The gunk on used jewelry and watches

Does it have an official name? It seems like I remember a discussion about this years ago, but I have been searching and cannot find it. Thank you!

Verdigris we call it but this may not be correct. A bright bluish-green encrustation or patina formed on copper or brass by atmospheric oxidation, consisting of basic copper carbonate.
This is a dictionary version

Thank you for replying. I believe that verdigris is also a chemical reaction with copper. I am looking for just the stuff that builds up on unwashed jewelry. Perhaps there is no real name for it.

smutz (Yiddish)

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Most of the dirt on jewelry and watches is from body soaps, body creams (such as moisturizers), body oils, and other common forms of grease. These mix with dirt which is all around us (dust–on objects and in the air) to form the black substance jewelers and laymen alike often call grunge. Since this dirt is grease/oil based, it cleans up well with household ammonia diluted in water. All cleaning solutions work faster when heated.

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Gunk, grunge, and schmutz! Thank you, these all sound about right!

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How about one more great word:

”Drek” that word is almost like “schmutz” but it’s a collective adjective of many *** things!

Here on Orchid we all use so many great words.


Gerry, On my iPhone!

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Drek! Awesome, thanks!

Dead skin cells and sebum!

Tony Konrath

Hi Tony Konrath, et al!

I had a private friend/customer give me her wedding band to repair. She told me she got it 8 years and it lost a diamond. I noticed all kinds of "shmutz’ & “drek” under all of the stones. I have no idea what crap is under the stones, don’t want to know either! She had the (new word=>‘chutzpah’) or gall to have me examine it, obviously, I totally refused!!!

Can’t imagine having a ring and not removing it or having it cleaned in that time. I immediately placed it in a plastic bag and showed it to my jeweller. I told him not to even touch until it was cleaned. She told me afterwards, she wants me to fix her engagement ring claws. The same thing, it hasn’t been cleaned in also 8 years. Her mother had the same problem with her ring, as this must be a ‘genetic’ family problem with jewellery…:>).

BTW, this ring is Platinum and no jeweller has examined it since she bought it…OUCH!

(Scroll down for my photograph attachments)

***Gerry Lewy ***



Typically the gunk will be skin cells, skin oils and hardened soap scum. Unless the person works in an emergency room or somewhere else that particularly nasty bacteria might hide it’s not really a big deal. It’s just schmutz. A good boil in weak ammonia and a steaming will clean it right out.
Also, eight years is no time at all for a platinum ring under normal wear. However a rupture like that, right through the bezel and gallery, shows that this customer really abuses her jewelry.

I’m forever telling people to remove their rings when applying hand creams, etc. It builds up and attracts dust and dirt, much of which is tiny, abrasive quartz particles. They slowly wear away the prongs holding their precious stones in place until one day they start falling out! At the very least it makes your jewellery look extremely dull.



I was a dental assistant for 45 years. “Jewellery Schmutz” has nothing on what I’ve seen (on dentures, appliances, teeth…).
Thank goodness for ultrasonics!


I’ve just always called it cheese, ring cheese, watch cheese, earring cheese, whatever. I just make sure to clean that stuff before putting a torch to it to avoid that bad BBQ smell. Yes, thank God for ultrasonics, sometimes it takes soaking in lye to get it off.

I had a woman who asked me to remove her earring stud from her ear. I saw that the earlobe actually grew around the stud and it got stuck. Her husband got mad and at her for asking me to do this gross thing. She left & I never saw her again, thankfully! (There goes my breakfast appetite)…:>(

Wow! I can imagine that dentures, etc., must really be gross! I had a couple commission wedding rings from me a few years ago that were too small on purpose so they couldn’t be removed. Seems dangerous, and also kind of nuts, but people sure have alot of personal and often talismanic uses for jewelry.

Since we are discussing yucky stuff on jewelry, I need a new ultrasonic cleaner. I have looked and can’t find any recent discussions of newer, better ultrasonic cleaners, (both the equipment and solutions). My needs are general and I don’t need a big tank. Any suggestions, recommendations, etc. are appreciated. Thanks…Rob

Mentioned the great schmutz discussion here to a watch maker friend who has a neat trick to take schmutz off metal watch bands, where it really gets worked in. He drops the watch band in a glass of water and then drops in a polident denture cleaning tab. Cleans it up very nicely, without the problems that sometimes occur when you use an ultrasonic.