With proper care and cleaning, gold jewelry will last a lifetime. To help you keep your jewelry in sparkling shape, we’ve created this comprehensive guide to caring for gold jewelry. Read on to discover how to clean gold jewelry, how to avoid accidentally damaging gold pieces, how to store gold jewelry safely, and what you should know about caring for different types of gold.
How to Clean Your Gold Jewelry
With regular wear, gold jewelry can start looking dull as things like dirt, grime, perspiration, and skin oils build up over time. To restore your gold jewelry’s shine, follow our simple at-home cleaning method whenever your jewelry’s looking lackluster. To deep clean and protect the structural integrity of your gold jewelry, you should also take frequently-worn pieces in for a professional cleaning around once a year.
How To Clean Your Gold Jewelry At Home
To clean gold jewelry safely at home, use the gentle soap and water cleaning method outlined below.
- Step 1: Create a Gentle Cleaning Solution. Fill a small bowl with lukewarm water, add a few drops of dish soap, and mix to combine.
- Step 2: Soak Your Jewelry. Place your jewelry in your bowl of soapy water and allow to soak for 20 to 40 minutes.
- Step 3: Gently Clean Your Jewelry. Remove your jewelry from your bowl and gently clean it with a new soft bristled toothbrush.
- Step 4: Rinse Your Jewelry. Rinse your jewelry in a bowl of warm water or under running warm water.
- Step 5: Dry Your Jewelry. Dry your jewelry with a soft cloth or allow it to air dry. Once your jewelry is dry, you can gently polish it with a polishing cloth if you like.
- Step 6: Repeat If Necessary. If your gold jewelry still looks dirty or lacks luster, repeat steps 1 through 5 as needed.
To avoid damaging or losing your jewelry when you clean it at home, be mindful of these tips:
- Don’t use any harsh, acidic, or abrasive cleaners on gold jewelry, as they can easily damage or scratch it.
- Think carefully before using at-home jewelry cleaning machines, like ultrasonic jewelry cleaners. They may get gold jewelry clean, but they can also be excessively harsh, which can cause scratches or even structural damage.
- Only use very soft cloths to dry or polish your gold jewelry. Even slightly rough cloths, such as paper towels or tissues, can be rough enough to scratch gold.
- If you’re going to be cleaning your jewelry near any drains, be sure to close them. You don’t want to have to call a plumber because you lost an earring or a ring in your sink’s drain.
- If you just want to sanitize your gold jewelry, it’s okay to use rubbing alcohol as long as your jewelry doesn’t contain any fragile gemstones. But remember not to use any sanitizing chemicals that can harm gold, like anything that contains bleach or chlorine.
- If you can’t get your jewelry as clean as you want at home, head to the jewelers for a professional cleaning. Avoid the temptation to aggressively scrub your gold jewelry or use harsh chemical cleaners on it, since this can seriously harm your jewelry. A professional can deep clean your jewelry without damaging it.
Why Your Gold Jewelry Needs Regular Professional Cleaning
A jeweler can deeply clean your gold jewelry, restoring its shine and making it look as beautiful as it did the day you bought it. Then, perhaps even more importantly, a jeweler can also check your gold jewelry’s structural integrity when you bring it in to be cleaned.
Over time, gold jewelry settings, chains, and closures may start to become less secure. This is something you may not even notice. For example, perhaps your prong settings got snagged on your clothing one too many times and now they’re getting loose, putting you at risk of losing a stone. But if you take your gold jewelry in for regular cleanings at a jewelry store, your jeweler will notice signs of damage and structural issues. By having your jewelry inspected from time-to-time, you can dramatically reduce your risk of losing a stone, breaking a chain, or experiencing a clasp malfunction.
How regularly should you have your jewelry professionally cleaned and inspected? Pieces you wear often should be professionally cleaned once a year. Everyday rings, like engagement rings and wedding bands, should be professionally cleaned every six months to a year. Then, infrequently worn jewelry can be professionally cleaned on an as-needed basis.
How to Avoid Accidentally Damaging Your Gold Jewelry
Gold jewelry is durable and resilient, but it’s not impervious to damage. Gold jewelry can be damaged by harsh chemicals, abrasive materials, and blunt force. To help you avoid these harmful elements, here are some daily wear tips:
- Avoid Chlorine At All Costs: Chlorine, commonly found in swimming pools and hot tubs, is terrible for gold jewelry. This chemical erodes the other metals in gold alloys, causing structural damage to gold jewelry. When you repeatedly expose gold jewelry to chlorine, it will become weakened to the point of breaking. So, always take off your jewelry before you take a dip in a pool or a hot tub.
- Avoid Salt Water and Sand: Unlike sterling silver jewelry, yellow gold and white gold jewelry doesn’t start tarnishing in salt water. However, salt water can quickly corrode copper, which is found in rose gold, so you should keep rose gold jewelry away from salt water. It’s generally a good idea to keep other gold jewelry out of salt water as well, since salt can be abrasive. The same goes for sand, which can easily scratch gold jewelry.
