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We’ve talked a little bit about the differences between gold jewelry and gold plated jewelry before. If you’re looking to dress to the nines and show off a little shine without paying the premiums associated with pure gold silver, buying gold plated or hollow jewelry is one way to save a few bucks.

It looks nearly as good as the pure stuff — after all, it’s not too distant a cousin, and plenty of folks actually prefer gold plated jewelry to going all-out on costs. Usually the jewelry just has a heavier, more durable metal than gold underneath a thin layer of the real stuff. It’s a bit easier to maintain, less costly, and you won’t have a heart attack when you inevitably scratch or tarnish it.

We’re going to take a look at some fast tips and methods used by people all over the world to take care of their gold plated jewelry. Before we do, listen up:

These tips are specifically for gold PLATED jewelry. There are separate maintenance procedures for pure gold. Don’t try any of this stuff on your real gold! If you’re unsure of what you have, bring your metal to us or a jeweler your area. We’ll tell you exactly what you’ve got, and how to take care of it!

First step:

Clean with dish detergent (for gold plated bands without stones)

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Normally, any kind of detergents or cleaning chemicals accelerate tarnishing. Moisture such as the oils on our fingers, the water in the air, and our hygiene products all speed up the rate in which our jewelry deteriorates. When it comes to gold plated jewelry, however, a little moderation makes normal water and dish soap a perfectly acceptable cleaning solution.

Here’s what you do. Fill a bowl with warm water. Not hot water, but something warm from the tap. The reason warm water works best is because rapid temperature changes can damage your jewelry. If you want to get extra cleanliness points, you can use filtered water or club soba. Seltzer water works well, too.

Mix the soap in with the water until it’s one solution, and soak your jewelry in the solution for a few minutes. About a half hour should do the trick — soapy water will work its way into the cracks and crevices in your jewelry, loosening up any grit or grime that’s been lodged there.

It’s for that reason we also recommend skipping this step if your jewelry has glued-in stones of any kind. Those pieces should never be left underwater, because the solution may loosen the glue used to keep your stones in place. If you have stones in your jewelry, you’re cleaning more than one material, so you’ll have to take extra care to research the best cleaning methods for your particular piece. We’ll touch more on how to clean jewelry with stones in it down below.

A warm water rinse after the fact will remove said dirt. Now, your jewelry is ready for a manual cleaning.

Polishing

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If you’re going to manually clean the jewelry, use the appropriate method. Very old, worn jewelry with tons of grit on it may be a candidate for something as heavy-duty as a toothbrush. Normally, we don’t recommend something that coarse. A toothbrush can actually pull the gold plating straight off your jewelry, giving it a sandpapery, dull look.

You definitely don’t want that, so go with a light, soft cloth (something you might clean your eyeglasses with), and gently polish your jewelry after soaking it in dishwasher. Special brushes exist for this purpose as well — the bristles are about as soft as a shave gel brush.

After a thorough rinse, dry your jewelry. Don’t press on it too hard with the cloth, because you may tarnish it by doing so. Many simply leave the jewelry sitting on a towel after a brief drying. It’s important to let the jewelry fully dry before wearing it, because any moisture trapped between it and your skin will only put you back at square one, with tarnish. Even worse — this is when jewelry is most susceptible to leaving those nasty green rings on your finger that stay there after removal.

Storage

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After you’ve given your gold plated jewelry a wash, it’s time to store it. This is where a lot of folks go wrong — they leave their jewelry sitting out in the open air. It’s an easy mistake to make, but all told, it only serves to harm your jewelry.

We recommend taking your metals and storing them in an airtight ziplock bag, a jewelry box, or inside soft bits of cloth. The reason is simple — keeping moisture out is the number one thing you can do to help keep your jewelry tarnish-free. By keeping moisture away from it, you’ll extend the lifetime of the jewelry, especially its appearance, by a great deal.

You can buy chalk, silica gel pellets (those tiny bags that feel like they’re full of small pebbles that come with new shoes), or no-tarnish strips to store alongside your jewelry. These items all serve the same function — they attract and absorb any moisture that gets near your jewelry.

What about jewelry with gemstones?

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These pieces can still be cleaned using some of the same materials, but you have to be extra careful to never submerge this jewelry in water. Corrosive solutions such as ammonia and alcohol will damage your stones.

You can follow the above steps, only wet a cloth with a small amount of water and clean the jewelry as gently as you can. A jewelry brush or a similar soft-haired brush is ideal for cleaning the area around the gemstone. Just be sure to use something that won’t scratch or tarnish the piece, otherwise it’s defeating the purpose.

Dishwater didn’t do the trick…

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It won’t always. Sometimes jewelry is so dirty, perhaps because of its age, that it requires a cleaning much more intense than the one you’re giving it with just water and dish soap.

We don’t recommend using these methods for all jewelry, and definitely not often — but there are some “deep clean” techniques you can use for jewelry that’s more in need of life support than a trip to the makeup table.

Baking soda, toothpaste, or boiling water. Again, all three aren’t ideal for jewelry with glued or set gemstones. If you’re dealing with just banded jewelry though, you can liberally apply baking soda or toothpaste to a brush and start scrubbing away. Don’t do this with new jewelry — you’ll scratch the metal! If your jewelry is more grit and grime on the surface than it is gold plating, this is an okay way to go.

Submerging your jewelry in boiling water allows very fast-moving particles (that’s what heat is!) to get inside the cracks and knock loose all the dirt and grime lodged there.

General tips

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So, that’s the cleaning process. There’s more handy information you can put to use — here are some fast tips for all-around proper care of your gold plated jewelry.

1. Store the jewelry in a dry, secure place. Cloth is preferable.
2. Alcohol will remove grit and dirt, but avoid using it on pieces with gemstones.
3. Do not use bleach! Or anything you’d put into a pool, either.
4. Gemstones are very delicate and should never come into contact with chemicals that aren’t specifically approved for that specific type of stone.
5. Perfumes, shampoos, soaps — they’re great for us, but not for our jewelry. If you put this stuff on, and it gets onto your jewelry, you should clean the metals immediately. This stuff all harms a piece of jewelry’s coating.
6. Don’t wear your jewelry while swimming or exercising. Some jewelry can handle the swim, others can’t. A good rule of thumb would be to take your jewelry off before jumping in the pool. Before exercising, it’s very important to take your jewelry off. The sweat from your body is a very effective agent when it comes to tarnishing and corroding your jewelry.
7. Avoid coarse, rough brushes unless the piece you’re using is in desperate need of it, and “pristine” condition is no longer possible.
8. Last but not least — bring your metals to a jeweler if you’re not sure. They’d be more than happy to point you in the right direction.

So, those are some handy tips on how to clean, wear, maintain, and store your gold plated jewelry. Got your own? Let us know in the comments below!

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