all of your academic accomplishments. A class ring is worth it for the pride and memories alone!

Keep Things Shiny With Good Ring Care

Until you’re ready to tie the knot, your class ring is probably the most precious piece of jewelry that you will own! Learning proper ring cleaning and care will teach you how to be responsible for an important heirloom. If you follow these tips, you will have a shiny, beautiful ring for many years to come.

It all begins when you order your custom class ring from classrings.com! Visit our website today to browse the design options and craft your dream ring. This is the start of something beautiful! 

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