I’m writing this on 22 September, which is Hobbit Day. This date was chosen to celebrate the world of JRR Tolkien because this is the date of Bilbo Baggins’s birthday (and Frodo’s birthday as well) and was the day of the Long-Expeccted Party. As I’m not the only Tolkien nerd out there, I thought that it was high time to answer the question of how to clean the One Ring – and any of the other Rings of Power, for that matter. After all, the replicas are very popular, and if you’ve got one, you probably want to keep it looking its best. And if you haven’t given your ring a proper clean, perhaps now is the appropriate day to do so (or else you can wait until March 25th or ask your domestic cleaning lady to give you a hand with it).
Golden Replicas Of The One Ring
A golden replica of the One Ring has come from the ordinary forges of Mankind rather than Elves or Dwarves. Even if your replica ring is made of lower-carat gold, it’s important to remember that gold is soft and scratches easily. Because the script in Tengwar (Elvish runes) is a key part of any good replica of the One Ring, avoiding scratches is very important if you want your ring to look its best. This means that you can put any harsh cleaners back in your cupboards and step away from them. However, you also want to make sure that you clean any dirt out of the markings so that they don’t become grimy. After all, fingers do a lot of interesting work, dirty and otherwise, and some of the things we handle end up on our rings.
To clean a golden replica of the One Ring, the best thing that you can use is a soft toothbrush – the sort that is designed for babies. Appropriately enough, toothpaste also makes a good cleaning product. Then you can simply slip the ring off your finger and clean it the way you would clean your teeth. Start by dampening the toothpaste, then apply the toothpaste to the brush. Now work the toothpaste all over the golden ring, paying careful attention to the inside of the ring (which is where a lot of gunk will accumulate) and to the inscription running around the outside.
Rinse the ring off and inspect it. If the gold is clean and gleaming, then you can simply pat it dry with a soft cloth and put it on again. However, if you can still see any dirt, then get out that toothbrush and keep going until the ring is completely clean.
Silver Replicas Of The One Ring
Strictly speaking, a silver replica of the One Ring isn’t truly a replica, as the true One Ring was made from gold, silver (and its mythical cousin, mithril) being more of an elvish metal and associated with the powers of good. Anyway, silver is harder than gold and is less prone to scratching. However, it is prone to tarnishing, which may happen if you’ve left the ring sitting in your pocketses unworn for too long or if it’s been exposed to sulphur-containing gases of the sort that you’ll find, say, in areas of high volcanic activity (which also explains why the One Ring was made from gold) or something more mundane, like egg yolk (which is why you shouldn’t use silver spoons for eating eggs).
The easiest way to clean a silver ring that’s also a lot of fun and is almost like magic is to use the aluminium foil and baking soda trick. Make up a paste of baking soda and water, then coat the ring all over with this. Now wrap the ring very tightly in aluminium foil, and drop the wrapped ring into a bowl of warm or hot water. Leave the ring in there for a while – about quarter of an hour or so. The chemical reaction between the baking soda and the aluminium will get to work on the tarnish on your silver replica of the One Ring. Once the time has passed, then retrieve the ring and unwrap it. Use a soft damp cloth to rub the baking soda residue off the silver ring. You should see the metal looking bright and shiny again.
Nenya, Narya and Vilya
The One Ring had no gem, but the other Rings of Power did, especially Nenya, Narya and Vilya, the elven rings. These were set with adamant (what we call diamond), ruby and sapphire, respectively. The metal used to make these rings is uncertain, with gold, silver, mithril, platinum and other exotic metals being possibilities. In this case, the toothpaste method works the best, as this is least likely to damage any sort of metal or any type of stone. What’s more, the toothpaste method is the least likely to leave a residue on either the metal or the stone, meaning that it can shine the way the maker intended it to. This even works on softer stones such as opals, as well as the harder ones – diamond, ruby and sapphire. See above for a description of how to do it. The technique will also work for Elessars, Silmarils, Arkenstones, Nauglamirs and mithril mail-shirts (although I’d use the baking soda trick on the mithril mail-shirt, given that it’s as hard as steel; however, mithril famously does not tarnish or grow dim).
However, the only situation where you shouldn’t use this technique is for pearl jewellery. Pearls scratch very easily indeed. Instead, rub them with a soft chamois leather, as this will help bring out their natural soft glow.
How To Clean The True One Ring
But what about cleaning the One Ring itself? Well, the right way to do this will depend on how it came into your possession.
- If you forged it yourself in the fires of Mount Doom, place it on your finger and declare yourself the overlord of all Middle-Earth. If it gets dirty somehow, order some of your most trusted orcs or Nazgul to clean it… keeping them firmly under the domination of your will throughout the process.
- If you cut it from the hand of the Dark Lord and claimed it as weregild for your brother and father, be careful. It will be hot when you take it, hot as a glede. This will probably burn off any dirt. It would be wisest if you cast it into the fires of Mount Doom, which probably stand near at hand. You will save yourself and a lot of other people a world of bother if you do. If not, beware of orc archers.
- If you have found it in a river buried in the mud (the gleam caught your eye), either (a) make sure that you stay well away from any so-called friends, especially if it happens to be their birthday, precious, or (b) hide the body before doing anything else. Hide the ring and yourself under the very roots of the Misty Mountains, where the darkness will hide the fact that it’s getting dirty.
- If you come across it in a dark tunnel when you’re lost, put it in your pocketses. As the years go by and you use it on occasions to avoid annoying distant relatives, you will notice that it doesn’t need cleaning… oddly so.
- If your uncle left it to you in his will before he set out on a very long journey, test it by holding it in a fire (it will be quite cool) and reveal the fiery letters. Keep it secret and keep it safe while travelling to Mount Doom accompanied by your faithful gardener, as well as seven or so other companions you pick up along the way. Watch out for mysterious riders on black horses wearing black robes, treacherous wizards of many colours and that weird looking creature with big eyes that hisses “My Precious”.
Cleaning the true One Ring is a delicate and potentially perilous task. While the steps outlined above can help maintain its appearance, it is essential to remember the inherent dangers associated with handling this malevolent artifact. It is best to avoid using the One Ring altogether, as its corrupting influence can lead to disastrous consequences.
If you ever find yourself in possession of the One Ring, remember that the safest course of action is to resist its allure and seek assistance from Gandalf. However, the rule of thumb is that the One Ring is best left untouched and undisturbed, deep within the fiery heart of Mount Doom where it belongs.