Understanding How Sweat Tarnishes Precious Metals


Jewelry is the perfect statement piece or sentimental element for any type of outfit, whether it’s a new pair of earrings, your engagement ring, or a precious gemstone necklace. Some fitness enthusiasts and athletes even accessorize their workout clothes with favorites from their jewelry box!

If you’ve been thinking about wearing some of your favorite accessories to the gym or on a run, understanding how sweat tarnishes precious metals can help you pick the best candidates that will hold up the best against a tough workout.

Tarnishing Versus Corroding

Before you worry about the jewelry that you’ve already taken with you to the gym or the accessories that you’ve sweat in, it’s important to know what tarnish is compared to intense corrosion in this context.


Corrosion can happen in many different forms, from rust to tarnish. That being said, tarnish is a relatively harmless form of corrosion.

In fact, a layer of tarnish called patina protects some outdoor metal objects—such as copper roofing or décor—from further corrosion. The green patina you see coating the Statue of Liberty keeps her copper safe from even the harshest ocean spray!

The acidic nature of sweat accelerates the tarnishing process in silver jewelry—especially pieces that stick close to your body, such as rings or bracelets. Sterling silver, when tarnished, turns black or gray and can lose its luster. However, the jewelry isn’t lost. Clean silver tarnish with gentle soap, warm water, and a soft cloth or toothbrush, and it’ll sparkle just like new again.


If your jewelry is composed of silver or gold plating, be careful! The plate of precious metal is only a thin sheet wrapped around a base of cheaper metals—such as nickel, brass, or copper. This thin layer doesn’t stop the metal base from oxidizing and corroding due to sweat.

In this form, corrosion eats away at your jewelry from the inside while dissolving the layer of precious metal on the outside. This damage is permanent and will require repair or replacement. For this reason, precious metal-plated jewelry is less expensive than gold fill, sterling silver, and solid gold or platinum.

Precious Metals That Don’t Tarnish or Corrode

With the difference between tarnish and corrosion in mind, why do some athletes and gym-goers— assuming they know the dangers—wear their jewelry to competitions or workouts? Some precious metals can withstand sweat due to their low reactivity.

The materials listed below won’t react to sweat, and they rarely, if ever, tarnish.

  • Solid gold.
  • Solid platinum.
  • Gold fill.
  • Sterling silver.

It’s important to note that gold fill jewelry will rarely tarnish unless it’s exposed to a highly sulfuric environment. Gold fill jewelry bonds two to three layers of gold to a metal base. The gold fill is thicker than a gold plate and will protect the piece of jewelry for life.

After fully understanding how sweat tarnishes precious metals, you may think your jewelry is completely safe while you’re at the gym or getting exercise. Unfortunately, the more of a precious metal there is in an accessory, the softer it is and more vulnerable it is to bending or breaking—plus, you’ll still have the gemstone to worry about if there is one.

Be safe when you’re at the gym and place your precious jewelry in a LoveLocker workout ring holder. Whether you keep it near you or in a locker, your precious metal jewelry will stay safe from sweat, tarnish, corrosion, and dangerous gym equipment.

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