Gold is an incredibly soft and malleable metal, and therefore requires care and sensitivity in handling. The more pure the karat rating is, the softer and more prone to physical damage the gold will be. However, gold is actually quite durable when it comes to chemical resistance, so pure gold will hold better against cleaning agents like soap and ammonia. Regardless, your philosophy in cleaning gold should involve starting with the gentlest cleaning methods available, and slowly increasing in intensity as necessary. When you get to know what works in cleaning your jewellery, you’ll want to do the bare minimum in cleaning to ensure that your gold lasts a lifetime.
At first, don’t use any solution at all. Begin by wiping dirt, grime, and any other unwanted particles off your jewellery pieces with a soft cotton cloth. If the jewellery you’re cleaning is not solid gold but rather gold vermeil or gold plate, you can actually begin with cotton balls and go from there.
After dispensing with surface grime and dry polishing your gold jewellery a little bit, you might find that stubborn smudges remain, or that the shine is still a little bit duller than it could be. If this is the case then mix a little bit of mild, non-anti-bacterial dish detergent with some lukewarm water in a bowl. Let your gold jewellery soak in the soapy solution for a few minutes, and then take it out and gently scrub the gold jewellery with a soft-bristled toothbrush, paying attention to all surfaces and crevices. Now rinse the jewellery with more lukewarm or cool water and pat dry with a soft cloth.
The above instructions should allow for safe and effective cleaning of solid gold or gold filled jewellery. If you’re dealing with gold vermeil or gold plate jewellery, on the other hand, you won’t want to let the pieces soak in soapy solution. Again, start with dry cotton balls, and if that’s not quite adequate you can soak the cotton balls in soapy solution before massaging the jewellery. If you really need something more abrasive you can use the toothbrush, but nine times out of ten you should be just fine with soapy water and cotton balls.
Another factor to keep in mind is whether or not your jewellery bears any gemstones, beads, or pearls. If it does, you may want to reconsider soaking the piece and instead use a soft-bristled toothbrush to scrub gently and carefully around the embedded item, be it a jewellery bead, gemstone or pearl. For most gemstones of a certain hardness, mild soapy water should also be a safe solution, but for soft things like amber or pearls, you definitely don’t want to give them the same treatment as your gold. Other organic items like wooden beads or shell fragments should also be spared the soapy experience.