One of the appealing properties of sterling silver is its ability to oxidize or darken. This allows for dramatic dark/light finishes which make any surface details more visible. It also means that you'll need to polish your sterling silver jewelry. When kept in a plastic bag, sterling silver can stay tarnish-free for months or even years, but with exposure to air and especially water, it will quickly darken. For my botanical pieces I recommend jewelry polishing pads, which are flat and preserve the dark finish in recessed areas. Polishing cloths are recommended for pieces without oxidized finishes. When you don't have a dark finish to preserve, you can also use jewelry polishing pastes and chemical dips. There's also an easy method using baking soda.
If your sterling jewelry was exposed to excess water, swimming pools, chlorine or other harsh chemicals, it's more likely to darken quickly and wearing rings that have been exposed to chemicals can even leave a dark mark on your skin. For this reason, if you work with your hands, swim, or clean with harsh chemicals, wearing sterling silver rings continuously may not be possible. It's always best to take off your jewelry when you shower or swim. Contact me if you have any questions about cleaning or caring for your sterling silver jewelry.
Gold requires very little care and is harder and more durable than sterling silver, so it's a good choice for rings that will be worn every day. However, since gold alloys all contain metals other than gold (usually copper, zinc, silver and/or palladium) they can still react to harsh chemicals and chlorine. Gold doesn't usually darken as dramatically, but it might take on a slightly darker, warmer color. This is just on the surface and is usually easily removed with a cloth. It's best to take off your gold rings when working with your hands or cleaning, not just because they might discolor, but also to avoid scratching them or injuring your hand if they're caught on something you're working with. Wear them on a chain or find a safe place.
palladium and platinum
Palladium and platinum require very little care and do not react to chemicals you're likely to encounter. They're harder and more durable than sterling silver and gold, but they can be scratched and show marks from wear, so it's still a good idea to find a safe place for them if you'll be doing anything that could cause scratches like refinishing furniture or gardening. Platinum group metals don't lose metal from scratches like gold and silver, instead the metal just moves around. So after years of use your palladium or platinum ring will still have the same weight.
rings with stones
Moissanite, diamond, ruby and sapphire are too hard to be scratched or broken with normal use, making them the best choice for rings that will be worn continuously. All of the semi-precious stones (aquamarine, peridot, garnet, etc.) can be scratched and damaged, so it's best to take them off when working with your hands. If you wear a ring with a stone daily, a cloudy film will eventually cover the back of the gemstone, making it look dull. This is easily removed or prevented by scrubbing the back of the ring occasionally with dish soap and a soft brush. If it's allowed to build up, it might need to be taken to a local shop for ultrasonic cleaning.