Caring for Your Sterling Silver Inlay Jewelry

Turquoise wedding ring and engagement ring set in sterling silver.

Turquoise wedding ring set shown with white sapphire and turquoise engagement ring in Continuum sterling silver.

Unlike gold or platinum jewelry, your sterling silver jewelry needs some special care to stay as beautiful as the day you brought it home.  However, keeping your sterling silver jewelry looking good does not have to be a chore.  Silver jewelry can tarnish under the right conditions.  Your sterling silver jewelry is 92.5% pure silver with copper or other metals added to make the silver more durable.  The copper in the sterling silver alloy reacts with moisture and sulfur in the air to oxidize or tarnish the surface of the jewelry. Your silver jewelry will tarnish faster in areas of high humidity and air pollution.  Other agents such as hairspray, lotion, perfume, deodorant and other chemicals can accelerate the tarnishing process as well.  Some people’s body chemistry can also contribute to rapid tarnishing.

One of the easiest solutions to prevent your silver jewelry from tarnishing is to wipe your rings or other jewelry with a jewelry polishing cloth.  The best polishing cloths have two layers  or sheets.  One sheet is treated with chemicals that clean and whiten the silver.  The second layer is a soft cloth that is great for rubbing and buffing the piece of jewelry to maintain its luster.  If you use your polishing cloth on a regular basis you should be able to prevent tarnish from ever forming on your jewelry.  As an added precaution, some people find that storing their silver jewelry in an airtight plastic bag keeps tarnish at bay.  This may be a great solution for customers who do not wear a particular piece of jewelry very often and storing it in a plastic bag may not only prevent it from tarnishing but also protect it from being scratched by other jewelry in your collection.

If you discover that your inlaid sterling silver jewelry has stubborn tarnish build up that just won’t wipe away, there are several things you should not attempt.  Do not dip your sterling silver jewelry in a tarnish removing liquid or rub a tarnish removing cream on your jewelry if it has inlay, enamel  or other sensitive gemstones on it.  The tarnish remover could damage the stones or the epoxy used to secure the inlay in place.  The same is true for an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner.  While ultrasonic cleaners are great to remove “gunk” buildup around your gemstones, the powerful high-frequency sound waves can damage the epoxy holding the inlay in place, damage enameling and harm some gems.  No inlay jewelry should ever be placed in an ultrasonic cleaner and you should always consult a jeweler to see which gemstones are safe for ultrasonic cleaning.  The best way to remove stubborn tarnish is to take you silver jewelry to a jeweler and they will use a polishing compound with a buffing wheel will to make short work of the tarnish.

These measures will help your silver inlay jewelry stay looking great and tarnish free but the most important step is preventing damage to the inlay while wearing your jewelry.  Earrings and pendants are rarely damaged from everyday wear but rings can easily be nicked, scratched or dented from the objects your hands come into contact with on a daily basis. Silver is the softest of all the precious metals so some care must be taken to prolong the life of your favorite silver ring.  Some activities will be detrimental to both the inlay and the metal in your sterling silver ring.  Remove your ring before gardening, yard work, swimming, rock climbing, weight lifting or any activity that could jeopardize your ring or  possibly injure your finger if your ring gets caught or crushed.  A little common sense will go a long way toward keeping your silver inlay ring damage free.  The above suggestions will keep your jewelry looking good longer as well as extend the life of your jewelry.  Eventually, your inlaid stones and the silver will lose their luster and it will be time to send the ring or jewelry back to the maker to be refinished.

Shop our top quality silver inlay jewelry at and read about our tarnish resistant Continuum silver option.




Getting an Accurate Ring Size for Your Inlay Ring

Gray dinosaur bone ring with white sapphires in sterling silver

Ring inlaid with gray dinosaur bone by Hileman Silver Jewelry.

You’ve found that perfect ring online and now you are ready to select your ring size.  You pause as you think back to a couple of years ago when you bought your last ring.  Was I a size 7 or 7 1/2?  I have gained a couple of pounds over the holidays…let’s just go with a size 8.  Guessing and guessing wrong is not a disaster with traditional gold and gemstone rings.  In most cases, if your ring arrives and it is too big or too small, you can take it to a local jeweler and pay to have it sized to your correct ring size.  This is not the case with inlay rings.

Rings inlaid with just about any inlay material are difficult to size without damaging the inlay.  The first issue is the epoxy that secures the pieces of inlay in the ring’s inlay channel.  The epoxy is quite hard with very little flexibility and bending the ring to make it larger or smaller puts stress on the epoxy.  This stress can cause the bond between the inlay material and the ring mounting to be compromised which could lead to one or all of the inlay pieces falling out.  This same stress can also cause the inlay pieces to crack if they break before the epoxy does.  For a jeweler to avoid stressing the inlay and epoxy, all of the bending of the metal to make the ring smaller or larger needs to be done in the bottom half of the ring where there is not any inlay.

laser welder

You really need a laser welder to size inlay rings.

Even if the jeweler is successful in bending the ring to the correct size, there is still one more critical step- joining the metal back together.  Traditional rings would just be soldered back together using a torch but inlay rings cannot tolerate that kind of heat.  The heat from the torch will ruin the epoxy and most likely scorch the inlay materials.  The only good option to rejoin the metal is a laser welder.  A laser welder produces highly localized heat so the jeweler can work safely on the bottom part of the ring and not damage the inlay.  More and more jewelers are using laser welders and some will be willing to try to size your inlay ring if you are willing to risk the possible damage.  All of this sizing drama and expense can be avoided by getting your finger sized accurately before ordering your new inlay ring.

