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How To Clean Gold Jewellery

Whether it’s something you wear every day or that special occasion piece, there’s nothing worse than noticing your favourite gold jewellery starting to tarnish.  With the shine starting to fade and the gemstones losing their sparkle it's not long before your once favourite accessory is pushed to the back of a drawer.  But don’t worry, we won’t let that happen. With a little patience and some expert knowledge, we can revive your gold necklace, bracelet or ring back to its former glory in no time.

Did You Know?

Pure gold does not tarnish.  So why is my gold going dull or turning black then, I hear you ask?  Well, this is more than likely because the jewellery you own is not pure 24 karat gold.  Gold in its pure form is extremely soft and also expensive, therefore it is often mixed with other metals to give it a more durable finish and affordable price tag.  Common components are copper, nickel and zinc thanks to their long-lasting properties, which, when combined with 24 karat gold, gives us the variations of gold that we are familiar with such as 18 karats, 14 karats and 9 karats.

Karat vs Carat - What’s the Difference?

The same, but different, so what's the deal.  As a jeweller, we are quite often asked this question, so if you have ever wondered what the difference is, you’re not alone.  Karat refers to the purity of gold whereas carat is used to measure the weight of diamonds and other gemstones.

How is each karat defined and how does this affect the cleaning process?  

OK, let's start at the top.  24 karat gold is 100% pure gold with nothing added.  The variations of gold occur when another metal is combined, therefore diluting its purity.  Here’s a quick breakdown of how it works:

  • 22 karat gold - 22 parts gold, 2 parts other.

  • 18 karat gold - 18 parts gold, 6 parts other.

  • 9 karat gold -  9 parts gold, 15 parts other.

So, as you can see, the lower the karat, the less gold is actually in it.  This, therefore, has a knock on effect when it comes to caring for your gold as a lower the karat, the more likely it is to tarnish due to the higher levels of other materials.  This could mean that you feel the need to clean 9 karat gold more than an 18 karat gold to maintain the same shine.

What Causes Gold to Tarnish?

A fantastic question.  When gold is exposed to oxygen, sulphur and moisture in the air, a chemical reaction takes place which causes a dull film to coat the surface of your jewellery, and without proper care, will eventually turn black, meaning your once favourite piece will soon lose its appeal.  Other factors that contribute to tarnishing include soaps, moisturiser, perfume, aftershave, makeup, hot tubs and even swimming pools due to the chemicals used within them. Therefore in order to reduce the likelihood of tarnishing we recommend removing all jewellery before showering, swimming and applying cosmetic items.  

How to Clean Gold Jewellery?

So now we know why your gold jewellery has lost its shine, let's talk about getting it back with a few simple techniques using household items you probably already own in your kitchen cupboards!

Warm Soapy Water

An oldy but a goody, this simple approach requires very little preparation for quick and easy results.  Simply add washing up liquid to warm water and add your jewellery to the mixture. Let it soak for up to 30 minutes then transfer to another bowl of warm water to rinse thoroughly.  Using a soft toothbrush gently scrub away any dirt that should now be loosened. Once you are happy all dirt has been removed, give it one last rinse in warm water and voilà, your gold will shine like the day you bought it.  

Warm Water and Ammonia

OK, so ammonia you may not have in your kitchen cupboard but it’s relatively cheap to buy and will certainly have the desired effect to bring your gold back to life if the warm soapy water technique didn’t quite cut it.  This is particularly effective on heavily tarnished items or those with stubborn dirt areas. To get started, mix a little ammonia in with warm water and allow your gold jewellery to rest in the mixture for up to 10 minutes.  As above, use a soft brush to remove any dirt, rinse thoroughly and your gold should now be gleaming.

Note:  Ammonia is not recommended on jewellery with pearls or gemstones. Instead, we advise repeating the warm soapy water technique in order to avoid any damage.

For more information on how to prevent tarnishing or how to clean other metals, please see our how to clean silver jewellery blog.