How do you clean a steel jewel? The most common answer is: don’t worry, it’s steel. Wrong. Although steel is a very resistant metal, steel jewelry can be damaged if they are not cleaned properly. Here is what you need to know about steel jewelry and what precautions you should use for their cleaning. But, first of all: what are the characteristics of steel jewelry? Why are they so widespread? And why is steel jewelry so popular?
The characteristics of steel
Steel is commonly used to make many different objects and this thanks to its characteristics. Steel is obtained from an alloy of iron and carbon (maximum 2%). But there are different types of steel, more or less soft or hard, according to the uses for which the metal is intended. These differences depend on small amounts of other elements that can be combined with the base material, iron. Among the elements that can be added to iron and carbon are nickel, vanadium, copper, tin, titanium and many others.
What kind of steel are the jewels made of?
Often the jewelry is made of 316L steel. It is a non-magnetic stainless steel alloy composed of iron and carbon (about 0.035%), chromium (16-18%), nickel (11-14%) and molybdenum (2-3%). This steel is designed to be corrosion-free and resistant to acids, but also to sea salt. The chemical resistance of this type of steel also makes it useful for medical applications, both instrumental and plant engineering.
How to clean steel jewelry
In short, steel does not rust and is resistant. So, does it have any weaknesses? Warning: when we talk about steel jewelry, we often talk about necklaces, bracelets or rings that are also made of steel. In short, it is necessary to distinguish between a jewel composed only of metal in its natural state and one that is finished, for example with PVD. This acronym stands for Physical Vapor Deposition and is a technology used to deposit thin metal films with elements such as zirconium, chromium and titanium. This treatment offers resistance to abrasion, scratching and corrosion. Usually the PVD coating is used to change the color of the steel jewel which can become, for example, gold or black.
Even if the PVD coating is quite resistant, the manufacturers recommend cleaning these jewels with a soft cloth moistened with water, without resorting to particularly aggressive detergents. This soft system is also recommended for gold or silver plated steel jewelry.
On the other hand, jewelry made of steel only, without other elements, can be cleaned in a different way. If you don’t have specific products at home, you can simply use a sponge or cloth soaked in white vinegar. Rub gently, so as not to deform the jewel and rinse in water. Lemon can be used as an alternative to vinegar.
If you are lazy, you can soak the jewel for a couple of hours in warm water and vinegar, or with a few drops of liquid soap. Then, rinse and dry with a paper towel, microfiber cloth or towel. Be careful, however, that the jewel does not have glued elements, which could become untied in prolonged contact with water. There are also those who use a more aggressive method, with hot water and sodium bicarbonate, if the jewel is particularly dirty, but you have to be careful.
Other methods for cleaning steel jewelry: as for gold jewelry, you can use a toothbrush and toothpaste, it works, even if steel will never suffer from cavities.
Allergies and steel
Speaking of steel jewelry: can they cause allergies? It’s very rare. But not impossible. Steel contains, as we have seen, a small amount of nickel, a metal that causes skin allergies in many women. This is why there are those who advertise nickel-free jewelry. But it is a definition that often does not correspond to reality, since stainless steel is an alloy that contains nickel. However, it depends on how much it contains. Nickel is used to make steel flexible and malleable, suitable for being transformed into jewelry. However, to be defined nickel free, a steel must release less than 2 micrograms per square centimeter of skin per week, i.e. 0.2 ug / cm2 / week (which is the official measure used in Europe to measure the safety limit for allergies. ) for jewelery in contact with the skin. Or it must be less than 0.5ug / cm2 / week for jewelry that penetrates the skin, for example, earrings or piercings.