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topic 9404

How to clean white gold

A discussion started in 2001 but continuing through 2018


Q. Hi,

I have in white gold both a fancy chain and a spider pendant; on the chain it is marked 417 and on the pendant 10K. The chain is still white but dull and the pendant is turning off white. What could I do to rejuvenate both articles without plating.

DWANE L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]


A. Boil them in water and a few drops of dish washing detergent and dry and rub them gently with a soft cloth. If you wear them regularly and take a shower with them they won't turn dull.

Anahita [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- San Diego, California


Q. Is it true that white gold must be dipped in rhodium to be cleaned? Or is it as simple as boiling it in water and soap? Also, I have a black opal set in white gold with tiny diamonds on either side. Will boiling hurt the opal?

Eileen M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Cloverdale, California


Q. My engagement ring is white gold with a princess cut diamond in the center and a pink sapphire on each side. What is the best way to clean this ring safely?

Ehrin T [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- West Chester, Pennsylvania


Q. I have a white gold bracelet with little hearts in it. It got cut off and when I had it repaired, they used gold to connect it. Is it possible to turn the "gold" color into white again?

Juliet A [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Philippines


A. Eileen / Ehrin:
I have read here and there that some gemstones like diamonds are hearty enough that you don't have to worry about chemical attack when ultrasonically cleaning in a jewelry cleaning solution, and that might be better than boiling -- but I have no actual expertise in that and suggest that you contact a jeweler for guidance before risking anything. Plus opals are probably not as robust, and I've recently seen jewelry with warnings that the stones are "coated"; I don't buy "coated" stones, but others might. And never drop jewels into boiling water; if you're going to boil them, suspend them in an empty tea bag or from a string in cool water and let them heat slowly.

Eileen again / Juliet:
Rhodium plating must be done by a plating shop or a jeweler. it is an electroplating process, it's not a simple dip. The rhodium is brilliant "white" and most white gold these days is rhodium plated. It will eventually wear, but if a good job is done and if the repaired item isn't dark yellow, you could get good enough life to satisfy you I think.

Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. Hello.

My friend told me that if I burn my white gold chain it will turn black and when I clean it, it will be as good as new (if it is real white gold) but now my chain is black/brown and I can't clean it. I know that it is a real white gold chain (18 karet)

Erfan Danesh
consumer - Copenhagen, Denmark


A. I am retired however my knowledge regarding Watches (Antique & Vintage) is thought of as considerable as is Precious Metal Antiques.

Firstly all Gold is Yellow. I shudder at the thought of some of the suggestions made here however well meaning. One must never boil, or treat with harsh chemicals, powder or domestic cleaners; this only serves to cause and need more attention. Seek the advice of your local watchmaker or jeweler after all they are the experts -- better still get them to do the service and cleaning for you -- you will find it pays you in the long run to do so.
May you all have good health
regards MAC

Ian Buchan
- Whitchurch Shropshire England


thumbs up signThanks for the advice, Ian. Indeed pure 24 karat gold is always yellow; there are no white isotopes. However, much if not most gold jewelry today is white -- because nickel or palladium has been alloyed with the gold as a bleaching agent to make a 10 to 14 karat alloy that is white in color. If you would tell us not to call the jewelry white gold, as it has been called for decades, what would you have us call it? Thanks.

Readers may wish to see our FAQ: Rhodium Plating and White Gold.

Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

December 30, 2010

Q. Although you advise using baking soda and water, I have a very elaborate antique style white gold ring with both regular size and tiny pave diamonds; I cannot get at the area underneath the diamonds with a brush...I would be afraid of getting baking soda stuck in there somewhere I can't get it out from. The jeweler who sold me my engagement ring said to clean it with Windex and I said the only kind I saw had ammonia in it and they said yes that's the stuff and that it didn't matter how often I did it my ring would be fine. HOWEVER, my friend's husband is a research scientist and he said it reacts with the rhodium plating and I should only use a jewelry cleaner ... So back to you - do you still advise the baking soda even for areas I can't get a brush at to get it out? Thanks!

