Everything You Need To Know About Waterproof Jewelry
Nowadays, you’ll find many brands marketing their jewelry pieces as completely waterproof and tarnish-resistant. However, the truth is that most jewelry can lose its luster (and subsequently its value) when it’s exposed to water. It may also cause it to tarnish and lose its color. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t purchase or wear fine jewelry!
This article covers everything you need to know about the effects of water on jewelry so you can keep your beloved jewels looking beautiful for years to come.
Let’s start by answering the most obvious question:
Why is Water Harmful to Jewelry?
While water is essential for us humans, it can be detrimental to jewelry. Regardless of whether or not it’s made from precious metals. Why is this?
Well, consider the effects that water has on the earth. It can cut deep into rocks and other hard surfaces, eroding and shaping it over time. Now, think about the fact that the metals used to make jewelry come from the earth.
Although it’s true that precious metals like gold and sterling silver are more resilient against water, they can still tarnish and fade over time. In short, no metal is invulnerable against water, and all water types and pH levels have an effect on metal.
What About Waterproof Coatings?
Many jewelers apply coatings to their pieces and then market them as ‘waterproof’ jewelry.
Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) is one coating technique that is currently being used. The process involves depositing thin films of a molecule onto a substrate (base layer), usually metal. This reconditions the surface of the jewelry piece, enhancing its durability.
Though regarded as a stronger alternative to traditional silver or gold-plated jewelry, a PVD coating is still just an added layer of material. This means it’ll keep your bracelets, necklaces, rings, and earrings looking perfect for longer, but it won’t last forever despite being advertised to do so.
If you want your jewelry to last through the years, you’ll need to follow the proper care instructions. Generally, this means taking off your pieces before you shower, bathe, or swim, as well as before exercising and performing household chores like washing the dishes.
Which Metals Should You Never Expose to Water?
As mentioned, high-quality metals are more durable against water, but this doesn’t mean they are waterproof – it just takes a while for the wear and tear to start to show.
Let’s briefly examine the effects that water can have on these materials.
Gold is the most prestigious of all the precious metals. As a result, many people believe that pure gold is resistant to water, among other substances. But, truthfully, the higher the purity of the gold, the softer it is. This is why 24k gold is rarely used in jewelry. So, just like other metals, frequent exposure to water will damage your gold pieces.
Furthermore, gold alloys (like the ones commonly used in jewelry making) contain copper and zinc. These metals are more vulnerable to chemicals like the chlorine in your swimming pool, which can easily dull their shine.
Like pure gold, pure silver is too soft for jewelry. As a result, sterling silver is used. Sterling silver is mixed with copper, which oxidizes when it comes into contact with certain chemicals in the air and (you guessed it) water. This results in tarnishing, which is the darkening and discoloration that occurs on the surface of a silver piece.
Platinum is the most robust metal known to man. It is highly resistant to corrosion, which is why it’s often used for crafting jewelry and as a protective coating over other metals.
While water generally won’t damage the metal itself, it can darken platinum’s natural color and reduce its shine.
Which Gemstones Should You Never Expose to Water?
A common misconception that many people have about natural gemstones is that they are invulnerable to the elements. To some extent, this is true. Many natural gemstones are very durable and resistant to scratching, making them suitable for everyday wear. However, there are also many kinds of gemstones that are too delicate to be worn regularly, not to mention be exposed to water.
In general, submerging any gemstone in water for prolonged periods will dull its color and shine. Here is a list of a few of the gemstones you shouldn’t expose to water:
- Saltwater and freshwater pearls
- Lapis Lazuli
General Guidelines for Taking Care of Jewelry
Here are a few easy tips for ensuring that your jewelry stays beautiful for years to come:
- Gently wipe your jewelry with a damp (not wet) cloth.
- Pat it dry with a soft microfiber cloth. Ensure it is completely dry.
- Store your jewelry away from direct sunlight in a cool, dry place. Pieces should be stored separately to prevent softer metals and gemstones from being scratched by harder materials.
You can also take your jewelry back to the shop you bought it from to have it professionally cleaned (most offer a complimentary cleaning service). The jeweler will also check for signs of wear and tear and will be able to make repairs if necessary.
When it comes to waterproof jewelry, it’s important to remember that although it has been crafted with longevity in mind, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will last forever. In fact, no metal is indestructible, and special coatings only serve to delay the inevitable.
That being said, you needn’t lock your jewelry away for fear of damaging it. Sterling silver, gold, and platinum are strong enough to withstand everyday wear (this is why they’re the primary metals used for fine jewelry!). They will stand the test of time with the proper care and storage, which includes ensuring that they come into contact with water as little as possible.
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