So, you've booked a relaxing summer vacation, but you're not sure if it's a good idea to wear your precious jewelry into the hot tub or pool. While the short answer is NO, the science behind that answer is pretty fascinating. Read on.
The most comprehensive study about this subject was conducted more than a decade ago by Hoover & Strong, a leading refiner and manufacturer of precious metals.
The 111-year-old Virginia-based company concluded that chlorine and bromine (commonly used to treat the water in pools and hot tubs) caused a gradual failure of karat-gold settings, with the fastest deterioration seen when jewelry was immersed in chlorine bleach and brought to a high temperature.
While pure, 24-karat gold is non-reactive and impervious to other elements, just about all karat-gold fine jewelry is created from a mixture of pure gold and other alloys to give the jewelry its color (such as white or rose gold) or added durability. Common alloys include nickel, copper and zinc.
Chlorine has the ability to dissolve the alloy metals, ultimately causing stress cracks and breakage. Rings with prong-set stones carry the highest risk, because a single compromised prong could cause the loss of a very valuable gemstone.
Hoover & Strong reported that 14-karat nickel white gold faired worse than other white metals. Platinum was virtually unaffected and rhodium plating added a layer of protection to the karat gold.
Although chlorine and bromine were shown to damage jewelry, we should stress that the effects are exaggerated in the first two experiments where jewelry was exposed to a solution of 5% chlorine bleach, about 2,500 ppm (parts per million). According to the Water Quality & Health Council, the ideal level of free chlorine in the swimming pool is 2 to 4 ppm.
In Hoover & Strong's study, 14-karat nickel white gold exposed to 5% chlorine bleach and heated to 110 degrees F experienced prong failure after 21 hours.
The same experiment done with 5% chlorine bleach at room temperature still yielded prong failure, but it took 120 hours of exposure.
In the second set of experiments, the precious metal specialist measured its results based on two hours of daily hot tub use, which is unusual for most people.
The company calculated that prong failure would occur after 156 days for a chlorine-treated (5 ppm) tub, or 192 days for a bromine-treated (5 ppm) tub.
Hoover & Strong also warned that consumers should take off their fine jewelry when using laundry or cleaning products, as many of them contain corrosive bleach.
According to trade association Jewelers of America (JA), fine jewelry is also negatively effected by saltwater, a subject not addressed in Hoover & Strong's study. Saltwater, the group noted, can damage and discolor metals, such as gold and platinum, and can slowly erode the finish and polish of gemstones.
JA also advised consumers to avoid wearing jewelry when applying sunscreen and lotions. These products cause a film to form on jewelry, making items appear dull and dingy.
Here's the bottom line: Take off your precious baubles before heading to the hot tub, the pool or the ocean, and secure them, instead, in an in-room or hotel safe.
Credit: Image by Bigstockphoto.com.