Chloride Stress, when gold falls apart.

What you wash your jewellery in, is as important as how you wash it. This guide covers the effects on gold and silver alloyed with copper of chlorides.

Chlorides include chlorine, used in swimming pools and water purification, salt (sodium chloride) and household cleaners like bleach.

LilyJewels JewelleryCleaning recommends you use a mild jewellery cleaner, not containing either ammonia or chlorides.

Chloride stress

Some strong cleaning solutions contain ammonia and/or chlorine. While these solutions undoubtedly clean very well, the effect of these compounds on alloyed gold and silver can be profound over time.

Chloride stress in alloyed golds, particularly nine and fourteen carat can be catastrophic. Often resulting in the complete break down of the metal. The effects are more pronounced in cast jewellery and machine made chains.

Gold and silver are normally alloyed with copper to give them the working properties and durability required for jewellery. That is they won’t wear away too quickly or be bent out of shape all the time. Neither gold or silver in their pure forms are effected by chlorides, but chlorides literally strip the copper atoms out of the alloys. Leaving voids where the copper was. This creates stress fractures in the metal. In the worst examples I have seen, the jewellery simply crumbles away. Chains fall apart and the shanks on rings end up with dozens of cracks.

This chloride stress can not be reversed or remedied. Eventually the jewellery must be recycled, returned to fine gold and re-alloyed.

How can you avoid chloride stress in your jewellery?

  • Never take your gold or silver jewellery in swimming pools or spar baths. EVER!
  • Never swim in saltwater while wearing your gold or silver jewellery.
  • If you eat lots of salt, you will excrete through you skin high concentrations of salt and you should wash your jewellery regularly.
  • Never wash your jewellery in cleaners containing chlorine or ammonia.
  • Never soak your jewellery in bleach or ammonia based cleaners. Not even for short periods.
  • Never leave your jewellery soaking in treated tap water for more than a couple of hours.

What are the signs of chloride stress?

Sure signs of chloride stress are chains that just keep breaking. In jewellery such as rings the shank keeps on breaking or claws on settings keep coming off. Copper coloured tarnishing in areas not easily reached is also a sign.

Be careful of what you wash your jewellery in and never, no, not ever, go swimming with your jewellery.