Do chlorinated pools affect 14K gold?

Help!! I have been having all kinds of problems with my 14K gold
diamond and sapphire engagement ring! Prongs keep breaking, stones
have been getting lost! The ring I am currently wearing is my THIRD
replacement! My question is this: Does chorine affect gold so that
it becomes weak or brittle and breaks easily? I am the Aquatics
Director at a local college, and am in chlorinated water about 20
hours a week. could the chlorine be affecting the gold? I have asked
several jewelers and have received varying answers. Thought I would
post here to get your ideas on the matter. Thanks!!

Hello, It’s been my experience that chlorine will have a negative
effect on gold. I made a ring years ago. This piece kept returning
time and time again for prong work. The tips kept breaking off.
Finally the customer said the stone fell out while she was swimming
in the Y pool. I was informed that she swam daily with her ring on.
I changed the head, at no cost to her, and advised her not to swim
with the ring on. From that point on, no problems with the piece.

Good luck,

Hello Julie; Yes, chlorine is detrimental to gold alloys, especially
white gold nickel alloys. When the prongs are notched to fit the
girdle of the stone, the metal is opened up allowing corrosives to
creep along the grain boundaries. What you are probably experiencing
is called “prong shear” and is common with nickel white gold heads.
Palladium white gold heads are less susceptible to that problem, but
usually the heat of soldering them softens them too much to my
liking. Platinum heads are the best, but they are considerably more
expensive. My suggestion, take off the jewelry before going in the
pool or else spring for the platinum. Chlorine also has a tendency
to discolor 14K yellow gold, causing it to darken. Leave your
jewelry in strong enough chlorine long enough, you’ll come back to
find some only some smut and a few stones.

David L. Huffman

Hi Julie, If your prongs are white gold, the answer is absolutely
yes. The chlorine attacks the nickel in the white gold alloy, thus
weakening the prongs until they eventually break. The solution would
be to have them redone in yellow gold or a palladium white gold
alloy, or take the ring offn when you are in the water. Good luck!


Julie, Yes, chlorine (and bromine, also sometimes used in po=
can and will affect gold causing a condition called stress corrosion.
There is a chemical reation taking place at the microscopic grain
boundries in the alloy which changes the metals into their chlorine
(or bromine salts) and thus weakens the the bonds between them thus
allowing easy breakage of the metal. White gold is more readily
damaged by these two chemicals than is yellow gold ( I believe due to
the nickle content in white gold) and areas where the metal was
stessed (prongs due to bending during setting) are affected more than
unstressed areas. There is a good article about this very problem in
the Stuller Metals Book catalogue. My suggestion is to keep your ring
off when ever working around the chlrorine or when in the water. This
advice is equally applicable to hot tub use and care. The damage is
mostly irreversible. I’ve had a couple succesful attempts at
reversing the process; but nothing fully repeatable to date. Paul D.

Yes indeed! Chlorinated water does exactly what you are experiencing
with your ring. It’s a sad commentary on the lack of professionalism
on the part of the jewelers you have asked that they didn’t know
this . Best keep the ring in your locker while you’re in the pool.

Jerry in Kodiak

Yes it is called stress crack corrosion it affects mostly white
golds at points of high stress like the bent over area of a prong
setting. The chlorine causes the area between the gold crystals to
crack and can result in the prong tip breaking off and the loss of a
stone. Try switching to platinum settings or don’t where the ring in
a high chlorine environment.

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160

Member of the Better Business Bureau

Chlorine will etch out the nickel from white gold alloys causing
significant weakness. This is especially a problem for prongs since
there is already a great deal of stress placed on the metal from
bending the prongs over the stone.

I have never actually seen this occur in my career as a jeweler, but
I have heard of it happening from some of my jeweler friends. It
sounds like you are a classic case.

There are things you can do. The least expensive solution is to not
wear your jewelry in the pool. If that is not an option, have your
jeweler install heads that are made of palladium white gold.
Palladium is not affected by chlorine. Better yet, have them
replace them with platinum; it’s the best metal for setting diamonds
by far!

Happy swimming,

Larry Seiger
JA Certified Master Bench Jeweler

   My question is this:  Does chorine affect gold so that it
becomes weak or brittle and breaks easily? 

