A Man’s Guide to Cleaning and Maintaining Gold Jewelry
Gold has, for centuries, been a vastly valued and coveted material, worn by everyone from ancient Egyptian royals and Renaissance-era aristocrats to modern-day hip-hop masters and media moguls. Since its discovery, the substance has been highly prized for its durability—it is the most non-reactive metal of them all, meaning it’s resistant to rusting and tarnishing—as well as for its striking color, shimmery aesthetic, and relative scarcity. If you’ve got your own collection of gold jewelry for these reasons (or just because you love the look), it’s important that you spend some time learning how to properly clean, care for, and maintain it.
If gold is supposedly so durable, why do care and maintenance matter so much?
Indeed, pure gold will stand the test of time. The precious metal in its purest form is resistant to corrosion and is insoluble in many acids, while at the same time offering exceptional malleability; hence, why it’s been melted, twisted, and manipulated into stunning jewelry creations for centuries. Just to give you an idea of exactly how enduring gold can be, consider that scientists recently unearthed a gold bead in Bulgaria dating back to 4,500 B.C., making it the oldest gold artifact ever found.
But, despite its enduring nature, gold isn’t bulletproof, and it’s important to remember that all gold jewelry is alloyed with base metals that affect its durability. Yep, even that premium gold chain you’ve been eyeing is made with a mix of strong but fallible metals. The tradeoff is that these metals make the substance much easier to work with, allowing jewelry artists to transform the substance into stunning works of art. It also makes it more affordable to the masses. With that in mind, it does mean that some occasional care and maintenance is required to keep your gold pieces in tip-top shape.
Cleaning Gold Jewelry
First thing’s first: cleaning. Even the most high-karat gold jewelry will occasionally get dingy or lose its luster. But don’t stress; it’s relatively easy to get your gold pieces back in like-new condition. The key is to do it in a way that doesn’t permanently affect the quality, appearance, or strength of the piece. Here’s how the experts do it:
- Mix Up Your Cleaning Solution – Remember that gold jewelry is not pure gold and can be affected by any harsh, chemical-based cleaners. It’s best to clean gold with gentle cleaners, such as a mixture of two cups of warm (not hot) water and a few drops of mild, detergent-free dish soap. Some people add a tablespoon or so of ammonia to the mixture in order to help restore some of the original shine and luster of their precious pieces.
- Let It Soak in the Solution for 15 Minutes – Drop your jewelry into the bowl of cleaning solution, allowing it to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Note that leaving your jewelry in the cleaner for too long can cause permanent discoloring and tarnishing, so make sure you are able to remove it from the liquid in a reasonable timeframe. If you have multiple pieces, allow them to soak in their own solution bowls so they don’t scratch one another as they soak.
- Remove Any Surface Imperfections – Generally speaking, it’s okay to scrub your gold jewelry, so long as you do so very gently with a super-soft-bristled toothbrush or cleaning brush. At all costs, avoid exposing your precious metal jewelry to any stiff brushes, as this can permanently scratch or damage the surface. To be extra careful, use a jeweler’s cloth or a microfiber polishing cloth to work away any surface imperfections.
- Rinse and Thoroughly Towel-Dry – Once you’ve given the piece a top-to-bottom wipe-down, place it in a bowl of warm water (without any soap or ammonia) and thoroughly rinse off any of the cleaning solution. Using a jeweler’s polishing cloth, give the gold a little buff to expose some of its original shine. Thoroughly dry using a dry microfiber cloth or a paper towel and make sure to eliminate as much moisture as possible.
- Occasionally Have It Professionally Cleaned – Nothing compares to the pros, so taking your gold pieces in for a jeweler’s cleaning can really provide that deep clean you need for year-round maintenance. How often you take it in will totally depend on how often you wear the piece, but, if you rock it at least once a week, a yearly professional cleaning (or more) is in order. A good jeweler, like Frost NYC, will happily provide free periodic cleanings.
Tips for Keeping Gold Jewelry Clean
Part of a solid gold jewelry care and maintenance plan is prevention. You wouldn’t want to expose your holy grail Rolex or gold and diamond-studded pendant to anything that could compromise its beauty or durability, of course. Here are a few simple tips for keeping your ice nice during your day-to-day life.
- Remove all jewelry before getting in the shower or going swimming, as excess moisture exposure can permanently reduce the shine of the piece.
- Always wait until you’re completely done getting ready to put on your jewelry. Never expose it to any hair products, colognes, sprays, or creams that could settle on the surface and cause permanent aesthetic damage.
- Never clean or work around any harsh, abrasive chemicals while wearing your jewelry. Never expose it to any chlorinated cleaning products, paints, oils, or acidic solutions that could cause permanent damage.