- Cover or Remove Gold Jewelry When You Clean: Household cleaning products often contain acidic or abrasive compounds that can damage gold jewelry. Some examples of cleaning product ingredients that can harm gold include bleach, chlorine, vinegar, baking soda, fluorine, ground quartz, and witch hazel. (Yes, even natural cleaners can be too harsh for your gold jewelry due to acidity or abrasion.) So, whenever you use household cleaners, you should either cover or remove your gold jewelry. If you don’t want to take off your gold rings every time you clean, use rubber gloves to keep your jewelry protected.
- Take Off Gold Jewelry Before Being Active: Gold is a relatively soft metal, which makes it susceptible to scratching and denting. If you want to keep your gold jewelry lustrous and smooth, you need to keep it out of situations where it can easily get scratched or dented. Take off your gold jewelry before engaging in more active pastimes, such as exercising, playing sports, or doing yard work.
- Put Your Gold Jewelry on Last: Cosmetic products like hairspray, lotions, and perfumes can contain compounds that can harm your jewelry. That’s why it’s a good idea to always put your gold jewelry on last, after you’ve done your hair and makeup. It’s also best to take off your gold jewelry when showering or bathing, since bath products can be acidic or abrasive. On top of that, bath and shower products often contain moisturizing ingredients that can stick to and build up on your jewelry, making it look dirty faster.
How to Store Your Gold Jewelry
To store gold jewelry safely, tuck it away in a secure, cool, dry, dark, and soft place, and place each gold piece in its own area. Heat, moisture, and light can all damage precious metals and gemstones, which is why it’s best to store your gold pieces in a cool, dry, and dark place. Choosing a soft storage solution is important because gold is soft for a metal. Therefore, it’s best to keep gold jewelry away from harder materials that could scratch or dent it. This includes hard gemstones on other jewelry pieces. For instance, diamonds and sapphires can easily scratch gold. That’s why it's ideal to place each gold piece of jewelry in its own area, where it can’t bump up against other pieces in your collection.
Some examples of jewelry storage solutions that are cool, dry, dark, soft, and separated include fabric-lined jewelry boxes and soft fabric jewelry pouches. If you don’t have either of these options, you can also try individually wrapping up gold pieces in small soft cloths, like glasses cleaning cloths or phone screen cleaning cloths.
Special Care Tips For Different Types of Gold
Understanding Gold Alloys and Gold Karat
Pure gold is a rather soft metal, so most gold jewelry isn’t made of pure gold. Instead, gold jewelry is usually made of a gold alloy, which is pure gold that has been mixed with other metals for strength. Pure gold is 24 karat gold, while gold alloys will have a lower karat that can tell you how much of the alloy is pure gold. For example, 18 karat gold is 75% pure gold, 14 karat gold is 58.3% pure gold, and 10 karat gold is 41.7% pure gold. Higher karat gold alloys will be more golden in color, but will be weaker compared to lower karat gold alloys. So, you may prefer one karat over another depending on what you’re looking for in terms of purity, color, and durability.
Common Gold Alloys
Gold alloys can feature different secondary metals, which creates alloys with different properties and appearances. There are three very common gold alloys:
- Yellow Gold: Yellow gold is made of pure gold and one or more stronger metals, such as copper, zinc, silver, or nickel. Yellow gold is golden yellow in appearance. Higher karat yellow gold alloys are richer in color compared to lower karat yellow gold alloys.
- White Gold: White gold is made of pure gold and one or more white metals, such as platinum, palladium, nickel, or zinc. White gold is often plated in the highly shiny white metal rhodium, since unplated white gold has a slight yellow tint due to its pure gold content.
- Rose Gold: Rose gold is made of pure gold and copper, and may also contain white metals such as silver. Rose gold is pinkish gold in appearance. Higher karat rose gold will look rosy but lean more gold, while lower karat rose gold will have a richer pink-gold or coppery gold color.
How to Care for Different Types of Gold Jewelry
The care and cleaning tips we share above all apply to yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold. However, white gold and rose gold also have special care requirements:
- Special Care for White Gold: White gold jewelry is commonly plated in rhodium, a bright white, shiny metal. Rhodium gives white gold a beautiful finish, but it’s a coating that will wear off over time. When rhodium plating starts wearing off, your white gold jewelry can start looking a bit yellow. That’s perfectly normal, since white gold has a yellow tint due to its pure gold content. But if you want to restore a bright white, shiny look to your white gold jewelry, you’ll need to occasionally have it re-plated in rhodium by a jeweler.
- Special Care for Rose Gold: Rose gold contains a high amount of copper. Copper is a very strong metal, which makes rose gold the most durable gold alloy. Yet, copper also causes rose gold to develop a patina over time, which you may or may not like. A patina occurs when copper oxidizes and creates an antique-looking coating on the outside of rose gold. Many people love the vintage effect a patina can add to a piece of jewelry. However, if you don’t like having a patina on your rose gold jewelry, it’s easy to remove. Just take your jewelry for a professional cleaning and ask them to polish off the patina when they clean your jewelry.