Jewelry Saleswoman Sees Revolting Things

If you ever thought working behind the counter at a jewelry store was a cushy, somewhat glamorous gig, you were apparently very, very wrong. It’s the part of your job that involves accepting old pieces of jewelry for maintenance that makes the job tough.

Jezebel posts a disturbing yet fascinating confession of a former jewelry saleswoman. We’ll spare you the most morbid details, but here’s a sample of the narrative:

I once had a Little Old Lady totter into my store. She was perfectly charming, even adorable, in a sort of Old School way. You could tell that every few days, she went to the hairdresser to have her hair set; she would never leave the house without putting on her face. She wore pill box hats and smart little dresses. A right proper Little Old Lady, perfect in every way. When she showed me the ring she wanted to repair, I turned green.

It was a pearl ring: A single white pearl glued onto a post and placed on a gold band. Simple, elegant and beautiful. The stench that emanated from this ring would kill a vulture. It was encrusted, around the pearl and under her finger, with black goo. The pearl itself was pock-marked like the moon… no, it was worse. There was a massive crater on one side that had scraped a third of the pearl clean away.

Click the source link for the rest of the grotesque spectacle.

Jewelry Is A Filthy, Poisonous Business [Jezebel]


Edit Your Comment

  1. shadowhh says:

    The proper description was really

    I see three circles joined in priceless harmony. Two, full as the moon; one, hollow as a crown. Two from the sea, five fathoms down. One from the Earth, deep under the ground

  2. Genuineduck says:

    A little grime on a tiny little ring causes this woman to cry this much?

    Sheesh. She should be a special guest on an episode of Dirty Jobs to see how bad things can really be.


    • AstroPig7 says:

      I think this is less a “that’s so disgusting” complaint and more a “how can people be this god-damned stupid” complaint.

    • dolemite says:

      I agree. She acted like the old woman was committing acts against nature by cleaning her house with her ring on. If you are disgusted by a booger on a nose ring or skin flakes on jewelry…maybe you are in the wrong profession lady. Go talk to a dentist if you want to hear some gross stories about real personal hygiene issues.

    • kobresia says:

      More like, “a little fetid filth”. Grime itself isn’t so bad, that sounds so inorganic.

      Jewelry that people never take off to clean must get some amazingly vile bacterial colonies thriving on it. Think of what’s trapped in all those crevices and under the band, largely undisturbed for 3 years. Your skin is also supposed to flake-off as it dies, but what happens if you block it from being shed? Yeah, that’s right, you wind-up trapping decaying flakes of flesh, and depending on how tight the jewelry is, there’s probably rather nasty anaerobic bacteria thriving under it, protected by the compression and skin oils.

    • richcreamerybutter says:

      Such “goo” can include biohazardous waste.

  3. BumpinUgglas says:

    I’ve finally figured it out. Phil’s articles are the “Letters to Penthouse” of Consumerist.

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Really? Being a jeweler sucks because you have to clean people’s ring?

    Try being a sanitation engineer and STFU.

  5. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Bad part is, you can’t put pearls in an ultrasonic cleaner.

    BTW, I bought one of those, and it’s amazing. Cleans a Zippo like you wouldn’t believe.

    • augiet65 says:

      I have been looking for a good one. What kind did you get?

      • Aphex242 says:

        Just looking on Amazon, cd-2800 looks pretty solid based on the reviews.

      • dcarrington01 says:

        I picked one up at harbor freight, it is a fairly large one, so I can put gun parts (frames, handles, etc) for like $50. Works great! put some hot water in it and let clean your sunglasses or the like and you’d be amazed all the gunk that comes off them. If you clean yer glasses, make sure to just use water, as apparently the little silicone nose pads suck up whatever cleaning stuff you put in the water in the ultrasonic cleaner!

    • selianth says:

      I used to have an ultrasonic cleaner that I could put pearls in. There was a “low” setting and you had you use a different, gentler cleaning solution. I would probably still rather bring my really good pearls in to a pro to get cleaned, but the stuff that I know is cheaper is probably safe to clean in that thing.

  6. Captain Walker says:

    Please oh please oh please don’t there be a matching necklace

  7. Alvis says:

    “Emeralds are brilliant and colorful and full of oil. Soap destroys the oil; emeralds suffer.”

    Emeralds are full of oil?

    Real smart one there.

    • dayna says:

      Yes. Most emeralds are treated with oil. She’s not as dumb as you think.

    • AstroPig7 says:

      They aren’t naturally full of oil, but emeralds are nearly always treated with cedar oil to reduce the visibility of inclusions and fissures. Breaking down this oil will make them look worse. Only flawless emeralds forgo this treatment, but they are quite rare.

