First, let's preface this post by stating that pure 100% gold does not tarnish. Gold is a highly non-reactive metal, which means it does not easily react with oxygen, moisture, or other environmental factors that typically cause tarnishing in other metals. As a result, pure 100% gold maintains its luster and does not corrode or tarnish over time.
So, Does 18k Gold Plating Tarnish?
18k gold-plated jewelry can tarnish over time. Although the gold plating on the surface provides some protection against tarnishing, it is not completely immune to it. The speed and extent of gold tarnish will depend on various factors, such as the quality of the plating, the environment in which you wear the jewelry, and how the jewelry is cared for.
In 18k gold-plated jewelry, a thicker layer of 18-karat gold is applied to the base metal through an electroplating process. This higher purity gold (75% pure gold) is less reactive and more resistant to tarnishing compared to lower-karat gold plating, which has a lower percentage of pure gold and a higher proportion of alloyed metals.
What Causes Tarnishing Gold?
Tarnishing of 18k gold-plated jewelry can occur due to various factors despite its higher gold content. Here's what can cause tarnishing in 18k gold-plated items:
- Wear and Friction: Everyday wear and tear, as well as friction against clothing and other surfaces, can slowly wear down the gold-plated layer, exposing the underlying base metal. Once the base metal is exposed, it becomes susceptible to tarnishing.
- Exposure to Moisture: Moisture, such as water and humidity, can lead to tarnishing, especially if it penetrates the gold-plated layer and reaches the base metal. Jewelry that is frequently exposed to water or stored in a humid environment is at a higher risk.
- Chemical Exposure: Contact with chemicals, such as perfumes, lotions, and cleaning products, can accelerate the deterioration of the gold plating and lead to tarnishing. Harsh chemicals can react with the base metal beneath the plating.
- Skin Chemistry: Individual skin chemistry can play a role. Some people's skin is more acidic, which can affect the plating and cause it to tarnish more quickly.
- Abrasive Materials: Contact with abrasive materials, like abrasive cloths or harsh jewelry cleaning tools, can damage the gold-plated layer, making it more susceptible to tarnishing.
- Sulfur and Airborne Pollutants: Exposure to airborne pollutants and sulfur-containing substances can contribute to tarnishing over time.
How to Prevent Tarnished 18k Gold:
To prolong the life of your gold-plated jewelry and minimize gold tarnish, it's essential to take good care of it. Here are some tips:
1) Keep the jewelry dry: Avoid wearing gold-plated jewelry while swimming, showering, or engaging in activities that may expose it to moisture.
2) Store it properly: When not in use, store the jewelry in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. It's best to keep each piece in a separate pouch or compartment to prevent scratching and tangling.
3) Avoid contact with chemicals: Remove your gold-plated jewelry before using lotions, perfumes, or other cosmetics. Also, take it off before doing household chores that involve exposure to cleaning agents or harsh chemicals.'
4) Avoid wearing during physical activities: Remove gold-plated jewelry before engaging in physical activities, sports, or any tasks that may subject it to impact or friction. This will help prevent scratches and damage to the gold-plated surface.
5) Remove before bedtime: Taking off your gold-plated jewelry before going to bed can help avoid unnecessary wear and tear. It also minimizes exposure to sweat and body oils that can affect the jewelry over time.
6) Clean it gently: Use a soft, non-abrasive cloth to gently clean the jewelry after each wear. Avoid using harsh chemicals or cleaners, as they may damage the gold-plated layer.
7) Replate when necessary: If your gold-plated jewelry starts to show signs of significant wear or tarnishing, consider getting it re-plated by a professional jeweler.
8) Regularly inspect the jewelry: Periodically examine your gold-plated pieces for any signs of wear, discoloration, or damage. If you notice any issues, address them promptly to prevent further deterioration.
In conclusion, while 18k gold-plated jewelry can tarnish over time due to the outer layer reacting with environmental factors, proper care and maintenance can help minimize the effects of tarnishing. Keeping the jewelry dry, storing it correctly, avoiding contact with chemicals, and cleaning it gently after each wear are essential steps to prolonging its life and maintaining its luster.