We all have our favorite, most-worn pieces of jewelry. From necklaces to rings to earrings, they add a final touch unlike any other accessory. When your staple pieces get dull, you’ll want to keep your jewelry in tip-top shape, and certain materials like gold need gentle cleaning.
Gold is a precious natural metal that’s a lustrous, deep orange-yellow in its pure form. It’s one of the most popular metals used in jewelry and alloyed with other precious and non-precious metals for strength and durability. For example, white gold is alloyed with nickel,
, palladium, and/or silver, while rose gold is alloyed with copper.
Most people in the United States have 10-karat, 14-karat, or 18-karat gold jewelry, or vermeil or gold-plated fashion jewelry, according to Madeline Fraser, the founder and CEO of Gemist.
If you’re unsure what kind of gold you have, the metal karat will be stamped on the jewelry, usually in an inconspicuous spot. It can be hard to see without magnification, but a jeweler can use a loupe to see the stamp.
When to clean gold jewelry
Any jewelry worn regularly should also be cleaned regularly. Fraser recommends a gentle weekly cleaning and deep cleaning after exposure to serious dirt, debris, or chemicals. Special occasion jewelry should be inspected after each wear for dirt, smudges, or damage. It only needs cleaning if it appears dirty.
“Gold can withstand gentle frequent cleaning, which keeps it free from dust, oil, fingerprints, and chemical buildup,” Fraser says. This helps extend the life of the jewelry and keeps it looking shiny and new.
Cleaning gold jewelry with gemstones
Some stones are perfectly safe to use with the cleaning method above. If you know your jewelry contains diamond, ruby, sapphire, and most semi-precious gemstones, like amethyst, aquamarine, or rose quartz, they are safe to gently clean. You can use the method described above, paying extra attention to any prongs and the areas behind or under the gemstones to get them extra clean. “Do not put pressure on settings or hold the gemstones face down on a countertop to prevent scratching,” Fraser warns.
Do not soak natural emeralds, pearls, opals, coral, bone, or wood. Emeralds, pearls, and opals are delicate and soaking can cause permanent damage, while coral, bone, and wood are soft and absorbent, so water and any chemicals can cause permanent discoloration or damage.
“I strongly recommend avoiding submerging any treated gemstones, particularly those with a non-permanent coating,” Fraser says. Pearl jewelry should never be exposed to water and is best cleaned with a soft cloth.
Most fashion stones such as cubic zirconia or crystals can withstand a brief gentle cleaning but should not be submerged in water or scrubbed with abrasives. These items can be gently buffed with a non-abrasive, lint-free cloth, but for a deeper cleaning, bring them to a professional.
Cleaning gold plated and white gold jewelry
Gold-plated jewelry can be cleaned with a mild dish soap soak, but should not be scrubbed or rubbed with anything abrasive. All colors of gold, including rose gold and white gold, can be cleaned the same way.
Cleaning gold jewelry at home is easy and you don’t need any special tools – just warm water, a little dish soap, a shallow bowl, and a soft-bristled brush. After soaking your gold jewelry in warm soapy water for 15 minutes, you can gently brush, then rinse under cool water before laying flat to dry and buffing with a microfiber cloth.
Rose gold and white gold can be cleaned in the same way as yellow gold but gold-plated jewelry should not be scrubbed. Some semi-precious gems can be soaked and cleaned in the same way, while others should be gently buffed. Pearls should never be soaked and only cleaned with a soft cloth. Regular cleanings will keep your gold jewelry looking shiny and new.