    • teh says:

      Emeralds are often oiled to improve clarity (or at least this is what wikipedia tells me). Soap certainly removes this oil, but it should be possible to reoil the stone.

    • ready2mosh says:

      I wrote a reply, this f*cking article is terrible. Sure there are a few gemstones that are affected from chemicals, opals (water based), Pearls (porous) and Emeralds that are oiled to hide surface defects, which almost every one is unless your talking about $10,000 a carat gems. Sounds like the author had a bone to pick with the industry instead of trying to give accurate information.

  8. namcam says:

    “I have seen good watches, Rolex and Cartier, half-rusted from sweat, dead skin and caked-on hand cream. I have spent hours chiseling this foul muck off the back before the battery could be changed. I have repeated the process on the same watch 18 months later because people never listen; it is better to wear it than put it in a box and, somehow, lose it.”

    if she is changing batteries in rolexes and cartier, they must be dealing with customers with a lot of counterfeit jewelry!!!

    • AstroPig7 says:

      Likely, but Rolex did manufacture a watch, the Oysterquartz, that used batteries. Also, Cartier watches that use batteries are fairly common.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      Rolex still makes a few quartz-movement models, they’re just not the “Oyster Perpetual” style that people associate with the brand. Cartier lists some quartz-movement models as well.

  9. Wireless Joe says:

    All I read: “I have a job (that probably pays pretty well considering the jewelry makers she mentions) and sometimes people are stupid and I have to deal with it. Whine whine whine”.

    If everyone took care of their jewelry, she wouldn’t be making money repairing it and wouldn’t sell any new pieces to replace what’s broken.

    • Rose says:

      So if everyone took care of their jewelry, the batteries would magically work forever and jewelry would never need maintenance inspections? Really?

  10. Loridori4 says:

    I imagine the bad smell was her rotting flesh. Yuck…and very unhealthy for the old lady. She must have lost her sense of smell along with sight. I mean…3 years? How could you get that old and not know that jewelry needs to be cleaned, along with your skin under it?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Everyone eventually becomes used to their own odor. And 3 years is a long time to adjust to the smell.

  11. El-Brucio says:

    I can believe that. I had my ears pierced and wore captive-bead rings in them years ago. They needed pliers to remove, so I just left them in, washing them with shampoo when I washed my hair and moving them around to ensure both the ear and the jewelry were clean. Or so I thought.

    At one point I had to remove them for a job interview. Upon removing them, to my horror I realized they smelled bad. Not truly awful, and not from a distance, but up close they certainly had a funk.

    It made me insecure enough that I had friends do “smell checks” for a few weeks afterward, concerned that my hygiene was somehow lacking, but there was nothing noticeable. I haven’t worn jewelry since.

    • dr_drift says:

      You disgust me.

    • uberbitter says:

      I have no idea why, but the insides of my ear holes smell bad to me. It’s only there if I rub them, and no one had ever told me that they can smell it. This is regardless of whether or not I’m wearing earrings (which I rarely do anymore). A little googling shows this is pretty common, but I don’t buy that it’s an infection like many people are claiming. My ears have been pierced for 26 years and they are most certainly not infected nor have been all that time.

      My captive bead rings, located in various places that are not my ears, have *never* smelled like anything at all. So think it’s the location of the piercing and you’re probably fine.

      • El-Brucio says:

        Yeah, despite the earrings being gone for over a decade, I have the same problem if I’ve been unable to shower for a couple of days on a camping trip or similar event.

        I suppose I could get the other piercings re-done at this point, but I suspect now that I’m older I’d have far less patience waiting for them to heal.

      • altfolk says:

        It happens more with ear piercings because of the added oil from hair. It is not an infection. It can irritate your ears or make them itch if you don’t remove and clean the jewelry frequently, but it’s just a buildup of crud from your body.

      • macruadhi says:

        I’m kind of amazed you are able to get your nose all the way around to where you are able to smell your ear holes

    • altfolk says:

      It’s a combination of dead skin cells and sebum that builds up around the jewelry and in the piercing. Your navel would smell the same way if you didn’t shower regularly. You just have to remove the jewelry often and wash your ears.

    • 12345678nine says:

      Yeeep, I have my lobes stretched to 1/2 inch, and the jewelry and ear smell SO NASTY if the material is not wood. I’ve heard bone is the same way, but I have never tried it. But yes, it’s a build up of dead skin that forms in the hole and presses against the jewelry.
      I think the wood allows it to breathe? Something like that. But if you use the really common acrylic jewelry, or stainless steel, that’s when you get what they call “ear cheese” and it is the foulest smell ever. it smells like death, actual death, because it is a bunch of dead skin trapped.
      So…wood all the way.