The easiest and most accurate way to measure your finger size is to visit a local jewelry store and ask them to determine your ring size.  You may want to visit more than one jeweler just to confirm your size.  It is important to use a sizer that is approximately the same width as the ring you intend to purchase.  It is also important to use a sizer that is comfort fit if you are shopping for a comfort fit band.  You may wear a smaller size in a comfort fit band than a non-comfort fit band.  The only other acceptable and accurate method is to take a ring that currently fits (the finger your new ring will be worn on) to a jeweler and have them determine the size of the ring or you could ship the ring to be used for size reference to the jeweler that will be making your new inlay ring.  The jeweler can then measure the size of the ring with the same measuring tool that will be used to make your inlay ring.

Other methods for determining your ring size are not accurate enough for inlay rings.  Some of the big chain jewelers recommend the string test, the paper test or the secret test.  The string test involves wrapping a string around your finger and then measuring the length of the string and matching the measurement to a chart to determine your ring size.  This method is very inaccurate and doesn’t take into consideration the width of the ring or


Paper finger sizers are NOT accurate!

the size of your knuckle.  The paper test asks you to print and cut out a paper finger sizer.  You then cut a slit on one end of the paper strip and insert the other end through the slit and pull it snug around your finger.  All you have to do next is read the tiny numbers and marks on the paper to determine your ring size.  What could possibly go wrong!  The secret test is recommended if you are trying to surprise your loved one with a ring and don’t know their size.  The first challenge is going to be finding a ring that you know currently fits and fits the finger you want them to wear it on.  The next step is printing a sizing chart with circles representing different ring sizes.  Just lay the ring over the circles until you find the one that is closest to the same size.  Keep in mind that just a small error of 0.4mm could mean you are 1/2 of a size off which could mean the ring falls off or won’t even go over the knuckle.  We have experimented with these methods and found them to be highly inaccurate with errors of half a size up to a whole size.  Again, these inaccuracies are not a big deal for a traditional ring but are not acceptable for an inlay ring.

What if I do every thing right and my new inlay ring still doesn’t fit?  It’s not the end of the world.  If at all possible it is best to avoid cutting and sizing the ring to mitigate the risk of damaging any of the inlay.  If the ring is too big or spins after going over the knuckle, small sizing balls or a sizing pillow can be laser welded inside the shank (bottom) of the ring to snug it up.  This method also allows for the balls or pillow to be removed should the wearer gain weight.  If the ring is a just a little snug, it may be possible to grind some of the metal from the inside of the ring to loosen it up a little.  Getting sized by a jeweler increases the odds that any sizing error will be small and less risky to correct.  In some cases where the customer uses inaccurate methods to determine their ring size the sizing error is so far off that the ring cannot be resized and a new ring would have to be made.

About Us…

We are inlay jewelry experts. We have been creating inlay jewelry since 1974 and would love to help you with all your inlay jewelry needs.  Contact us to get started building your new inlay ring, wedding ring or engagement ring.  We specialize in dinosaur bone, turquoise, lab created opal and Australian opal inlaid in sterling silver, gold, platinum and stainless steel.

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Just launched our inlay jewelry repair website!

Damaged inlay ring

Inlay ring in need of repair!


We just launched our inlay jewelry repair website!  After years of doing inlay repairs on our jewelry and many other jewelers’ inlay work, we thought it was time to start promoting our services. Here is a little information from the new inlay jewelry repair site. 

Mark Hileman of The Hileman Collection and Hileman Silver Jewelry has been creating and repairing inlay jewelry since 1974. We specialize in the repair of Australian opal inlay jewelry, but can repair your turquoise, lapis, coral, sugilite, onyx, chrysoprase and dinosaur bone inlay jewelry as well. We are experts in the lapidary field and can repair and restore most jewelry to like new condition. We do inlay repair work on all the major inlay jewelry manufacturers such as Kabana, Nagalle, John Bagley, Mark Hileman and many others. We also offer laser welding services such as inlay ring sizing, earring post replacement and other repair work that can’t be done through conventional soldering methods. We offer all of our services to the jewelry trade and directly to the consumer as well. 

Check out our new inlay jewelry repair site at or read more about Mark Hileman and Hileman Jewelry at and


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Get your inlay jewelry repaired ASAP!


Repaired Australian opal ring.

After repairs

Before restoration


Eventually everyone will need repairs done to their jewelry, whether the damage is from everyday wear and tear or from a one time accident. The important thing is to get your jewelry repaired as soon as possible. Wearing your jewelry in a damaged state, especially inlaid jewelry, will only lead to bigger and more expensive repairs or stone loss. Once an inlaid stone has a crack in it, water or other liquids can seep through the crack to the epoxy. The epoxy is the only thing holding the stones securely in the mounting. Water or other chemicals may affect the bond between the stone and the mounting, allowing some or all of the stones to fall out.  Prongs  should be checked yearly to make sure they are not worn or bent, possibly resulting in stones coming loose.
Closely inspect your jewelry on a regular basis. If your eyesight is not what it used to be, buy a magnifying glass or take it in to a local jeweler and have them take a look at it under magnification. If your inlay needs repair, we suggest returning it to Hileman Jewelry for repairs. We have the materials to match your piece and the lapidary expertise to make your repaired piece of jewelry look like new again. We refinish all Hileman Jewelry at no charge other than shipping and insurance costs and replace cracked or missing pieces at a very reasonable price.  Contact us about getting your jewelry repaired today!