The main reason for jewelry being so popular is their sparking luster and appealing looks. But you must have often noticed your favorite pieces becoming dull or the worse, and lose all their luster, even when you take all the required precautions. Is this the problem with the manufacturer’s authenticity or the quality of the material, or are you missing out on something? Yes, you are. While taking all the precautions, you might not be aware of the effects, your body fluids or oils can have on these materials.
Sweat is one thing that you jewelry comes in regular contact with when worn. If sweat is bad for a piece or not depends significantly on the type (material and stones) of jewelry you are wearing. E.g metals like Titanium, Platinum and pure gold are not affected by coming in contact with sweat. This is normally true for pure and inert metal pieces. However, certain metals do rust when they come in contact with sweat or moisture in general.
Does sweat cause jewelry to tarnish?
Yes, sweat can cause your jewelry to tarnish. However, the extent of tarnishing varies with the type of metal. Some metals can tolerate sweat better than others, while others react more to sweat.
Some metals, even if they undergo discoloration because of sweat, they can be brought back to their original state with little effort. But it’s almost impossible for other cheaper metals. This is why it is mostly suggested to put off your jewelry pieces when you do arduous exercises like workouts which generate a lot of sweat.
You must be curious as to how something as simple and ordinary as sweat can tarnish such complex pieces of jewelry. There are some reasons behind this.
- Some metals corrode in the presence of moisture, and if you sweat too much, your moist skin coming in contact with jewelry can tarnish it.
- Another reason is the chemical structure of sweat. Sweating is our body’s way of getting rid of excess fats, fatty acids, amino acids, etc. So, even though weak, sweat is still an acid and can easily react with jewelry metals, causing tarnishing.
- Only a few metals can tolerate salts, so our sweat being a salty content, becomes harmful.
The extent of the tarnish and the rate at which sweat starts to degrade jewelry depends on various factors such as below.
- THE ACIDITY LEVEL OF SWEAT
Studies have shown that under normal conditions, human sweat is certainly acidic, with a pH value between 4.5 and 7, however the actual acidity may vary from time to time. Health , weather and hygiene conditions can lead to dysregulation of the acid/base balance and cause a condition called acidosis, wherein the pH value of the human sweat drops considerably, hence making it more acidic. A layman’s way of knowing when this happens is by spotting the foul smell that starts to come through post sweat.
This increased acidity of your sweat can really catalyze the tarnishing of a lot of softer and purer jewelry pieces.
- SWEAT GLAND DENSITY AROUND THE JEWELRY
The sweat gland density is a major driver of the volume of sweat which your jewelry would have to face , depending upon where it is worn. A study convened by the University of California, Berkley found that the fingers, palms and the back of your hands have the highest density of sweat glands, which makes jewelry pieces like rings and bracelets face the maximum amount of sweat. On the other side of the spectrum is the neck and the forehead, meaning hair jewelry suspended pieces and necklines are at least risk from the sweat volume perspective.
- SWEATING RATE
Also, metabolic rate is directly proportional to sweating rate, so if you a burner in terms of metabolism, it may be best to not dawn jewelry pieces for longer periods of time without care, in the interest of minimizing sweat damage to them.
- COMPOSITION OF THE JEWELRY PIECE
Does sweat tarnish gold-plated jewelry pieces?
Yes, gold-plated jewelry gets tarnished by sweat. This is one of the major differences between pure gold and gold-plated pieces. Pure gold is highly inactive and doesn’t react with most of the chemicals, while gold-plated jewelry does. This is because gold is only a layer on the piece while its base is still composed of some reactive metals, thus resulting in tarnish.
As mentioned above, our sweat is acidic and it also contains some salts. Both of these components react with the base metal, which causes jewelry to discolor. This happens when the molecules of the base metal transfer into the layer of gold, eventually causing it to break down. Ultimately, these molecules get exposed to the sweat, causing the reactions. For example, base metal copper which is often found in to gold plated jewelry, in reaction to our sweaty skin and oxygen forms a cupric oxide, which is why the skin in its contact sometimes becomes green.
Does sweat ruin silver chains and jewelry pieces?
Just like gold jewelry, pure silver is sweat-resistant. However, it is very delicate and can only be used to make fine jewelry. For all other jewelry pieces, pure silver is mixed with other metals, even in small proportions. We have already learned why gold-plated jewelry tarnishes in the presence of sweat. Now, let’s take a look at the reaction of silver with our body sweat.
The acidity of the sweat corrodes the silver metal, causing it to turn dull, grey, or completely black. The salts in the sweat also contribute to the process. But this tarnishing doesn’t mean that your silver is fake, rather it is more indicative that your jewelry is a real piece. It is just that the acidic nature of sweat unleashes itself and tarnishes trace metals that are found in silver jewelry pieces.
