What is the one thing you wish you knew before you spent a lot of money on your jewelry, only for the jewelry piece to be destroyed after a few weeks? For most of us, water damage, specifically damage from salty water, is one of the biggest challenges we face.
And though it means that it can be quite restricting to have to remove your jewelry in specific areas because of the potential damage or not having to wear the jewelry at all, that might be the best thing you do to retain the sparkle of your jewelry.
After spending your savings on expensive jewelry, you want to know that you are getting your money’s worth from it, which is why it is important to take all the essential steps to ensure that your jewelry is protected.
To find out more about the effects of saltwater on jewelry, whether and how the saltwater could result in damage to the jewelry, keep reading.
Does Salt Water Damage Your Jewelry? And why?
If you wear jewelry all the time, whether it’s a wedding or an engagement ring, a simple pair of classic stud earrings, or that necklace that you just seem to have on all the time, you know from your past experiences that the jewelry often suffers from exposure to different conditions.
The biggest culprit and a big cause for concern are often exposed to salt and chlorine, and these two agents can cause irreparable damage to expensive jewelry, which is why it’s recommended that you take off your jewelry around chlorinated or salty water.
By now, you know to keep your jewelry off in the chlorinated water, but did you know that salt can have equally damaging or even worse effects?
Salt can be quite damaging to your gold or diamond jewelry, and the main reason why this is the case has to do with the fact that salt causes the erosion of the jewelry’s metallic layer. Platinum, silver, and gold are eroded by salt, and the exposure to salt over a long period weakens the precious metals, and the jewelry could break.
Diamonds are affected by saltwater, too, with the biggest concern being blemishing on the stone. Exposure of a diamond piece to salt stains the facets, making the previously sparkly diamond dull.
The good news is that the dulling is temporary on diamonds, and rinsing the diamond jewelry well after exposure to the salty water will go a long way in retaining its sparkle. For more reading, please read this post, what jewelry you can wear in the shower.
Does saltwater damage gold or white jewelry? And why?
Yes, salt water is damaging to gold, as well as all white jewelry like silver and white gold. The reason for this is that the saltwater erodes the layer of gold on the jewelry, weakening that piece of jewelry.
While some of the stronger white metals/ jewelry like platinum tend to hold up quite well even against extreme saltwater conditions, the softer metals like gold and silver don’t hold up well, which means that if your wedding or engagement ring is made of gold or silver, you have to be extra careful around the ocean and other areas with salty water.
Salty ocean water is particularly harmful to your jewelry. Its harshness means that the salt will eat away at the gold jewelry, with the extent of the corrosion expected to worsen, especially with jewelry made with copper. Where does copper come in here?
Well, gold is naturally very soft, and it cannot be molded into jewelry in its purest form. Metals like copper are mixed with gold for hardening. Though effective in hardening gold, copper is very reactive to salt, meaning that you risk complete destruction of the gold jewelry by exposing it to salty water.
The other consideration you need to keep in mind is that the copper content in gold varies depending on the type of percentage purity of gold – 18k gold has less copper than 10k or 14k gold. Gold jewelry with a high copper content will, therefore, be adversely affected by the salty water.
Out of the three main types of gold jewelry – white gold, yellow gold, and rose gold, rose gold is affected by the saltwater significantly more, and a rose gold ring will corrode faster than white gold or the traditional yellow gold.
So, if you are planning a trip to the beach and you love your rose gold jewelry, you might want to take the jewelry off before going for that swim.
Note, however, that the potential damage from saltwater isn’t limited to gold jewelry. Any metallic jewelry exposed to saltwater will be eroded and damaged; gemstones too.
Does saltwater damage silver? And why?
Yes, saltwater can seriously damage silver jewelry, and we strongly advise against wearing your silver jewelry to the ocean or even the poo because the salt will react with the silver layer, causing tarnishing.
We don’t have to talk about how bad, cheap, and ugly jewelry looks when tarnished!
Note that the combination of water, salt, and oxygen causes extreme damage to metals, and it is believed that the level of damage that results from this combination is worse than the damage that would be caused by rust.
The reason for this is that the water, salt, and oxygen combination will eat away at the metal, weakening it and also causing it the metal to eventually fall apart.
The other thing to note is that saltwater causes the corrosion of metals at about 5x the rate at which freshwater with.
So, in as much as the silver wouldn’t normally get damaged in clean fresh water, the damage is extensive when you expose your silver jewelry to salty water.
Does saltwater damage diamonds? And why?
Yes, saltwater will blemish your diamonds, and if you expose the diamond to saltwater often, it will become dull because the saltwater stains the diamond’s facets.
Does saltwater damage leather jewelry? And why?
Yes, and you should avoid getting your leather bracelet soaked or in contact with ocean or beach water.
The salt in water or even the beach sand causes the drying up of the oil in the leather, damaging it deeply and irreversibly.
Does saltwater damage stainless steel jewelry? And why?
Although saltwater is damaging to most metals, and you could spot the damage within days after exposure, stainless steel jewelry is more enduring, and exposure to small amounts of salt will not be damaging.
Stainless steel jewelry features chrome, which is protective, and the best part is that even when stainless steel is exposed to saltwater and gets slightly tarnished, you can wipe off the tarnished layer with clean fresh water and a clean, soft cloth.
Does saltwater damage brass jewelry? And why?
Brass is a beautiful metal known for its golden gleam and bright luster. When new, brass shines just like gold, but after some time, it becomes dull.
While the natural dulling from exposure to air takes time, it gets damaged faster when exposed to saltwater/ ocean water because of the highly reactive copper that’s used along with zinc to make brass. So, you shouldn’t wear brass jewelry to the beach.
Interestingly enough, brass can be cleaned with salt and lemon juice/ cuts to remove tarnishing, but you have to wash with warm water and soap then dry it before keeping it away.
Does saltwater damage platinum? And why?
Unlike other metals used in jewelry making, platinum is one of the hardy metals that hold up well in harsh conditions.
Platinum is not, however, inert, and it will have a slightly tarnished look after some time.
The good news is that you can wash off the tarnish and retain the glorious shine of platinum.
If you have been looking for safe jewelry options to wear to the beach, we hope that this article helps you make a smart decision.
Generally, all metals will react to saltwater and get damaged to a certain extent.
It might be a good idea to leave the jewelry out of the beach, ocean, and swimming pool.