      Also, remind me of this story

  12. Rose says:

    Oh, yeah, it’s true. People spit on their rings to get them off, even as we’re waving out special spray and offering a paper towel. People ask us to clean watches with years of dead skin encrusted on the band. People rely on us to help them pick out gifts for their spouses and their side partners… It’s disgusting. Seriously.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Get another job.

      • Rose says:

        I love that people can’t even talk about the bad parts of their jobs without being told to get a different job.

        Guess what? Almost all jobs have crappy parts. That’s why they’re not called ‘super-happy-fun-times’ instead of ‘work’. We’re allowed to talk about the gross parts, especially when the gross parts aren’t necessary and could be alleviated by consumer awareness.

        Deal with it. Also, don’t spit on your jewelry. Most stores have a special spray that lubes your finger way better than your spit, without leaving a residue or, you know, being spit.

  13. Rose says:

    Oh, yeah, it’s true. People spit on their rings to get them off, even as we’re waving out special spray and offering a paper towel. People ask us to clean watches with years of dead skin encrusted on the band. People rely on us to help them pick out gifts for their spouses and their side partners… It’s disgusting. Seriously.

  14. Rose says:

    I love that people can’t even talk about the bad parts of their jobs without being told to get a different job,

    Hey, folks! Almost all jobs have crappy parts. That’s why they’re not called ‘super-happy-fun-times’ instead of ‘work’. We’re allowed to talk about the gross parts, especially when the gross parts aren’t necessary and could be alleviated by consumer awareness.

    Deal with it.

    • katarzyna says:

      Yeah, the impression I got from this article was “betcha didn’t know!” rather than “poor me”. I thought it was eye-opening.

    • Rose says:

      Yes, like that poor woman who ruined her gold and pearl with bleach. I used to manage a jewelry store (Loved it!) and we’d give out flyers every spring so people would be aware of the dangers of pools, hot tubs, gardening chemicals, and bleach. We worked really hard to help customers understand how to care for their jewelry, so their kids could bring it to us for maintenance in twenty years.

      Of course, we were a small, family-owned store, instead of a big-box store full of people who don’t give a crap and have no idea what they’re talking about, anyway. :P

  15. Karink23 says:

    Ugh, try cleaning other people’s eyeglasses. I used to work at an optical shop that offered free cleaning and adjustments, and it was very common to see green nosepads – and not just stained green, but many would have actual moss growing on them that would fall off or get stuck to the pliers I used. If the glasses had to be heated up to be manipulated, this foul odor would waft up that haunts me to this day. (shudder)
    I know many people wear their glasses all day, every day, and probably can’t see well enough to clean them thoroughly, but come on! At least blindly shove it under a faucet once in awhile. Sheesh.

    • Rose says:

      So wait – a small part of a pair of eyeglasses is worse than a much larger part of a ring or ::shudder:: the entire band of a watch? It’s the same gross moss-like accumulation, but on a larger scale, so I disagree.

      • Karink23 says:

        Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply I thought it was worse. I was just chiming in with my own experiences because reading the article made me remember some of the gross things I used to see on a daily basis.

        Anyway, I guess I should can say at least nobody ever spat on their glasses to get them off.

    • Rose says:

      Yeah, I think the skin moss gunk is worse than the spit. I mean, I don’t know about the science, it just seems worse to me. Yuck. Now I’ve grossed myself out with the memories of gross jewelry.

      I mean, I loved my job, but man. That part sucked.

    • Putaro says:

      I had some “eyeglass shampoo” stuff in a spray bottle that I was using. It was tinted green and was getting inside the pads and making them look very gross.

  16. catskyfire says:

    Interestingly enough, the actual article is less about some of the gross aspects (well, except for the blackened fingertips), but more on the ‘care for your property’ aspect. The ‘this is an item of beauty and you’re destroying it by not thinking’

  17. ellemdee says:

    Geez, I know cleaning jewelry can be nasty, but have a heart…”I had to cut the ring from her finger in order to have a closer look at it…She cried while I did this…It was the last gift she had ever received from her late husband. Had she ever taken it off? No. Did she clean her home with strong chemicals like bleach? Yes. Does she wear gloves while doing this? No.”

    This ring obviously had great sentimental value to the customer and she gets the third degree and criticism from the salesperson instead of a little sympathy. While giving her advice about how to keep the ring in better shape in the future would be a good idea, the salesperson sounded more concerned about how the customers’ jewelry was inconveniencing her and making her clean gross stuff (that she was being paid to do). By the tone of the letter, she probably didn’t have much patience or sensitivity with the customer who was CRYING as the salesperson cut her ring and grilled her about her cleaning habits.

    Now we’re supposed to feel bad for the “poor salespeople” because one of the things they’re paid to do is unpleasant?

