How to ruin your jewellery without trying

One of the most common causes of damage to precious metal jewellery is not widely known.

Pure gold is impervious to almost any chemical except a special mixture of sulphuric and hydrochloric acids known as Aqua Regia.

However, there is almost no jewellery made from pure gold as it is far too soft a metal to make it practical, so gold is typically alloyed with other metals to provide the physical strength required for jewellery that is to be worn frequently.

Unfortunately, alloying gold with other metals to provide physical strength opens the door to a lowered resistance to a chemical attack on precious metals.

Everyday chemicals around the home can have devastating effects on gold alloys and sterling silver but most people won’t know that the damage has occurred until their piece breaks.

Chlorine is found in many household cleaners and bleaches and in high concentrations. Chlorine is also found in swimming pools and hot tubs or spas.

Chlorine can break down the non-gold metals in alloys of gold and silver. This makes them weaker and subject to fracturing.

Rings with mounted stones can be badly affected as the claw is under stress as it holds the gem in place. The combination of mechanical stresses and the action of the chlorine chemically on the alloy can cause the prongs to break where they join the shank of the ring. This can lead to the stone in your engagement ring not being held securely and parting from its mount. The prong once weakened can be bent or broken much more easily if caught on your clothing. Chlorine damage can also affect the links in gold and silver chains, causing them to be weakened and break more easily if the chain is pulled.

Remove your jewellery before using any cleaning products containing chlorine or bleaches, and never wear you jewellery in a swimming pool or spa.

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