The phenomenon of gold-plated jewelry turning green is a common concern among jewelry wearers. Gold-plated jewelry offers an affordable and stylish option for those seeking the look of gold without the high cost.

However, some people have experienced their gold-plated pieces developing a greenish tint over time. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the causes of this green discoloration, explore whether gold-plated jewelry is the culprit, and provide essential care tips to prevent tarnishing and maintain the beauty of your gold-plated pieces.

Understanding Gold Plating:

Gold plating is a process that involves depositing a thin layer of gold onto the surface of a base metal, such as brass or copper. The gold layer gives the jewelry piece its luxurious appearance, while the base metal provides structure and durability.

The thickness of the gold layer in gold-plated jewelry can vary, and it is often measured in microns. Thicker gold plating tends to be more durable and less prone to wear and tarnishing.

Causes of Green Discoloration:

The green discoloration often seen on gold-plated jewelry is not caused by the gold layer itself. Instead, it is a result of a chemical reaction between the metal in the jewelry and the acids present in the wearer's skin or external substances. The primary causes of green discoloration on gold-plated jewelry are:

  1. Acidic pH of the Skin: Some individuals naturally have a higher level of acidity in their skin, which can react with the base metal in the gold-plated jewelry. The reaction can create a greenish tint on the areas of skin that come into contact with the jewelry.
  2. Sweat and Moisture: The combination of sweat and moisture can also contribute to the greenish discoloration on gold-plated jewelry. When the metal in the jewelry comes into contact with sweat or water, it can react and cause the green tarnish.
  3. Chemicals and Substances: Exposure to certain chemicals or substances, such as lotions, perfumes, and household cleaners, can also cause a reaction with the base metal in the jewelry, leading to green discoloration.

Is Gold Plating the Culprit?

While gold plating itself does not cause the green discoloration, it can exacerbate the issue if the gold layer is thin or of poor quality. Thicker gold plating tends to offer better protection against reactions with the base metal and external substances, reducing the likelihood of green tarnishing.

It is important to note that gold-plated jewelry is not the only type of jewelry that can develop green discoloration. Sterling silver jewelry and even solid gold jewelry can experience similar reactions with the skin and substances.

Preventing Green Tarnishing:

To prevent gold-plated jewelry from turning green, consider the following care tips:

  1. Keep Jewelry Dry: Avoid wearing gold-plated jewelry when engaging in water-related activities or swimming. Remove the jewelry before bathing or showering to reduce exposure to moisture.
  2. Avoid Chemical Exposure: Take off your gold-plated jewelry before using lotions, perfumes, or household cleaners to avoid reactions with the metal.
  3. Keep Skin Clean: Keeping the skin clean and dry can reduce the likelihood of reactions with the metal in the jewelry.
  4. Choose High-Quality Plating: Opt for gold-plated jewelry with thicker gold plating to enhance its durability and resistance to tarnishing.
  5. Seal the Jewelry: Some jewelers offer jewelry coatings or sealants that can provide an additional protective layer to the metal, reducing the risk of reactions.
  6. Remove Jewelry at Night: Taking off your gold-plated jewelry at night can give your skin a break from prolonged contact with the metal.

Cleaning Gold-Plated Jewelry:

If you notice green tarnishing on your gold-plated jewelry, avoid using harsh cleaning agents or abrasives, as they can further damage the gold layer. Instead, gently clean the jewelry with a soft cloth and mild soap solution, followed by a dry cloth to remove any residues.


Gold-plated jewelry itself does not turn green; rather, the green discoloration is a result of reactions with the metal in the jewelry and external substances or the wearer's skin acidity. By following proper care and maintenance, such as keeping the jewelry dry, avoiding chemical exposure, and choosing high-quality plating, you can minimize the risk of green tarnishing and keep your gold-plated jewelry looking radiant and beautiful for a long time. Remember that green discoloration can occur with other types of jewelry as well, and it is essential to take care of all your pieces to preserve their appearance and luster.