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Save your jewelry from chlorine

Avoid expensive repairs or complete destruction of your gold jewelry by keeping it away from chlorine containing compounds as much as possible. This damage is caused by a phenomenon called stress corrosion cracking.  Stress caused by manufacturing or repair operations, in combination with the presence of chlorine, causes cracks to appear in gold jewelry.  Hammering, stretching, bending, stone setting and daily wear all cause stress in jewelry.

At a recent jewelry trade show we saw a demonstration of the destructive effects of this chemical.  A gold wedding band was placed in a container of undiluted Clorox.  Pressure was applied with a device similar to a small C-clamp. Within 5 minutes the ring had cracked into pieces.

Another example occurred a few years ago.  A woman brought in a ring which she had soaked in Clorox for over 24 hours.  The ring crumbled in our fingers.

Most damage does not occur at this rapid rate. It is a result of repeated exposure to weaker concentrations of chlorine over a long period of time.  Keep your jewelry out of swimming pools, hot tubs, or diluted bleach used for cleaning.  Even some drinking water supplies contain enough chlorine to cause problems.

What happens to your jewelry as a result of this exposure?  Prongs fall off and stones are lost. Jewelry cracks into one or more pieces.  Thin sections may collapse.

Other chemicals can also cause stress corrosion, such as acetic acid-salt solutions. A common example of this is the vinegar and salt solution used to make pickles.

The higher the karat the gold is the less effected it is by stress corrosion.  Jewelry made from 18 karat gold or platinum mostly avoids these problems.



Is this cheap gold

People often ask this question when they find their jewelry making dark smudges on their skin or clothing. It can have several causes, none of which relate to the value of the gold.

One of the most common causes of gold smudge is the presence of makeup or cosmetics on the skin or clothing. Compounds in cosmetics which are harder than gold, will cause tiny particles of gold to be rubbed off the jewelry. The purer the gold is, the greater the problem. Changing from 14K to 18K does not help this problem. These particles will appear to be black when spread out onto your skin or clothing. To avoid this problem, remove your jewelry when applying cosmetics and use soap and water to clean the areas of skin which will touch your jewelry.

Another cause of discoloration is body chemistry. Chemicals such as chlorides and sulfides contained in perspiration may react with metals  contained in the gold alloy, causing a black mark on your skin. Eating lots of tomatoes or drinking many cups of coffee may cause problems for some people. Your body chemistry may change from time to time.  A ring which previously caused no problem could suddenly start to smudge your finger. Exposure to chemicals outside the body can also have the same effect. Salt reacts with the alloys in yellow gold to cause corrosion. Eating that box of salted popcorn in the movie may cause your jewelry to darken your skin.

Two 14K gold rings may have the same amount of pure gold but different alloys.  One ring might discolor and the other not.


No matter how careful you are with your jewelry, it might become damaged, lost, or stolen. Many people think that they are insured until something happens. Then they find that their homeowners or renters policy only pays for a small amount.  Usually your jewelry must be listed on your policy with descriptions. An appraisal is often required. An additional premium is also charged.

Sometimes the jewelry is covered against loss, but the owner has trouble proving its value to the insurance company. Frequently people come into the store with questions such as: "Can you give me a value of the ring you cleaned for me 7 months ago?"  We do our best but our letter to the insurance company must state "value based upon owners description only." Your negotiations with your insurance company are much easier if you have an appraisal.  Our appraisals also include a picture, which is useful in identifying your jewelry if it is lost or stolen.

Appraisals must be up to date. People are often disappointed when the amount of insurance will not replace a lost item.  If your appraisal is several years old, the value is probably incorrect.  



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Copyright 1999 Erik Jewelers
Last modified: September 06, 1999