Last Updated on November 14, 2023 by Ben
How do you know when your gold is tarnished? Tarnishing can be seen as a dark discoloration of the surface, also called a tarnish film. It’s easy to identify in most cases with the naked eye. Tarnish may be caused by the oxidation of sulfur in the air, but it doesn’t affect the value of your jewelry piece. Tarnish will not ruin your gold, and it can be restored to its original shine with some simple techniques.
What You Need to Know: Gold and Tarnishing
Why Does Gold Tarnish?
Gold, as a metal, is one of the least reactive elements in existence. Gold’s pure form does not rust or tarnish due to the fact that it reacts slowly with oxygen. This is why gold jewelry retains its shine so well. It is very unusual to come across genuine gold jewelry items when it comes to gold jewelry. Pure gold is soft; thus, it must be alloyed with other metals in order to become durable jewelry. The substances used to mix the gold are usually susceptible to tarnish. This is why if you don’t take care of your gold jewelry, it will begin to corrode.
If you want gold jewelry that won’t tarnish, seek higher-karat gold. 24 karat gold does not tarnish since it is totally pure gold, as opposed to lower-karat gold, which will tarnish over time. Jewelry with 14-18 karats of gold has a greater chance of tarnishing.
The popular belief that tarnishing indicates that gold jewelry isn’t genuine is one of the most common among consumers. This is not the case, as it only implies that the jewelry isn’t pure gold. The higher karat rating on gold indicates that fewer metals were combined with them. This is why lower karats tarnish more frequently. On the flip side, lower karat gold jewelry tarnishes at a slower rate than sterling silver, another popular choice in jewelry.
Why Use Gold Alloys?
Gold is a difficult metal to work with because it is very soft on its own. Despite their tendency to discolor over time, gold alloys provide the benefits of strengthening gold, generating a variety of hues, and lowering the value. The higher the gold content in an alloy, as measured by its Karat value, the longer it will take to discolor. Despite the fact that most gold alloys tarnish with time, careful maintenance and polishing may restore them to their former radiance.
Discoloration of Gold Alloys
Although the chemical makeup of gold will not discolor it, gold alloys will discolor at varying degrees depending on the mix. Gold is frequently alloyed with other elements in varying proportions to generate a variety of gold alloys. These metals have higher reactivity ratings than gold, so they discolor more rapidly. This reaction when metals are combined is known as displacement in chemistry.
Another chemical reaction that can cause discoloration in gold alloys is oxidation. When metal oxidizes, it loses electrons as a result of being exposed to oxygen. Because pure gold has low reactivity, it is extremely unlikely to oxidize, but the other metals in gold alloys will.
Common Causes of Tarnishing
The most frequent reason for tarnishing is the mixing of moisture and oxygen or sulfur compounds. Our bodies have different chemical makeups, which is why some people’s jewelry may tarnish more quickly or be prone to tarnishing than other persons’ jewelry. Another factor that contributes to the tarnishing of even higher gold karats, such as 14 or 18 karat jewelry, is prolonged exposure to high quantities of chemicals like perfume, hairspray, deodorants, and cleaning products like chlorine and detergents.
Foodstuffs with a lot of acidity or sulfur compounds can also cause your silverware to tarnish. Onions, fruit juices, spices, and pickled things are some foods that may contribute to discoloration.
Properties of Gold Jewelry
Pure gold is always 24 karat. If your item is less than 24 karats, it has been blended with other metals to make it more durable and hard. This isn’t always a negative. The more active your style of living, the less pure gold you’ll want in your jewelry. Gold is a delicate material that scratches easily, so adding ten or more parts alloy to it will extend its life.
Ways To Clean Tarnished Gold
Using Baking Soda
Baking soda is an effective cleaning substance. The mild alkali qualities of baking soda dissolve and remove dirt and grime efficiently. Baking soda may also be used as a mildly abrasive or scouring powder to help remove stubborn stains if left undissolved. This is non-hazardous and can be used on steel, glass, plastics, and gold. It’s not a good idea to use baking soda to clean precious stones in gold jewelry because it may damage them. To remove tarnish from golden jewelry, follow these steps:
- Boil Water: For the cleaning operation, you’ll need at least two cups of hot water.
- Get A Baking Dish: Cover a baking dish with aluminum foil. Place the shiny side up on the dish and arrange the foil in a flat layer over it. A glass baking dish is ideal because it can withstand high temperatures.
- Place The Gold In The Dish: Place your gold item on a foil-covered baking dish and evenly cover it with baking soda. Spread out and untangle the chain if the gold object is a necklace.
- Add Hot Water: Put boiling water into the pan until the baking soda is completely immersed in it. Allow it to soak for at least five minutes, but no more than ten. Otherwise, the hot water may cause adhesives and gemstones to melt and loosen from the jewelry. Because of the aluminum foil, you don’t have to stir the solution since the heated water, and baking soda will react on their own.
