Gold is the most sought after substance in human history. From King Midas’s Golden Touch, to the selective breeding of goldfish, to the search for El Dorado, to the Church’s split over icon idolatry, to the luxurious gold leaf of the 1920’s culture has proven that it is willing to chase the glitz and gilt right off a lonely, divisive, or financial cliff. In response to a history of gold lust, human cultures developed many alloys to mimic the lure of gold jewelry. Thick and thin gold-filled, gold-plated, rose gold alloys, brass alloys and even bronze alloys can shine with a golden hue if properly cared for.
In order to keep your golden treasure looking its best you have to know what kinds of golden jewelry you have. Last week we shared a number of ways to test and identify what kind of gold and golden pieces you posses. You can read that post here.
If your jewelry is 24K then it is 99.95% gold, 18K is 75% gold, and 12K is 50% gold. To care for these pieces you must keep them away from other pieces, especially those with gemstones. Gold is soft and can scratch when jostled against hard stones. Protect your pieces by keeping them in separate sections of your jewelry box, preferably in individual soft cloth bags, or wrapped in tissue paper. Comparatively, this is the easiest golden jewelry to care for.
Gold-filled and Gold-plated
Gold-filled jewelry has a sterling silver, brass, or copper core wrapped with a gold layer of at least 5% of the item’s total weight . Gold-filled jewelry also comes with a tag indicating the gold’s karat weight. To care for gold-filled items keep them wrapped in soft cloth or tissue paper, and keep them away from sunlight. Gold-filled items may tarnish if stored in bright light, or exposed to water or prolonged humidity. Sometimes a person’s chemistry may react negatively to the core metal of gold-filled items. Although the gold acts as a barrier, it will thin over years of use. To keep your item shining as long as possible do not sleep, sweat, swim or shower in your gold-filled jewelry.
Gold-plated jewelry requires the same standards of care as Gold and Gold-filled jewelry plus increased diligence. Wipe each gold-plated item clean with a soft cloth and steady pressure after wearing, store separately in cloth or tissue paper, keep from moisture, and protect from light. Depending on the thickness and karat weight of your gold-plated item, with proper care your item may last a lifetime.
Rose gold is an alloy of copper and gold. Again look for the karat weight of gold in your jewelry. 24K rose gold is more golden than pink whereas 12K rose gold is more pink than golden. Although we are not good at photoshopping we hope the image below will give you a general idea of two Rose Gold tones.
24K rose gold is a nice alternative to 24K gold for many reasons, the first of which is price. Like the whole gold pieces, rose gold will not lose plating, nor shed layers of gold over time. The interior of the jewelry item is the same composition as the outside of the item. To keep your rose gold looking great store it separately, protect it from moisture, and polish as needed.
To polish rose gold line a dish with aluminum foil shiny side up. In the dish mix one cup warm soapy water with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon baking soda. Once everything dissolves add your rose gold items to the bowl. Swish for a full minute. Take the least tarnished piece from the bowl first and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth. Use pressure and friction to remove tough tarnish. Continue until all pieces are clean. Make sure to dry everything. DO NOT, under any circumstances, let the rose gold soak. It will increase the copper tarnish.
Brass looks gold but is not. Brass is a mixture of copper and zinc, sometimes with added tin, iron, aluminum, silicone, or manganese. Copper is a red metal and zinc is a white metal. When mixed and polished the resultant brass has a golden hue. The added metals listed previously, provide extra strength to the brass and are rarely found in jewelry applications.
Brass ornamentation is an ancient art and remains a prevalent form of fashion jewelry. Brass will tarnish quickly and it will almost always turn your skin green. If you can avoid it, do. If your favorite piece is brass, that’s okay. These steps can keep it, and you, looking great.
Step 1: To keep your brass shining, keep it clean with warm soapy washings as needed. Make sure to dry it completely. If the item is clean but still dingy, mix 1 teaspoon salt in a half cup of white vinegar. Once dissolved add flour to make a paste. Use this paste and a soft cloth to polish your brass to its golden shine. Brass is resilient so feel free to use as much pressure and friction as needed. Once polished, move on to step two.
Step 3: Store clean, polished, and clear-coated brass jewelry items out of direct sunlight and away from other metals.
Bronze is a copper and tin alloy. Like brass, other substances are sometimes added; these may include zinc, aluminum, nickel, manganese, silicon, phosphorus, or arsenic. Some of these elements are harmful and most are only added to bronze for industrial purposes. That being said, not all bronze sources are verifiable, therefore, avoid purchasing bronze jewelry that rests on the skin if possible.
Depending on tarnish and the ratio of elements used in the composition of your bronze jewelry, it may look copper, gold, silver, green, or black.
To keep your bronze in tip-top shape clean with warm soapy water and polish as needed.
Mix the salt and vinegar thoroughly. Add vinegar slowly to form a stiff paste, like toothpaste. Rub and scrub the bronze piece until satisfied with the finish. A toothbrush with help reach the tiny nooks and crannies like those in the vintage bronze comb pictured above. Dry well. Store way from other metal items. Dust off monthly and after each wearing.
With proper care and maintenance all your golden jewelry can look amazing. Join us next time to review some stunning Halloween jewelry. Click subscribe in the sidebar and we will see you on Thursday.