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  • 5 min read

Gold-plated jewelry looks and feels exactly like real gold. The only difference is that it has a bit of a tendency to be tarnished more quickly because the piece is a combination of gold and less expensive metals, in comparison.

When you have a favorite watch, chain, or bracelet, you’ll probably want to wear it every single day. Keep your new piece in top condition by understanding how to clean it when it becomes tarnished.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What Causes Gold Plating to Tarnish?

Gold itself is a fairly durable metal that can withstand most elements, and in terms of tarnishing, it’s actually a lot more high quality compared to other metals. But this is exactly why gold plating tends to tarnish.

Yellow or white gold plating incorporates a small layer of gold over top of a base metal, giving you the look of real gold without the high price. This price can be even more affordable than gold-filled jewelry by combining the gold in the plated material with a less expensive metal alloy. 

Often, these metal alloys are susceptible to being tarnished in ways that gold itself might not be. Even if these pieces feature precious stones and other embellishments, they often end up losing their original luster over time.

With that in mind, gold-plated pieces have a tendency to be worn away more quickly than solid gold jewelry simply because of their chemical composition. But there are a few habits and lifestyles that might cause these pieces to wear away even more quickly.


For one, abrasive cleaning solutions, bleach, and detergent can easily cause your piece to lose a bit of its shine. These can wear away the outer layer of the golden pieces, making them lose their luster and their pristine appearance. While you might be tempted to deep clean your jewelry with dishwashing liquid or toothpaste, this often isn’t a good idea.

Try to remove your gold-plated pieces before you clean the house or use these harsh detergents. Additionally, when you clean your plated pieces, be sure not to use abrasive materials or harsh scrubbing items like a toothbrush. We’ll talk more about that in a bit.


Water, including soapy water, is metal’s worst enemy. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that occurs when metals are exposed to water. Over time, frequent exposure to liquids can turn an otherwise perfect-looking piece into a dull, possibly rusted-looking antique.

The moisture in a gold-plated piece usually doesn’t affect the gold itself – it’s more abrasive to the other metals that the alloy is composed of. Be sure to remove your gold-plated pieces before showering, going in the pool, or doing excessive exercise where you’ll be sweating profusely.

Wear and Tear

If you love your plated pieces, you probably want to wear them over and over again. While gold by itself is a surprisingly durable metal that is resistant to tarnish, wearing a gold-plated piece over and over can lead to smudges, knicks, and scratches.

Not to mention, the way you store your gold-plated piece can have an effect on its appearance in the long run. Gold is relatively soft on the hardness scale, so if you store it next to other metals and it rubs up against them, it can cause scratches and make the gold plating wear away.

Cleaning Gold Plated Jewelry

When it comes to cleaning gold-plated jewelry, there are a few options depending on how bad the damage might be.

To start, we recommend giving them a nice scrub with a microfiber cloth to see if the visible dirt and smudges come off of the piece. This is the safest way to clean nearly any type of gold jewelry without worrying about stripping away any of the gold plating or making the piece lose some of its luster.

If that isn’t enough, you might need to soak your piece in mild liquid soap and water. In a small bowl, create a mild dish soap and slightly hot water solution, working it into a foam. From there, place the jewelry in the solution for about ten to 20 minutes.

Then, take it out and run the piece carefully under lukewarm water to remove any residue. Finally, use a soft cloth to remove dirt and debris from the piece that might be left over, as well as to dry the piece and remove any excess moisture in the crevices before storing. If you don’t have a lint-free cloth handy, you can also allow the piece to air dry.

If your piece only has a few physical pieces of dirt or smudges on the outer surface, you might not need anything more than a wipe down with a cleaning cloth or soft cotton swab.

What To Do if Gold Plating Wears Away

If your gold plating on a necklace or ring has become so tarnished that it’s lost some of its outer gold layer, you may need to get your piece replated. You can get your piece replated at most jewelers for a fair price. However, since gold-plated pieces are usually such a low price, it might make more sense to just get a replacement for your piece instead.

You can also prevent this hassle from the get-go by making sure you get your pieces from a retailer you can trust. 6 Ice is the finest purveyor of hip-hop jewelry, and all of our plated pieces come backed by a lifetime guarantee. So if your piece breaks or becomes damaged from normal wear and tear, we’ll work with you to make things right.

That’s quality and confidence from the start. Browse our collection of solid gold and gold-plated pieces to find the right fit for you.

How To Protect Your Gold-Plated Pieces

The best way to clean your gold-plated pieces is to keep them out of harm’s way, to begin with. Storing your pieces in a dark environment protected from the elements is essential, which is why jewelry boxes are one of the best options. These also help keep your piece from being scratched by another piece of jewelry. That’s why at 6 Ice, we send our pieces in soft jewelry pouches to protect them. 

Additionally, be sure to take off your favorite piece before jumping into a pool or cleaning your home. Chemicals in the pool and detergents, as well as excess moisture, can have a negative effect on the life of your gold-plated jewelry.

In Conclusion

Gold-plated jewelry looks just like real solid gold fine jewelry, but it’s not as durable. This is because only a thin layer of gold is used, and since the gold is combined with a metal alloy, that base metal has a tendency to be less resistant to wear and tear in comparison.

Exposing your piece to moisture, chemicals, and hard objects can easily make it get tarnished. But if you’re noticing a little bit of grime, body oils, or grease on the piece, there are some easy ways to clean it.

The best method is to use mild soap combined with some warm water. Let the jewelry soak before removing it and rinsing it under water before drying it with a microfiber cloth. You can also just wipe your piece with a polishing cloth if there is nothing more than a few smudges on the outside.

But if you get your piece from the right jeweler ahead of time, you might not need to worry so much about your jewelry getting tarnished. Get celebrity-quality jewelry at an affordable price with 6 Ice’s constantly refreshing collection of plated chains, bracelets, pendants, and more.


Oxidation of Metal Surfaces |

Mohs Hardness Scale | U.S. National Park Service

What Is an Alloy? Definition and Examples | Science Notes