Does sweat tarnish sterling silver jewelry?
Yes, indeed it does. To explain this in detail let’s first understand what sterling silver is. It is not a silver-plated material, rather a metal alloy. It means that to produce sterling silver, a higher percentage of pure silver is mixed with some other metals (which is usually copper or zinc) in lower amounts. For instance, the most popular variety is 925 sterling silver. This is made by mixing 92.5% pure silver with 7.5% copper. This mixture not only reduces the cost but also increases the durability of the product.
Since, unlike pure silver, sterling silver contains a metal (copper or zinc) that reacts intensively with sweat, it tarnishes faster than pure silver items. But, the good news for you is even though this tarnish affects its physical appearance, the metal is all safe inside, and even this tarnish can also be removed with little effort.
Can you sweat in gold filled jewelry?
Yes, you certainly can as the amount of sweating is dependent on a lot of other factors such as metabolic rate, perspiration, the weather and humidity etc, but this won’t tarnish your gold filled jewelry much. Gold-filled jewelry is more sweat-resistant than gold-plated jewelry because of the process of its formation. It has a thicker layer of gold over the base metal and as we know that pure gold doesn’t react easily, this thicker layer of gold will make your jewelry item stand the test of being tarnished owing to sweat. Another reason is that the heat which the two different metals- gold and base metal (which can be anything- brass, copper, nickel) are exposed to, causes them to make a bond, thus making them even more durable.
COUNTERING SWEAT DAMAGE TO JEWELRY
We have looked at what effects sweat has on various types of jewelry and why it is that sweat is a lethal enemy you want to wade your jewelry against, all the time you wear it. Let’s now drift forward towards seeing how you can check the ill-effects of sweat on your precious jewelry pieces.
What type of jewelry is sweat resistant?
Given below are the materials that are tolerant to sweat. However, no metal is used purely to make jewelry. Some other materials are always mixed into it to some extent.
Titanium is known to be one of the best corrosion-resistant materials available. They can easily tolerate the solutions of chloride, hypochlorite, etc.- elements responsible for tarnish by sweat. They are also hypoallergenic. So jewelry made of titanium alloy is one of the few you can put on while sweating.
This is another popular metal that doesn’t tarnish in the presence of sweat. So its alloy-made jewelry is especially popular among people who work out a lot or who sweat a lot. However, they are quite expensive and cannot be traded very easily.
STAINLESS STEEL JEWELRY
Another sweat-resistant material that is considered best to wear while workouts are stainless steel. We often use this at home for utensils but its jewelry items also enjoy massive popularity both because of their lower price and longer durability.
STERLING SILVER JEWELRY
This option is quite complicated. Sterling silver tarnishes faster than pure silver. Then why have we added this to the list? This is because even though they tarnish, they can be recovered very easily, and by following some simple steps, which is not possible with some other tarnished jewelry items.
This is a relatively newer concept in the jewelry industry in which a layer of gold is wrapped over a base metal at the core, and then both are heated to fuse the layer and metal. This provides a sweat-resistant, cheaper than pure gold, jewelry material option to the buyers.
How do I protect my jewelry from sweat damage?
Sweat damage to jewelry can spoil it in various ways : the acidic nature of it can lead to a reaction with the metal contents in jewelry and cause it to develop tarnish, black spots or fading of the shine on it. Also, anhydrous deposits owing to the sweat salts can cause the jewelry to develop white patches and sediments, which can attract dirt and grit.
KNOWING WHEN TO REMOVE THE JEWELRY
Since you now know that sweat can damage your expensive investment, you should avoid wearing them when you are doing heavy activities that are meant to make your sweat glands work harder. You should also avoid wearing them when you go into pools, wear makeup, apply lotions or creams etc.
It is thus smart to remove preferably all but especially hand jewelry like rings and bracelets, which will profusely be exposed to excessive sweating when working out.
A protective, transparent layer on top of your jewelry can go a long way in wading off a considerable amount of damage which sweat exposure can cause to your jewelry pieces. This layer should be such that it wades off contact of sweat to your jewelry, while not harming the jewelry itself in any way, such as by sticking, scratching etc.
A few useful strategies to get by achieving this are :
- JEWELRY PROTECTION SPRAYS : You can use jewelry sprays that form a protective layer on your item to prevent it from your body oils.
- CLEAR NAIL POLISH METHOD :Another cheaper and convenient option can be using a layer of clear and transparent nail polish on your piece. It also works as a defensive shield. But this doesn’t last long. You need to reapply it often.
REGULAR MAINTENANCE AND CLEAN-UP