Julie, There is a laymans term called, ‘stress corrosion cracking’
that plagues a variety of metals, such as brass, stainless steel and
karat gold.It results when the metal is subject to both: tensile
(pulling) stress such as prong setting, and a specific corrosive
environment such as chlorine. Under these conditions the grain
boundaries between metal ‘crystals’ are attacked, sometimes resulting
in dramatic cracks. Rings set with stones are particularly vunerable
since the prongs holding the stones are necessarily under stress.As
the prong is pushed over the stone it is in a state of tensil
(pulling) stress. .Annealing can help somewhat, jewelry such as an
annealed wedding band are less susceptible. Karat gold is highly
sensititve to liquids containing chlorine.Swimming pools, hot tubs
and household laundry bleach should be carefully avoided. I once had
a customer that wanted to clean her rings at home, and used chlorine
bleach! The results was jewelry that could be broken apart by hand.
The gold could be refined, as the bleach didn’t actually ‘eat’ the
pure gold…just the alloys in karat gold. Living on the coast in a
vacation destination, I’ve seen this often due to all the swiming
pools at the resorts, and people like yourself that exercise in
pools…sorry for the bad news, but your jewelry should be
removed,( or annealed for a test),OR set stones in platinum. Hope this
helps, Thomas Blair Island Gold Works in the pool in Hilton Head SC Newly redone web site!

Julie, Yes, chlorine does affect gold. There was a technical article
about this many years ago in a publication called Aurum, published by
the World Gold Council. I had a customer come to me with a fairly new
wedding band that had cracked and broken into three pieces. She had
been washing the decks of a boat using chlorine bleach with her bare
hands. I have also seen similar scenarios with people who spend a lot
of time in chlorinated pools. Joel

Joel Schwalb

  My question is this:  Does chorine affect gold so that it becomes
weak or brittle and breaks easily?  I am the Aquatics Director at a
local college, and am in chlorinated water about 20 hours a week.
could the chlorine be affecting the gold? 

Chlorine is most certainly your problem. there are, in the main,
two chemical families that dissolve gold alloys. one is cyanides.
The other is chlorine chemistry. normally, to quickly dissolve gold,
a mix of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid is used. The gold
dissolves to form gold chloride. In straight chlorine gas, the
reaction is slower. in chlorinated water, the gold itself isn’t
being strongly affected in the alloy, but in the case of white gold
especiailly, but also karat yellow golds, the alloying elements,
especially nickel, as well as the zones between crystals in the metal
structure, are attacked. The result is micro cracks, weak and
brittle metal, and experiences exactly as you describe. There are
really only two cures. one is to remake your ring in platinum, which
won’t be affected. The other is much easier. Stop wearing your ring
in the pool, girl! Even without the chemical interaction with the
gold, pools have lots of hard surfaces which can impact your stones
and rings, leading to damage like chipped stones, bent prongs, and
the like.

Hope that helps.
Peter Rowe

Dear Julie, There are two fairly common chemicals that attack karated
gold, or at least two that you could likely come in contact with, and
those are chlorine and mercury. The higher the concentration of
chlorine, the more it attacks the metal, and the more damage that can
occur. I tell my customers to never wear gold jewelry in pools, and
hair dressers to keep their jewelry out of the bleach when working on
a customer’s hair. The problem is actually fairly common.

I have only had two problems regarding mercury, and both were many
years ago and involved nurses and broken thermometers.


  Does chorine affect gold so that it becomes weak or brittle and
breaks easily? 

If your gold is 14K nickle white, the answer is a big YES. The
nickle is the issue. Check out the Hoover and Strong catalog for a
very good description of the problems. I have seen some severe
problems related to chlorine and white gold, the latest being a pair
of earrings I did for my daughter who decided that she was going to
start doing Women’s Triathlons.

She has been spending a lot of time in a pool doing laps for
training. The other day, after getting out of the pool, she felt
something on her neck, and found it was part of the ear nut for her
earring. Luckily , the stones and settings were still in place.
While the mountings them selves don’t look bad, I am going to
replace them because I know that prong failure is next.

I had a customer that decided to clean her ring by soaking it in
Clorox overnight. She had lost three stones between her house and
my store. You could pop off the prongs with your finger nail. She
had destroyed the ring. The only repair was to replace all of the
white gold mounts.

This is not an issue with palladium white or yellow gold, or
platinum. But chlorine and nickle white is quite a problem. It is
not just a pools and hot tubs issue, but household chemicals can be
a problem. Time, concentration, and heat are the variables.


 My question is this:  Does chorine affect gold so that it becomes
weak or brittle and breaks easily? 

Hi Julie! Absolutely! You’ve hit the nail on the head! Hoover and
Strong (metals supplier and refiner) did a study a couple years ago.
Even unheated pools have a detrimental effect, but heated pools and
especially hot tubs accelerate the deterioration… kind of like hot
pickle versus cold pickle. You should always remove gold jewelry
before entering the pool.