- Remember to remove your jewelry when you’re working out or playing sports to prevent it from getting sweaty or risking impact.
- We all love that super-layered, frosted look, but stacked jewelry can easily scratch. Avoid wearing rings on two consecutive pieces and never layer your gold chains when you’re going to be running, dancing, or otherwise banging it around.
Storing Gold Jewelry
Cleaning is just one piece of the puzzle. Proper jewelry storage can mean the difference between a grimy, worn, or broken piece of jewelry and one that your family will cherish and wear for generations into the future. Whenever you invest in a new piece of gold jewelry, whether it is a set of cufflinks or a 40-gram yellow gold chain, make sure you’ve also invested in the right storage solutions.
- Invest in a Felt-Lined Jewelry Case – Rule number one of responsible jewelry ownership: Avoid the temptation to take off your showcase ice and leave it around the house. Every piece should have its own home, preferably in a felt-lined jewelry or watch box. If you have a collection of high-value jewelry, consider investing in a jewelry safe that keeps your pieces secure but which features soft, protective interiors so pieces don’t scratch.
- Keep Pieces Neatly Separated – Make sure your jewelry storage solution is equipped with plenty of dividers to keep jewelry separate. We’ve all had experience with tangled balls of gold and silver chains (hopefully, none of value), and nothing’s worse than trying to untangle them gently enough so that they don’t get ruined. When storing, always lay your chains flat on a soft felt or microfiber surface away from one another to avoid tangling.
- Store Smaller Pieces in Jewelry Pouches – Another great way to prevent jewelry from getting tangled or scratching each other is to store everything individually in jewelry pouches. These drawstring bags are generally made from soft material similar to jeweler’s cloth and will prevent jewelry from becoming scratched or exposed to dust, which could compromise the finish of some pieces if left too long.
- Know How to Travel with Expensive Jewelry – You may have the most legitimate at-home jewelry storage setup, but you probably don’t have things quite as locked-down when you travel. Make sure to invest in a proper jewelry travel situation so that your pieces aren’t at risk when you’re flying or driving. Side note: Never put any expensive or valuable jewelry in your checked baggage, just in case your bags get lost in transit. Always wear it or keep it in your carry-on to be safe.
- Never Expose Jewelry to Extreme Heat – To recap: Gold jewelry is durable but malleable and it will melt if exposed to the right conditions. Do your best to avoid exposing your favorite pieces to excessively high temps. Don’t wear them in the hot tub, sauna, or tanning bed and try to remember to take them off before blow-drying your hair, machine drying your hands, or using any high-heat tools.
Keeping your heirloom gold jewelry in exceptional condition for many years of wear also requires some occasional maintenance. Some jewelry, especially gold chains and pendants, is made with a series of small pieces and parts—links, clips, rivets, etc.—which can occasionally become loose, damaged, or broken. If not professionally addressed, these problems can affect not only the resale value of the piece but your ability to wear it. And a piece of jewelry does nothing for you when it’s sitting in your jewelry case unworn, right?
- Tip: Buy from a Reputable Dealer – One of our most valuable tips is this: Buy your gold jewelry from a reputable jewelry dealer that stands behind their products, like Frost NYC. Because we take pride in everything we make, we provide lifetime maintenance on pieces purchased from our store. This includes tightening any loose prongs and replacing any missing stones. Just give us a call or stop in our NYC showroom, and we will instruct you on how to send jewelry to us for free maintenance.
- Tip: Trust the Professionals – These days, there are tutorials online for virtually everything, including repairing watches and jewelry. But something as minor as using the wrong tool can cause irreparable damage and lost value, so we always recommend taking your heirloom pieces to a trustworthy jeweler for repairs and maintenance. Again, if you bought from us, this is included in the price of your original purchase.
- Tip: Set Up a Maintenance Schedule – If you take pride in your jewelry collection, consider creating a designated maintenance schedule to help ensure that every masterpiece is properly cared for. Get in the habit of thoroughly inspecting pieces when you take them off for the day or when you arrive somewhere after a long trip. Set up monthly inspections and cleanings, as well as annual service by the pros, and remind yourself with alerts on your calendar or to-do list app.
Maintaining Your Wearable Works of Art
Jewelry lovers know that jewelry is more than just manipulated precious metal. Each piece is a wearable work of art that should be showcased. Proper jewelry care and maintenance are about ensuring that your collection gets the glory it deserves, whether you wear your favorite pieces on the regular or keep them locked away in a high-security storage unit. Frost NYC is here to help you get the most out of your luxury gold jewelry with a little bit of extra effort in the cleaning, storage, and maintenance departments.