How the Dead Sea dress changed colors and captivated the world

Dead sea salt dress

Photo via smaltost/Instagram (CC-BY)

The science behind the art sensation created and photographed by Sigalit Landau.

The world is abuzz with news of this dress, lifted from the Dead Sea and encrusted with white crystals of salt.

As part of a series on salt, Israeli artist Sigalit Landau submerged the dress into the super-salty Dead Sea. The dress was originally black—a replica of the dress worn by an actress playing a haunted woman in a Hasidic Jewish ghost story. In the story, the woman is possessed after her husband-to-be dies before they can wed, according to Live Science.

But there’s nothing supernatural about how this dress transformed from black to white—it’s just chemistry.

The Dead Sea is known for its hypersalinity—it was measured at 34.2 percent salinity in 2011. For comparison, your average glug of ocean water is only 3.5 percent salinity.

When salts are dissolved in very salty solutions, they want to crystalize out of the solution. But they need something to latch onto first—another bit of salt to act as a seed for the crystals to grow. The dress acted as that seed, bringing a few bits of salt out of solution first. Then, over about two months, the crystals grew and grew into the salty dress that came out of the ocean in 2014.

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Now, photos of the Small Salt Bride dress are on display at the Marlborough Contemporary museum in London, England. You can get a glimpse of the eight shots taken underwater up close and personal from now until Sept. 3.
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