If you contact Hoover and Strong (Richmond, VA), they should be able
to provide you with a copy of the study.

P.S. If a repair customer is complaining about faulty repairs of
gold jewelry in the past, inquire about how frequently they wear
their gold into the pool. Could be a good chance to educate a
customer and earn their loyalty for life!

All the best,
Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Dear Julie: Not being a chemistry buff, I cannot explain how it
happens, but I do know that chlorine in pools make your gold brittle
and porous. The exact reaction can probably be explained by my
esteemed collegues on Orchid.

A jeweller friend of mine got sued because the stone fell out of a
ring she made. Turned out that the customer was swimming with the


Saeed Motiwala, G.G.
Karachi, Pakistan.

I’m sorry to hear about your troubles, if it helps you’re not
alone… I see about five to ten rings a year that have chlorine

The chlorine is actually eating the metals other than gold in your
14K. See pure gold isn’t affected, as I understand it, by chlorine.
Pure gold is 24K. Your ring is 14K, which means 14 parts gold and the
other 10 parts are something else. It’s that something else that the
chlorine is eating away. This creates pores or tiny cavities all
over the ring, which means that the gold is weaker or brittle.
Prongs will start to fall off, or get easily knocked off. Solder
joints will also break apart, and basically all Hell breaks loose.

You’re ring is in a bad place right now, and I wouldn’t trust it to
hold on to anymore stones. Stop wearing it, as you may loose your
center stone at any moment! If you’re really attached to this ring
it can be rebuilt with new heads and so on, but my advice is to
replace it and start fresh. Don’t wear your gold in the pool
anymore! If you absolutely need to wear your ring in the pool, make
the switch to Platinum. Like pure gold it won’t break down in the
chlorine, but unlike pure gold it’s hard enough to hold stones. In
fact Platinum will resist every type of wear alot better than any
karat gold.

Good luck, sorry about the bad news…


All, Obviously we all agree that chlorine is detrimental to white
gold, but I am surprised that no one mentioned the other common
source of chlorine contamination…salt !

Sodium chloride is even more pervasive in our environment than pool
chlorine. Indeed, we excrete salt with our own perspiration.
Furthermore, those of us who live by the ocean are constantly
enveloped by a mist of salt spray coming from the waves breaking
close by.

I have been doing a substantial repair business in this coastal
environment for the past sixteen years. Furthermore, many of my
customers are elderly women who attempt to keep fit by swimming
frequently at a nearby college pool. Broken white gold prongs DO
occur, but it is far more likely that a prong will be missing as a
result of prolonged wear…the kind of wear that results in the
prong tip becoming paper thin and eventually getting peeled back by

My general policy is to insist that white gold heads always have six
prongs in melee sizes and platinum in sizes where the diamond is
higher in value. Another thing that I sometimes do is solder a bit
of past solder on the new tips. Theoretically this may cause solder
to pentrate the interstices of the micro fissures so as to prevent
penetration of the contaminants.

Not everyone can afford platinum heads so it is up to the jeweler to
educate the customer on ways to avoid problems…the best way to
do this is to drive home the point that regular cleaning and
inspection by the jeweler may prevent losses. It is also important
for jewelers to keep a cool head on issues that can easily be blown
out of proportion. The fact is that with proper care and inspection
white gold heads can be used without undue fear. On the other hand
one must NEVER put a larger diamond in a four prong white
gold head. Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

  Does chorine affect gold so that it becomes weak or brittle and
breaks easily?  I am the Aquatics Director at a local college, and
am in chlorinated water about 20 hours a week. could the chlorine
be affecting the gold? 

Yes! Chlorine does affect the alloyed gold. In some cases it can
badly pit the gold, especially the solder joints. Copper and zinc,
for instance, are readily affected by chlorine.

In general, avoid exposing your jewelry to harsh chemicals such as
bleaches, deep cleaners, detergents, solvents, etc.


Hi Julie, Isn’t Orchid wonderful? It is so reassuring to see so many
other jewellers and expert metallurgists acknowledging chlorine
damage to low carat gold alloy jewellery. I too have had many
problems with chlorined pool-swimming, jewellery-wearing clients. I
wonder how many of the jewellers who recognized this corrosive factor
have had an equally vehement client who has blamed the jeweller for
the problem? The next time I have a client who blames me for her
chlorine corroded jewellery, I’ll thrust the sheaf of Orchid
printouts at her.

One other factor that makes jewellery more prone to this damage is
casting. The innate microscopic porosity of cast jewellery
exaccerbates the problem. Kind regards, Rex Steele Merten Down-Under.