- Remove The Gold: Remove the gold from the hot water with tongs or any other instrument. Rinse it in cold water for 45 seconds while gently scrubbing it with your fingers. To stop the gold item from falling down the drain, place a sieve or colander in the sink.
- Dry It: Use a cloth to dry the gold and remove any baking soda residues. While polishing the item, make sure the cloth is kept between your fingers and the gold’s surface. Allow the gold item to air-dry for five to ten minutes before putting it on or storing it after cleaning it with baking soda.
If the gold item is very filthy, add one tablespoon of salt to the hot water to assist loosen it.
Using Dish Soap
Another effective approach to clean tarnished gold is with a mild dish soap. Avoid strong detergents, especially those that include phosphates and strange chemicals. If the purity of your gold jewelry is insufficient, a powerful detergent might be excessively abrasive and damage the jewelry permanently.
Here’s how to remove tarnished gold with a dish soap:
- Add Dish Soap To Warm Water: Fill a basin halfway with warm water (about one to two cups) and a few drops of mild dish soap.
- Soak The Gold: Soak your gold in the water and soap solution for 15 minutes. The dirt will be softened by the soaking, making it simpler to remove as you scrub it.
If the gold item contains stones, the hot soap-water solution may dissolve the glue. The item should be soaked for no longer than a couple of minutes to avoid this sort of damage.
- Scrub The Gold: Take the gold from the soapy water and use a soft-bristle toothbrush to scrub it. Apply a firm back-and-forth motion, but avoid being too forceful with delicate things. Scratching or abrasion damage to the item’s surface may be caused by rough cleaning, whereas knocking out the linked gems as possible.
To prevent your gold from tarnishing, avoid using abrasive materials like paper towels on it.
- Rinse The Item: After the cleaning, fill a tub with warm water and place the gold in it to clean off the soap. While rinsing, rub your thumb and forefinger over all surfaces of the item to ensure that all of the soap is removed. Any soap residue will leave the surface of the gold unclean.
After rinsing, be careful not to drop small jewelry pieces down the drain. While you wash the gold by hand, a sieve or colander acts as a barrier.
- Dry The Gold: Use a soft cloth to dry the gold. If you are not thorough, water stains will appear in the light, which will damage the gold’s appearance. Leave the gold item to air dry after drying it with a cloth before putting it away.
Ammonia is a colorless, manufactured chemical that includes nitrogen and hydrogen. When used correctly, ammonia is a safe way to get rid of dirt from gold surfaces. Because ammonia might irritate the skin, keep in mind to use gloves when working with it.
Follow these steps to restore your tarnished gold:
- Mix Water, Soap, And Ammonia: Place a cup of warm water in a container and add one teaspoon of mild soap. Stir the contents until the soap is diluted. Then, slowly pour half a teaspoon of ammonia into the mix while stirring. Ammonia has a strong odor that might irritate your throat, so working in a well-ventilated area is preferable. To avoid breathing dangerous fumes, you may also wear a mask.
- Submerge The Gold: Leave the gold item in the ammonia, water, and soap combination for no more than ten seconds.
- Scrub The Gold: Using gloves or tongs, remove the item from the solution, keeping your hands gloved to protect them while handling the gold. Hold the object firmly and scrub it with a soft-bristled toothbrush at arm’s length to prevent the solution from spraying back into your eyes or face.
Continue to clean the tarnished areas until they’re clean.
- Rinse With Cold Water: Place the item in a strainer or sieve and rinse it thoroughly with cold water.
- Wash With Soap: Scrub the piece with mild soap and a soft brush to ensure that no surface is missed. Any remaining ammonia will be removed, which could harm you or the gold.
Rinse the gold with warm water before drying it with a soft towel after washing. Allow the gold to air dry for ten minutes before wearing or storing it.
Ammonia is a hazardous substance. Before storing any of the objects you used during the cleaning process, wash and rinse them thoroughly to eliminate the chemical. Even if you plan to put your items in the dishwasher, you’ll need to clean and rinse them first to remove the chemical.
How to Prevent Gold Tarnishing
If you want your precious metals to retain their luster, you must pay attention to the little things. Here are some ways to preserve your gold from tarnishing:
- Keep it Dry: Because moisture from water, perspiration and other liquids speeds up tarnishing, dry your gold as soon as possible after use and never let it get wet.
- Proper Storage: You should keep your gold in a dry container that will not tarnish if exposed to direct sunlight, which can cause it to corrode. For example, you may store it in a fabric pouch, which keeps both moisture and light out. The velvet bag may then be kept inside an airtight Ziploc bag or a plastic container.
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- Protectant Spray: Protectant sprays act like a barrier, shielding your gold surfaces from pollutants. However, be cautious about the protectant spray you use. Some chemicals can induce skin irritation, rashes, or other undesirable side effects if you put on sprayed gold jewelry after using them.
Gold is a durable and beautiful metal, but it can easily get tarnished if not cared for properly. To avoid this from happening, ensure to dry your gold thoroughly before storing or using it again. You should also take care when cleaning your jewelry; the wrong soap might cause scratches that will ruin your piece completely!