Have you ever felt that panicky feeling of getting a ring stuck on your finger? Maybe you're feeling it now? In this post we'll explore some of your options for how to remove a stuck ring.
*If your finger is injured, very swollen or discolored, please seek medical attention! Rings can be repaired or replaced and your finger is more important.*
Why do rings get stuck?
- Weigh gain
- Eating salty foods
- Walking for extended periods
- Hot weather
Lubricate to Extricate:
Windex or other ammonia based window cleaners do a great job of helping a ring slide easily off your finger. Remove it by twisting the ring over your knuckle.
Unlike soap and lotion, window cleaners do not leave a heavy residue that make it harder to grip the ring while removing it. We have used this in our shop for years with great success.
Important: Do not use this if you have open wounds or if there are sensitive gemstones in your ring such as opals, amber, turquoise and pearls. If you're not sure if your gemstone falls into this category, consult a gemologist.
Ice, Ice Baby:
Soaking your swollen finger in cold water for a few minutes can sometimes help the swelling go down enough to remove your ring. After the soak, you can try the window cleaner trick and/or elevation if either one didn't work on its own.
Elevate the Situation:
Raise your hand above your head for 5 to 10 minutes to help the swelling go down.
Dental floss/string/ribbon: This method involves looping the string under the ring and then wrapping your finger very tightly. Then pulling the loop that's under the ring to help it move over the knuckle. We don't recommend this method because some people report pain and even cuts from the string, especially with dental floss.
Finger compression devices: A small device similar to a blood pressure cuff is placed on the finger and uniformly compresses the finger. Sounds promising, and we are currently researching this method and will update this post when we have more first-hand information.
The Last Resort:
Ok, you've tried all the things, now what? Most full-service jewelers have specialized tools called ring cutters (creative name right?) to cut rings safely so they can be removed.
How it works:
Even though this tool looks like a medieval torture device, it's totally safe. A safety guard is placed between the ring and the finger. Then a circular blade is lowered onto the outside of the ring. The blade is turned and slowly saws through the ring.
The blade is prevented from touching the finger by the safety guard. Then the jeweler will use smooth-jawed pliers to gently open the ring enough to free it from your finger.
What to expect next:
Your ring will need to be repaired after being cut. Your jeweler will be very careful during the process, but at the very least, it will have to be soldered back together and very likely sized up. Other repairs may also be necessary.
What kinds of rings can and can't be cut off at your local jewelry store?
- Gold, silver, platinum, palladium, brass, copper can all be cut off relatively easily.
- Titanium, tungston, ceramic, cobalt, steel, meteorite and other alternative metals require more involved methods.
- In the case of tungston and ceramic for instance, a tool called a ring cracker is used instead of a ring cutter. Ring crackers will break or shatter the ring and the ring will need to be replaced.
- Other materials might require a ring cutting tool with a special type of diamond coated blade. The diamond bladed tools have to be submerged in water to stay cool and comfortable during the cutting process.
- Eternity bands or rings that have diamonds or gemstones all the way around the ring pose a special challenge. Sometimes the ring cutter will fit between the diamonds or gemstones. If not, a diamond or gemstone will have to be removed before cutting.
My local jeweler says they can't cut my ring off, what else can I do?
At this point, your doctor, urgent care or the hospital emergency department are your only options. They will prioritize your health (rightly) and damage to your ring is likely to be more extensive. But don't worry, a good custom jeweler will either be able to repair it or remake it like new.
How long should I wait before having my ring repaired?
We suggest waiting 4-6 weeks or until your finger is completely healed or no longer swollen. Often when a ring has been stuck for a long time, your finger will form a dent where the ring was. Sometimes it can take months for that to fill back in completely. We get that you don't want to be without your ring, but an accurate finger size can't be measured until everything is back to normal.
What can I do to prevent my rings from getting stuck?
- If you feel your hands getting puffy for any reason, take your rings off immediately before the swelling gets any worse.
- Take your rings off when walking and exercising.
- pro tip: keep them on a chain around your neck or on a ring holder pendant while you exercise.
- bonus: your rings will last longer if they're protected from wear and damage while exercising.
- Remove rings when the weather is hot.
- Don't sleep in your rings.
- bonus: that's an average of 7 or 8 hours a day that your rings are saved from wear and tear.
- how much are you enjoying them while you sleep anyway?
- Have your rings cleaned and checked regularly. We recommend 1-2 times a year. Not only can your local jewelry store catch small issues before they become big issues, removing them regularly helps keep them from getting stuck. For more about jewelry repairs, read our article.
Summing it up:
If you have a ring stuck on your finger and your finger is otherwise healthy, try ice, elevation and windex. If those methods or a combination of them fails, head to your favorite local jewelry store (if you don't already have one, search "jewelry stores near me" and choose one with good reviews.) If possible choose one that does repairs and/or custom jewelry work on site.
If you're in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area, feel free to come see us. We are open by appointment. Jewelsmith offers this service free of charge.
If all else fails, or if your finger has open wounds or is discolored, seek medical attention.
About the author:
Molly Hollingsworth is a professional goldsmith with a BFA and more than 27 years experience and she has performed many ring removals.
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