Cleaning Customer’s Jewelry During The Virus
Jewelers have been concerned about touching people’s jewelry in today’s environment. Besides the years of watching people lick their fingers to pull of a ring from a finger and then handing it to you. Cringe.
1. Let’s address “licking”, people do this to lubricate their finger for easier ring removal. Remember the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? Windex solves everything and in fact Windex has a lubricant in it.
So have on the counter some Windex and paper towels. And if a customer starts to lick their finger nicely say, “Hold ON!”
Grab a paper towel, ask them to outstretch their hand, hold a piece of paper towel under their hand and squirt their finger. The paper towel is to stop spraying Windex all over the counter. The ring will slide off easily.
A Jeweler I know has always had this sign on his take in counter
2. Now let’s talking about taking customers jewelry from them. Assuming most people ware washing their hands or using sanitizer with their rings on their fingers their rings will get “slightly washed”, as well. But of course we know what usually hides underneath the ring and inside the holes behind diamonds. Other jewelry items that don’t get washed because they aren’t on a hand (i.e bracelets, necklaces, etc) need extra precaution.
As a long time jeweler, I know all about cleaning jewelry before working on a piece but today we’re more concerned about the staff’s safety at the moment.
There are three things to think about here.
- What treatment and chemicals will kill a virus on jewelry?
- Is it safe to use on jewelry?
- Can is be left on the counter or just behind safely?
A. I researched on CDC site along with EPA and OSHA as to what could kill this and it goes from usable to extreme. I won’t bore you with this but soaking jewelry in some of the solutions could potentially harm jewelry if left to soak for long periods of time. Examples: Clorox bleach from a bottle; isopropyl alcohol, ammonia and hydrogen peroxide. Chlorine used in pools will but you’ve seen how they affect prongs, can ruin gold and gems. Many of these will harm emeralds, opals, pearls and such. Metals, diamonds, ruby, sapphires and some others can take them for a “wipe” but must rinse the chlorine off immediately. Hopefully you can still buy these someplace. If not see if the staff has “extra” at home and can bring some in “for the team” but read further on what I suggest at the counter for the staff to do.
B. One site I read said the hand sanitizer is a “stop gap” measure until you can wash your hands properly. I have a niece who is a nurse and she told me years ago in nursing school they found out just using hand sanitizer once was not enough to kill all germs. Had to use multiple times. That’s why washing with soap and water is the best.
C. A jeweler I spoke to uses BARBICIDE as a dip. It supposedly will kill a virus ON CONTACT. Just dip the jewelry in it and then pull out and rise. Bets news I've heard. Would not sip and emerald , opal or pearls in this but almost everything else should be fine. You can buy this on Amazon. Barbicide was invented in the 1940s' if you go to a hair dresser or barber thats the tall blue liquid is on their desk with combs soaking in it. Used to kill viruses and germs between clients.
I googled Barbicide and if this doesn't kill in nothing will:
D. Some of my jeweler friends have said to have a jar of alcohol with a lid hand and let customers drop their own jewelry into it before you begin. Then have tweezers available to retrieve, dry and then go about taking in the repair. Others have said the “pickle pot” in the shop would kill any virus but that’s nasty stuff and can’t be placed up front. A trained jeweler will know what stones can take alcohol and pickle and which can’t. Sales staff may not have this expertise so below is my suggestion for the front staff.
- Easiest and simplest is to have a handy supply of zip lock bags. I know you have a gaziliion of the 2x3” one jeweler’s use. Buy the larger ones also from grocery store for sandwich bag size. When a customer hands you their ring ask them to drop it into the open zip lock you’re holding wide open for them, then seal shut. For most inspections you can see through the zip lock to use an eye loupe. You won’t need to explain; the customer understands and explain that our jeweler will thoroughly clean and sterilize the ring before they work on it (and they will). The large zip lock is for bracelets, pearls, necklaces watches and such. Speaking of watches, I would stop installing batteries while the customer waits for a month-deliver them another day or afternoon. Place in zip lock bag and let someone else change the battery on a non-rushed basis.
- The CDC and EPA say that the disinfectant wipes i.e Clorox Disinfecting Wipes are the best to use. If you have to handle a piece of jewelry not in a zip lock use one of these to wipe down the jewelry as best as possible. This is also an excellent wipe to use all over a watch for handling a watch battery change. Because supply is low I’d keep a zip lock bag handy and after using one place it in a zip lock bag so it doesn’t dry out and use again. Replace daily.
- Fine jewelry stores for years have used a pair of white gloves to handle customers jewelry and show items from the case. Customers won’t be offended is you use rubber gloves or surgical gloves. Kitchen rubber gloves are unprofessional looking but here’s another suggestion if you offer to clean their own jewelry to be given back to them immediately.
- Have a regular tray hand with a paper towel or other washable towel in the bottom for protection. If you need to clean their jewelry and hand it back to them have them lay their items in the tray and explain that you’ll clean it in the back at the “cleansing area”.
- Most stores have a sink, ultrasonic machine and steamer. At the sink this is the time to use the rubber kitchen gloves. If the stone is safe for ultrasonic using tweezers place the items in the ultrasonic as usual. I’d suggest an ammonia-based solution, then I’d add an extra step, using the kitchen gloves with real soap and a brush or tooth brush lather up with gloves on and clean the ring, rinse, ultrasonic for a moment, rinse and steam. Then wash the gloves on your hands with soap and set aside. Then using a cleaner piece of paper for your tray (even printer paper will do) place the items on it and present to the customer letting them pick up their items from the tray.
- A note on pearls. Almost anything done to a strand of pearls means they have to be restrung and most restringers will soak them in dawn Dishwashing solution (its mild) and wash them then remove the string and restring them. I can’t imagine anything you’ll do to pearls for a customer other than restringing and clasp replacement so don’t wash them, just place in zip lock bag and let the stringer do that.
Lastly during this uncertain period of time (lets all assume 2 to 4 weeks) I’d offer to clean people’s jewelry at no charge. Now’s the time to help generate traffic and hopefully take in repairs/custom work and sell from the case.
Director of Jewelry Maintenance