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Handling 'try on jewelry' requests

Greetings all -

Given that people with health issues are humans too, and should
expect courteous treatment from jewelers, and

Given that one person’s desire to try on jewelry should not trump
the jeweler’s need to keep a healthy, clean workplace (and goods),

‘Yuk’ issue aside, what recommendations would you give for providing
service without compromising the staff and public’s health? Would the
staff be justified in refusing the customer’s request to try on
jewelry? Not all open sores constitute health hazards for the general
public, but jewelers aren’t medical staff and how are we to know?

At work, I think it has been decided that any jewelry tried on by
any customer will be brought back to the cleaning station and put
through the ultrasonic and steamer, then taken back to its place in
the display case. (Neither method sterilizes the jewelry, but is it
enough?) Sales staff already cleans the glass tops of cases after a
customer leans on it.

Those of you in the repair business are well aware of just how
unclean jewelry can be. Of course, there’s a difference in the public
health hazard between a privately owned ring brought in for repair vs
a stock ring tried on by a person with lesions.

Thanks for your input on this,

dilute chlorox (10 water to 1 chlorox) solution will kill any bug
that exists today. just soak for about 10 minutes and allow to air
dry. that will take care of any problem with disease transfer.

John Atwell Rasmussen, Ph.D.
Geologist and Gemologist
Rasmussen Gems and Jewelry

I began thinking about this after a nasty confrontation I had at an
art fair in the 1980s. A woman pleasantly asked if I would let her
try on a pair of earrings. I said yes and she then went ballistic,
loudly accusing me of spreading AIDS and basically staged an AIDS
awareness tantrum in my booth before she stormed away pelting me with
abuse. She never let me get a word in edgewise and ignored the bottle
of alcohol I was waving in my defense as she screamed at me. I let
customers try earrings on but make a point of wiping the ear wire or
post with alcohol before and after they try them.

Theoretically disease can be transferred by any kind of contact.
Since that incident I have wondered if there has ever been a
scientific study of how likely infections really are through jewelry
contact. We can imagine what COULD happen, but this is not the same
as observing what actually DOES happen. They were studying the
bejeekers out of AIDS at the time of that incident. I am pretty sure
that sharing earrings was not on the list of risky behaviors known to
have resulted in actual infections. I am not bringing this up to deny
there is a risk, but to ask if the risk has actually been studied?

Several months ago there was a discussion on Orchid about the
anti-microbial properties of silver and copper. I would like to see
a scientific study to determine if these materials offer any
measurable health advantages when used for jewelry as compared to
other materials which we may think are more likely to carry
infectious microbes. When a customer asks if silver ear wires are
safe I can honestly say that it is a scientific fact that silver has
antiseptic properties, but I cannot say with any certainty that
silver ear wires has been proven to be any safer than the

Stephen Walker

Andover, NY

I have never encountered anyone with open sores. Most of my clients
try on jewelry. Earrings are always disinfected.

This post’s title was changed; it referred to people with open sores
wanting to try on jewelry. Current title is better, but my question
seems ambiguous without the original title.

So, to the point: What do you do when people with skin health issues
want to try on jewelry?

Thanks, John, for your excellent suggestion!

best regards,

Hi Kelley,

One of the other Orchidians suggested soaking the jewelry in
Chlorox. DO NOT do that.

Chlorine bleach is corrosive to gold in particular and could ruin the
jewelry. Giving the jewelry a good washing with an anti-bacterial
detergent and a soft toothbrush in warm water would be the thing I
would do. It is what I use to clean jewelry after polishing and other
studio work. And be careful what kinds of stones you put in the
ultrasonic, not all stones can withstand it.


When a customer asks if silver ear wires are safe....

Theres a guy that I saw on some news/documentary show, that has
maintained a steady regimen of drinking colloidal silver for several
years and has turned very blue over his entire body. Rather than
buying ready made colloidal silver, he makes his own with some
batteries, water, and fine silver in his garage. Says he feels
absolutely great. Doctors tell him that its a permanent condition,
even if he stops the regimen. So he continues drinking the solution
of disolved pure silver. He’s as blue as a smurf- pretty weird


You let them. They have enough problems without you reacting
negatively. They just might have a bank account full of cash. After
they try it on, steam clean it and then wipe it down with alcohol. No
big deal. You need to make them feel just as important as the
customer with the clear skin.

kelly - the world is full of germs! fungus and a myirad of things
that want to include you in the food chain ! you most likely more
often than you care to consider the topic, come into contact with
microbes that are quite fierce and you dont realize it ! consider
touching a gas pump nozzle when you fuel your car??? i would
suggest a friendly conversation and then ask your customer if the
sores are painfull. this person is most likley lonely and feeling
beaten up over thier condition when you get them to talk about it
you can then determine what cleaning method to put into action to
restore the sanitary conditions you require and most importantly you
havent caused any scene’s and exited the situation with dignity.


Hi, Nel -

You are right, I had forgotten about a white gold ring owned by an
avid swimmer. It had become quite brittle. But would a single use
with a dilute solution be tragic to the jewelry, especially if it’s
neutralized, rinsed and dried? In all likelihood it won’t be the
same rings being cleaned each time, anyway.

I steer away from anti-bacterial stuff because it’s not nearly as
effective as people would like to believe. By killing off the
easy-to-kill bacteria, most of which are essentially harmless to us,
we are opening up the territory to tough, hard-to-kill bacteria, many
of which can do us harm. (I was an environmental engineer before I
became a goldsmith. Antibiotic pollution in wastewater was a big

best regards,

you most likely more often than you care to consider the topic,
come into contact with microbes that are quite fierce and you dont
realize it ! consider touching a gas pump nozzle when you fuel your

How about serving utensils at a buffet or salad bar, and then
touching your food (or your child’s food) with your fingers while

Richard Hart G.G.
Jewelers Gallery
Denver, Co

How about serving utensils at a buffet or salad bar, and then
touching your food (or your child's food) with your fingers while

Come on, folks. Sure, microorganisms are everywhere. They’re supposed
to be! If you never knew you touched 'em, well, it didn’t harm you,
did it? Not to say there aren’t harmful ones, of course, but it isn’t
healthy to try to stay too clean either. I have read thatlack of
exposure to dirt and germs early in luife may actually be a cause of
the increased incidence of athsma! (Though asthma runs in my family,
and Lord knows my sister and I were not kept overly clean, as our
parents literally built the house around us.) So just wash your hands
at reasonable intervals, with ordinary soap-- that antibacterial
stuff causes antibiotic pollution. And don’t freak out. Noel

Steam clean it? That is the last thing you should do (literally).
You don’t want to blow off all of the germs into the air, do you?
First - kill the germs. Second - remove the germs.

Lee Cornelius
Vegas Jewelers

I have always had a bottle of liquid soap in my booth so as to clean
up any jewellery that was tried on. It had the added benefit of
helping get off a stuck on ring when a client forced it on. This
prevented the client from licking his/her finger to get it off. Then
I explained that the soap helped to clean away germs. The rings at
the jewellery store were wiped with a rag with a little alcohol when
tried on or nothing as they were cleaned in the ultrasonic every
month or two. The exception was of course toe rings as the boss
thought that the feet were never as clean as the hands (her opinion
not mine).

As to the earrings, when I worked in the jewellery store I was told
it was illegal to sell earrings as new if someone had tried them on,
though they could of course hold them up to their ears to see if they
looked good. Clip-ons were okay, it was just the ones that went
through the earlobe that were the concern.

Karen Bahr - Karen’s Artworx
Calgary, Alberta, Canada