Gold jewelry has been a symbol of wealth and status for thousands of years. The allure of gold began at nearly the same time as the beginning of civilization because of its durability, lustrous beauty, and the difficulty in mining and refining the element from the earth that contributed to its cost.
The amount of gold in jewelry can range from solid 24-karat to a thin layer of gold wash. Pure gold is 24 karats, a soft metal that is prone to scratching. You will often see jewelry marked as 14-karat and 10-karat. This is still "real gold", however, the gold has been mixed with other metals, or alloys, to increase its hardness and durability.
Since almost all jewelry is worn close to the skin where it can attract body oils, make-up, and soil, gold jewelry can lose its luster. Regular cleaning will keep it gleaming for decades.
How Often to Clean Gold Jewelry
The cleaning frequency of gold jewelry depends on how often it is worn. Gold does not tarnish easily like silver but frequent wearing and handling can leave it looking dull. Lower karat gold that contains a higher concentration of alloys will tarnish if exposed to excessive levels of chemicals like chlorine, alcohol, acids, and sulfur compounds.
Frequently worn jewelry should be clean at least monthly or more often if the finish begins to look dull.
A little preventative care will keep your gold gleaming much longer.
- Remove gold jewelry when cleaning with harsh chemicals like chlorine, acids, and sulfur compounds.
- Do not wear gold jewelry in a chlorinated pool or spa.
- Avoid exposing gold jewelry to hair sprays, make-up, and medicated lotions and creams.
- Remove gold jewelry when washing your hands or bathing to prevent soap scum from building up on the surface.
- Carefully store gold jewelry in separate compartments of a jewelry box to prevent items from scratching each other and dulling the finish.
What You Need
- Dishwashing liquid
- Warm water
- Soft-bristled brush
- Soft cotton cloth
- Small bowl
Mix the Cleaning Solution
Fill a small bowl (one large enough to hold the entire piece of gold jewelry) with warm water. Add a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid and swish to thoroughly mix in the soap.
It is best to clean only one or two pieces of gold jewelry at a time to limit scratching.
Add the gold jewelry and let it soak for at least 20 minutes. This will give the dishwashing liquid time to break down any grease on the surface.
Scrub If Needed
If the jewelry is highly carved or exceptionally dirty, you may need to give it a light scrubbing with a soft-bristled brush. This will remove embedded soil in any recessed areas.
An old, soft toothbrush is a handy tool for this task.
Rinse and Dry
After soaking, rinse the gold jewelry with plain water and use a soft, cotton cloth to buff the piece dry. Do not use a paper towel because the fibers could scratch the surface, especially on higher karat gold.
Worried your gold jewelry is permanently ruined? If your pieces are still dull or discolored after cleaning, you should take them to a professional jeweler. Never use toothpaste, baking soda, or a commercial metal cleaner on gold. The jeweler will know how to restore your piece to its original beauty.
How to Clean Mixed Metal and Embellished Gold Jewelry
Since all that glitters isn't always just gold, a great deal of gold jewelry is embellished with precious gemstones, pearls, enamel, or mixed with other metals like silver, platinum, and copper. Except for gold jewelry embellished with pearls (pearls should not be soaked), the dishwashing liquid and warm water solution is safe to use with all mixed elements jewelry.
How to Correct Cleaning MIstakes on Gold Jewelry
If you have accidentally used a silver polish or another cleaner that has left gold jewelry looking dull, it can be saved. Mix the dishwashing liquid and warm water solution and submerge the jewelry. Wait about five minutes and then use a soft cotton cloth to wipe away the film left by the silver polish. Return the jewelry to the cleaning solution to soak for another 15 minutes before rinsing and drying as recommended. When cleaning any mixed metal jewelry, always go with the least abrasive method to protect all of the components.