    • Rose says:

      If you’d RTFA, you’d know that you’re not supposed to feel bad for the worker, you’re supposed to learn a bit about jewelry maintenance and use that knowledge in the future. The author doesn’t lament her own situation – she laments the poor, messed-up jewelry and the people who end up with it because they don’t know any better. She also includes the information that they need to know for the future.

      • ellemdee says:

        I did RTFA (that’s where the “poor salespeople” line came from), and the salesperson came across as unsympathetic to the crying customer. It was the “poor salespeople” line at the end of the actual article that made it sound like she was fishing for sympathy.

        I have no idea how people get so much nastiness on their jewelry. I have jewelry given to me by my grandmother who died 30 years ago, and it’s all still in good shape without any excessive maintenance despite being worn regularly by me and by her before that.

  18. stinky_ghost says:

    That story was actually sort of beautiful, in a disgusting way.

  19. audiochick says:

    I echo the OP here. I worked in a jewelry store for a while also and we offered free jewelry cleaning. The disgusting stuff that people would pull out or off would make your skin crawl! I learned really fast never to let anyone put it into my bare hand, but always place it on a paper towel or something first. I always so badly wanted to dump everything straight into the ultrasonic, but company policy dictated that we had to inspect for loose stones and damage first. Not like you could really tell if the diamond in a stud earring was loose if the crust around the gem was cementing the stud in place anyway.

    The mall I worked in wasn’t the nicest, either. There were a lot of wannabe gangbangers that hung around and one night one of them asked if I would clean his grill and then pulled it out of his mouth. I got out of that one by telling him that the ultrasonic cleanser was toxic. I don’t know if it is or not, but no WAY was I going to clean someone’s “grill”!

    • verdegrrl says:

      Another jewellery store refugee!

      I worked in a jewellery store that saw a lot of older customers. Between failing eyesight, lost sense of smell, and maybe not the best memory for when they last cleaned/checked the rings/earrings they wore, it could get pretty nasty. Green mold, red mold, and all sorts of grey waxy gunk. When I hear of older people experiencing lingering health troubles, I can’t help but sometimes wonder this isn’t an influencing factor among other things? And don’t even get me started on spitting on your hand to remove a ring.

      It’s also really sad to see something precious to them be so far gone that it’s virtually impossible to rebuild. Prongs, shanks, and links all wear over time.

  20. ready2mosh says:

    WOW, they removed my post pointing out all the bullsh*t in it. The next article they do should be how they remove posts that point out their articles are clueless and know nothing about the subject.

    • Disappointed says:

      So why was the article BS?

    • LittleBlackFly says:

      And you’re full of shit. It’s right there. Jezebel has a preview policy before your first post gets up. They also have a tiered commenting system. I assume you’re not a starred commentator – so go to the bottom and click ‘view all posts’ and you’ll see your precious comment… Which was rude, and not exactly helpful – no wonder nobody promoted it.

  21. topgun says:

    Really? Phil …this is a Consumerist story…why?

    • Disappointed says:

      It’s a Consumerist article because part of the point of the original article was emphasizing how you–the consumer–need to be more aware of how to protect your jewelry–which, you know, is something that you buy. The author reminds you of how important it is to take proper care of yourself and your valuable possessions.

  22. MrEvil says:

    Katherine needs to harden the fuck up. I’ve repaired computers at feedyards, packing houses, carbon black plants, and other exotic locations that smelled MUCH worse. With alot worse stuf in and on the computer. Sure it wasn’t my favorite thing to do in the world, but I sucked it up and dealt with it.

    Also, I guess this makes me a bad husband/boyfriend/fiance I don’t wear jewelry because it’s just something to get contaminated with chemicals/irritants or short electronics I’m working on. Plus I just don’t like wearing it. Sorry ladies, I am just not a practitioner of antiquated courtship rituals. Doesn’t mean I won’t buy you a ring or turn down a gifted one. Just don’t expect me to be part of the “never take it off” crowd.

  23. sopmodm14 says:

    c’mon now, selling blood diamonds for their insane markups doesn’t even place them on ANY top 10 dirty, worst jobs listing

    just suck it up i say

    • Rose says:

      So selling diamonds from Canada for 20% over cost makes us, what, evil?

      Or do you just like feeling self-righteous about things?

  24. framitz says:

    I wear two rings nearly all the time. One is a custom made 15 gram gold Turkish Puzzle ring that I’ve worn for nearly 40 years. The other is a black star Sapphire set in gold that’s about 20 years old.

    I do, now and then, take them off and clean them. They are both in perfect condition.

    I don’t understand how people could live with filth like described in the article.

  25. HoJu says:

    That woman is a very good writer.