Gold jewelry is usually standard in most people’s jewelry collections. Most wedding and engagement rings are fashioned from gold metals, and it is popular to use in creating all types of jewelry due to the metal's durability. But just like any other metal, gold jewelry loses its shine over time due to the build-up of our own body oils and sweat, dirt, and any lotions, soaps, perfumes, or cosmetics that we wear.
Although gold jewelry doesn’t tarnish like silver jewelry, depending upon the gold karat it is made from, it can develop a brownish patina on the surface due to oxidation or the build-up of body oils, dirt, or cosmetics we use. Keeping your gold jewelry sparkling, shiny, and looking like new takes a little bit of work, and sometimes properly caring for gold jewelry can fall by the wayside. To extend the life of your favorite gold pieces, you need to be conscious as to how you store them, clean them, and wear them. But before you start cleaning your gold jewelry, you should know a little bit about the difference in karats so you wear it, and clean it properly.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOLD KARATS
If you understand the type of gold your jewelry is made of, you will know better how you should wear each piece and what you can do to prevent that brown patina from forming and keep your pieces sparkling.
So, what is a karat? The term “gold karat” refers to the percentage of gold in an alloy, which is a combination of two metals. Purer golds are too soft to wear every day, so all gold karats, except 24kt gold, are combined with another metal to make it strong enough to wear. Here is the breakdown of gold karats:
24 karat gold = 100% pure gold
18 karat gold = 75% pure gold and 25% other metals (usually copper and silver)
14 karat gold = 58% pure gold and 42% other metals (usually copper and silver)
10 karat gold = 41% pure gold and 59% other metals (usually copper and silver)
14 karat gold is the most popular gold metal used for jewelry due to the higher percentage of other metals in its makeup. This makes the metal more resistant to wear and tear because it’s the least soft option. Jewelry made from 18 karat and 24 karat gold is softer and can scratch easier. If you have jewelry made from either of these metals you need to be extra careful in how you wear them.
CARING FOR AND CLEANING YOUR GOLD JEWELRY
So here are some of my top tips to care for and clean gold jewelry and prevent it from forming that brown patina.
LAST THING ON, FIRST THING OFF
Before you put on any jewelry, do so after you have applied any moisturizers, make-up, perfume, or even hair products since these all contain chemicals that can leave a coating on your gold jewelry. Additionally, you will want to take it off before you go to bed as well so you don’t accidentally get it tangled in your hair, clothes, or bedding.
BEWARE OF CHLORINE
Chlorine is tough on both silver and gold jewelry. Most water contains various amounts of chlorine, especially water in swimming pools and hot tubs. Chlorine can oxidize gold jewelry over time, and it can sometimes cause pits to appear on the surface of the metal. To help maintain the shine of your gold jewelry try to avoid exposing it to water, such as when washing the dishes, taking a shower, or swimming.
STORE IT THE RIGHT WAY
When it comes to storing your gold jewelry, it’s best to store your pieces in a flannel or cloth-lined jewelry box. And try to leave a little room between pieces to prevent the pieces from scratching each other and prevent them from becoming tangled.
Gold jewelry is not like silver jewelry which tarnishes quickly, so you may not have to polish it as often. You don’t have to clean it unless you notice your gold jewelry’s shine becoming dull, and this is usually due to dirt and oils that begin to coat the jewelry and that get caught in the crevices, such as in the links of a chain, underneath rings, and even on the back of earrings. To help maintain its original shine, you should clean your jewelry with a quick soak in some warm water with a little drop or two of gentle dish soap. By mildly cleaning your gold jewelry this way, you will also help keep your pieces from tarnishing. And here’s how you do it:
- Add some warm water (not hot water) and a drop or two of mild dish detergent (Dawn dish soap works well) into a bowl. Swirl it together so the soap and water mix.
- Put your jewelry in and let it soak for about 5-10 minutes.
- Take an old soft toothbrush (you don’t want anything too abrasive) and lightly brush the jewelry. Get into the crevices in any chains, and especially the back of rings, earrings, and bracelets, to loosen any dirt or oils.
- Rinse well, and dry with a soft cloth. Let air dry for about 10-15 minutes.
- If you still notice any tarnished spots, gently rub them with a jewelry polishing cloth (my favorite is a Sunshine Polishing Cloth.)
HOW TO CLEAN GOLD JEWELRY WITH A BROWN PATINA THAT WON’T COME OFF
Sometimes a brown patina can form on gold jewelry that is not that very easy to remove on your own – even with a jewelry polishing cloth. For pieces like this, it is best to bring them to a jeweler for professional cleaning. And in most cases, the jeweler will also check for any loose prongs or settings, cracked gemstones, or any other parts that might need to be repaired or replaced. This is not a bad idea to have this done to your most cherished pieces every year or two, especially if you wear these pieces all the time.
CAUTION ABOUT STONES AND PEARLS
Gold jewelry set with certain gemstones and pearls should not be soaked in this soap and water bath because it could damage the stone. Soft gemstones such as emeralds, pearls, turquoise, lapis lazuli, malachite, mother-of-pearl, abalone, and opals can be cleaned with a soft damp cloth to remove any dirt and oils and then dried immediately. Protect the stones by covering them with a clean piece of cloth and clean the rest of the metal with a soft toothbrush dipped in the soap and water mixture. Then rinse the metal and dry using a soft cloth. You can use a polishing cloth on these pieces, but avoid touching the stones.
Taking a few preventative steps in how you care for and clean your gold jewelry will make all the difference in how long its shine will last, and make it look like new every time you wear it.