Many people have asked us how to care for their antique and vintage gold filled jewellery or whether their jewellery will tarnish over time. Gold tarnishing is the slight corrosion of the gold surface and appears as a dark discolouration, also known as “tarnish film”. Pure gold does not tarnish and it always stays shiny. However, pure gold is 24k and as 24k gold is too soft and fragile to make practical and wearable jewellery, it is mostly mixed with other metals and alloys to create a more durable material. The higher carat of gold the less likely it is to tarnish but obvious the more likely it is to ding or dent (bummer!) When your jewellery tarnishes it does not mean that it is not real gold – it’s just not pure 24kt gold. Even my solid 18kt gold wedding ring needs a clean and a buff every now and again!
Gold filled jewellery is created by pressure bonding an actual layer of gold to another metal. It has the same desirable properties and the look of solid gold but, unlike gold plated jewellery, it is not as quick to tarnish and it will not rub off on your clothes! See our “What is Gold Filled Jewellery” page for more info.
Caring For Your Vintage Jewellery
You should care for your vintage and antique gold filled jewellery in the same way that you care for your solid gold pieces. You should avoid chlorinated and salt water. Soap, deodorants, chemicals and perspiration can all affect fine jewellery. Avoid swimming and showering with any type of jewellery. Be careful when using perfumes and hairspray around your vintage jewellery. Make sure to remove your jewellery when immersing your hands in water for long periods of time. Soap can leave your gold jewellery with a dull finish over time so be sure to rinse thoroughly with warm water. Another surprising cause of tarnishing in jewellery are food items with high levels of acidity or sulphur compounds. Some items that can exacerbate tarnishing are onions, fruit juices, spices and pickled items (Go figure!)
Regularly polish your jewellery with a soft cloth available from most jewellery stores or the supermarket (mostly marketed as “silver and gold polishing cloths”. For a more thorough clean use a solution of warm water and mild detergent and gently scrub with a soft bristled toothbrush (Works a treat!). A soak in the solution can also help stubborn tarnish. Always make sure that your jewellery is thoroughly dry before storing away. Tarnish loves damp environments so air dry for a good few hours and consider placing a packet of silica gel inside your jewellery box to absorb any excess moisture.
What Cleaning Products Should I Use?
There are many commercial cleaning agents available at jewellery stores and in supermarkets but personally I like the simple and cost effective dishwashing liquid and warm water solution and for those that prefer a more natural option – bicarb soda and vinegar is perfect! For really extensive tarnishing (let’s say a piece of jewellery that hasn’t been cleaned in decades, and trust me, I see these a lot!) get yourself to Bunnings and purchase a bottle of Tarn-off! It smells like rotten eggs (I kid you not) but it’s perfect for quick and easy tarnish removal (you can even use it on your silverware!). Note of caution – wear gloves, as the product is acid based, and always keep away from children and pets.
Finally, if you are time poor and decide to take your jewellery to your local jeweller for a professional clean remind them that your jewellery is antique and gold filled and request that it be cleaned gently and treated with due care.