Gold is one of the most common metals for jewelry and its dazzling appearance and availability make it highly prized.
However, there is a problem that many people with gold jewelry run into; it often tarnishes and turns copper.
This coppery appearance is significantly less flattering than a brand new, gold piece, so why does this happen?
Gold jewelry turns coppery when exposed to the chemicals and oils on your skin. This happens because gold in jewelry is often mixed with copper, nickel, or silver. When these metals oxidize, they become much darker causing the “gold” color to disappear and darken.
While it might seem like this is all the information necessary to understand this chemical reaction, there is so much more to it.
We will go over the chemical reaction, how to get rid of the copper color, and how to prevent it from happening in the future.
If you follow the steps, you can enjoy your beautiful gold jewelry for years to come!
Why Gold turns Copper
Before we talk about how to fix the problem of gold jewelry turning copper, it helps to fully understand what has to happen to cause this reaction.
There is a whole chemical reaction that happens when jewelry made with gold alloys turns copper.
It is mostly due to oxidation, but factors like the oils in your skin and moisture can also have an effect.
As mentioned above, gold jewelry turns copper because the other metals mixed in with it tend to oxidize and turn a darker, copper color.
Oxidation is when an atom, molecule, or ion of an element loses an electron, increasing the oxidation state of that atom, molecule, or ion.
This process occurs in many metals and causes them to rust.
Oxidation of the added metals is usually what causes the copper coloring to appear on a gold ring or other piece of jewelry.
Some factors that add to the corrosion and oxidization of gold jewelry are oils on your skin, moisture in the air or on your hands, pollution, hairspray, and a bunch of other chemicals.
When there is moisture, oil, or other chemicals trapped under a ring, it will eventually cause oxidation in the metal and the copper color will start to appear.
Once the moisture has passed the outside plating of the jewelry, it is easier for it to begin to oxidize the side of the jewelry that does not regularly touch your skin.
Factors in the Jewelry
While oxidation on its own is definitely the reason for the gold jewelry turning copper, there are some factors outside of moisture, oils, and other chemicals that can lead to corrosion.
The main one is the construction of the jewelry.
A low-quality plating can be a huge factor in our gold jewelry quickly turning copper.
A common plating is rhodium.
Rhodium is very hard and has a nice shine that people love, but it is very porous, which allows for all of those oxidation-inducing chemicals to get to the vulnerable metals in the ring.
The best option is to have a jeweler plate the piece in platinum and then in rhodium so that it does not need re-plating every year.
It might cost a bit more, but it will last so much longer.
You might think that there is an easy solution to stop all this corrosion, and that is to stop mixing other metals with gold.
This might seem like a good idea, but gold jewelry needs these stronger metals to be mixed in.
Gold on its own is a very soft metal and if a piece of jewelry was made purely of gold, it would warp pretty easily.
To keep gold jewelry as a reasonable and wearable accessory, it needs to have those other metals mixed in.
Restoring Gold Jewelry
While the copper coloring on your gold jewelry can be very annoying and not something that you ever want to see.
It is almost always going to happen eventually.
This is unfortunate, but it is not necessarily the end of the line for your beloved jewelry.
You can get that copper coloring to go away and there are two common ways to do this: have it re-plated, or use a home remedy.
Re-plating a piece of jewelry is the most surefire way to get that original shine and glamour back, but it can be a little pricey.
This is not something you can do on your own unless you are a jeweler and know how to work with the metals like that.
Otherwise, you need to take your gold jewelry to a jeweler to have them re-plate it.
You can have them do a rhodium plating, or a platinum plating and then a rhodium plating.
The other option is to use a home remedy.
These are not necessarily perfect because they tend to help but do not always solve the copper coloring completely.
One remedy that works very well for a lot of people is a mixture of 2 parts vinegar, and 1 part hydrogen peroxide.
Place the ring in the mixture and let it sit for about half an hour.
After soaking it, use a polishing cloth or a tumbler to get any leftover copper coloring to go away.
This method is much cheaper than a re-plating, but it might not work as effectively.
Another home method is to drench the ring in lemon juice, sprinkle salt on it, and then rub with your fingers or a cloth until the tarnish is gone.
Preventing the Copper Coloring
Preventing the copper coloring is much easier than removing it once it is there.
To do this, you just have to take some simple measures against those pesky, corroding chemicals.
Make sure your hands are completely dry before putting any jewelry back on.
Use an absorbent powder on your skin where the ring or other piece will go to reduce moisture and oil.
Keep your jewelry in a dry, cool place and you can even wipe it down before you put it away.