Gold jewelry has been hugely popular for thousands of years worldwide and continues to be precious and cherished in the modern era. Beautiful, valuable, and significant gold jewelry items are often presented to us as unique gifts or meaningful items, representing loving bonds and special unions, so it’s only natural that people want to take care of these items as effectively as they can.
When it comes to looking after gold jewelry, one of the most common questions that come up time and time again is “Does gold tarnish?” and when we ask a question like “Does white gold tarnish?” or “Does rose gold tarnish?”, we’re basically asking if the item will lose its shine and luster, becoming more dull and lifeless over time due to exposure to the air and elements. This guide will answer those questions and more.
Pure gold does not tarnish, but gold jewelry is an alloy. depending on the percentage of other metals mixed with the gold, there is a chance for tarnish, the lower number of karats, the more likely it will be that tarnishing occurs;
What Causes Gold to Tarnish?
So does gold tarnish? Well, the answer is that it depends on the gold purity. Gold itself is actually not a very reactive element, and if you get an item of pure gold jewelry or one that contains 24 karats, it won’t tarnish because gold on its own stays shiny and shimmering.
However, the matter is that it’s quite rare to find pure gold or a 24k piece of jewelry, as gold is often alloyed with other metals like silver, platinum, nickel, and others to make it stronger and more durable for the purposes of jewelry production. When you start to add in other metals, all of which are more reactive than gold, the risk of tarnishing starts to increase.
It’s quite rare to find pure gold (24 karats) jewelry. most gold jewelry made from 18, 14 or 10 karats.
In general, the rule to follow is that the lower number of karats, the more likely it will be that tarnishing occurs; so an item of 18 or 22 karats might not show too much tarnishing, but a gold ring of just 10 or 14 karats will tarnish more easily and quickly. This happens due to the metals in the jewelry reacting with oxygen and moisture in the air.
What Does Tarnished Gold Look Like?
If you have some gold jewelry items and want to find out if the tarnishing process has already occurred, take a closer look at them. Usually, tarnished gold is slightly discolored, appearing a little darker than it once did, and doesn’t quite have the same shine or brightness as a tarnish film develops around the outside.
Does Gold Filled Tarnish?
As well as asking about whether or not gold jewelry of different types tarnishes, many people ask, “Does gold plated tarnish?” as it’s also possible to buy items of jewelry that are simply plated or covered with thin layers of gold, rather than being made of gold entirely.
One of the most common options is gold-filled. Unlike real gold jewelry, gold-filled jewelry items are made in layers, with a central foundation usually made of brass and then an outer layer of gold covering the brass and giving the item a more attractive appearance.
Gold-filled is a more robust alternative to standard gold-plating, and one of the best aspects of all is that it is strong enough to resist tarnishing. Tarnishing can sometimes occur with gold-filled jewelry, but it’s very rare, and most items will be able to last years and years without losing their luster or darkening in any way.
How to Prevent Gold from Tarnishing
Nobody wants to see their gold jewelry tarnish over time, so here are a few things you can do to prevent the process:
- Make sure to always remove your gold jewelry, like necklaces and rings, before washing your hands or taking a shower.
- If your personalized jewelry gets wet, perhaps due to exposure to rain outside, try to help it dry off as quickly as possible by getting indoors, and consider wearing gloves or other accessories to cover up gold items on rainy days.
- Store gold items in their own compartments of your jewelry box to prevent them from rubbing alongside other items, and add a silica gel packet to absorb moisture and keep the box nice and dry.
How to Treat Tarnished Gold Jewelry
If your gold jewelry has already tarnished, there’s no need to panic, as there are ways to bring the original color back. In mild cases, you may be able to simply use a gentle soap and warm water to clean it away with care and then bring back the shine with a polishing cloth. If the situation is more complicated or you prefer to let someone with more experience clean your jewelry for you, visit a professional jeweler instead.