Tarnished Gold – What Causes It and How to Remove It

Tarnished Gold Ring

Does Gold Tarnish?

Pure gold is a noble metal and is the least reactive metal. This means that gold ordinarily won’t react with the elements in the air leading to tarnished gold.

But they do not make most jewellery items of pure gold. Because pure gold is very soft, other, harder, metals are combined with the gold, called alloys, to create a piece of jewellery. We talked about this in our blog What is Sterling Silver?’.

It is the alloys used in gold items that react with the air and may tarnish.

What Is Tarnish?

Tarnish is where deposits are laid down on the surface of the metal. It results in a blackened, greyish appearance on the surface of the metal. It does not penetrate the metal though and will not harm it. It just lays on the surface of the metal and can easily be cleaned off.

What causes Tarnish on Gold?

Tarnish is caused by metals reacting with other non-metal elements, like particles in the air, such as sulphur and oxygen. Therefore it is the alloys used in the gold that react with the oxygen and sulphur in the air. This happens more so with silver jewellery.  This reaction causes a chemical process where particles are laid down on the surface of the item of jewellery. But these particles don’t damage the surface and can easily be removed.

How to Remove Tarnish on Gold

gold ring before and after cleaning
Gold Ring Before and After Cleaning

Gold tarnish can be removed easily and simply by a number of methods.

  1. Preparatory Gold Cleaner

A gold cleaner like this one here, will safely and easily remove any surface tarnish from gold and bring it back to its full lustre and sparkle. You can also use this cleaner for pieces of jewellery that are set with semi and precious gemstones.

  1. Gentle Dishwasher Cleaner

Soaking the item of tarnished gold jewellery in warm soapy water with a little gentle dishwasher detergent dissolved in the water. Clean with your fingers or a soft make-up brush or a very soft babies toothbrush. Don’t use a toothbrush as it may scratch the surface of the gold. Dry and buff with a soft, lint-free cloth.

Please never use toothpaste, which we know many people use, as it is too abrasive and will scratch your jewellery. 


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