Sandra King
just got engaged - Nashville, Tennessee USA

Ultrasonic Cleaner

December 30, 2010

A. Hi, Sandra.

Nobody suggested baking soda on this particular thread and it's a bit hard to know which of 60,000 threads you are referring to. But there is a technique mentioned on this site for converting tarnish on silver, with baking soda dissolved in warm water, and a sheet of aluminum as reducing agent. It should not lead to baking soda drying and hardening on the ring, but neither is it actually a cleaner. If the jewelers suggestion of ammonia doesn't solve the problem of areas that you can't reach, get an ultrasonic jewelry cleaning machine. This vibrates the watery cleaning solution to give a strong scrubbing action to areas that you can't reach to scrub. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 13, 2012

A. Please use nothing stronger than a mild soap and a soft cloth or soft toothbrush on your opals. Also, never heat them. Many other stones must be treated with such loving care. Coated stones, such as the "Mystic..." types shouldn't be rubbed with anything other than a soft cloth - and then not often. Once the coating is worn off in a spot you have no reasonable recourse other than to have another stone set in your item of jewelry. Generally, only diamonds, rubies and sapphires can withstand harsh cleaning chemicals, and steaming. It is possible to have problems with some of them, as well, depending on what treatments may have been applied to them. Quartz gems, such as amethyst and citrine attract oil and grease readily, and must be cleaned regularly. Diamonds also attract oils, which dull them quickly, robbing them of "life". Note, ionic cleaners are touted as being safe and effective for all gems, including opals.

White gold turns dull due to oxidation of the nickel in the alloy. To prevent this oxidation, a plating of rhodium is commonly applied. When you notice your jewelry beginning to lose its luster even after cleaning, take it to a jeweler and they can easily apply a new coating. Never, ever wear your gold jewelry when using cleaners than contain bleach, as it will make the metal brittle and cause it to crack. This is not remediable.

Neal Hazen
Jeweler - Mobile, Alabama, USA

14kt gold and baking soda

November 1, 2016

Q. I was reading a website that said to clean yellow gold with baking soda. Just to let it soak for a bit. I did so and it seems like the gold became light and less yellow. It is 14 kt! Do you think baking soda can do this to gold?

Jear David
- Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania, us

November 2016

A. Hi Jear. I wouldn't have expected baking soda to lighten a solid yellow gold ring.

Richard Feynman

But remember the words of Richard Feynman:
"It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong."


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

November 7, 2016

A. Not to the gold itself, but 14kt means an alloy of gold with other metals. Maybe the baking soda removed a patina layer and that affected the color.

ray kremer
Ray Kremer
Stellar Solutions, Inc.
supporting advertiser
McHenry, Illinois
stellar solutions banner

November 2016

thumbs up signGood thinking, Ray. Removing a thin dark tarnish would amount to making the color lighter.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

February 19, 2018

Q. I have a wedding set with a white gold solitaire and two gold bands with 14 diamonds. I went to my Jewelry store to get it cleaned and my rings came out burned. White gold was dark brown and the gold bands were almost like a dark oil color. The Jeweler had no idea what happened. She kept saying there must be something wrong with the ultrasonic cleaning. Is it possible that there was not enough solution in there for it to burn or possible for it to be left in too long?

Terea Sanders
- Bellingham Washington

February 21, 2018

A. Hello Terea, ultrasonic cleaning is a straight forward process. The jewelry store is responsible for their mistake and should bring the rings back to the previous condition. It sounds to me that someone had a different cleaning solution in the ultrasonic machine. If they left it in a normal cleaning solution too long wouldn't have that effect. There is no current entering the ultrasonic device, just vibration. Not much to go wrong there. Next time you may want to buy your own cleaner and follow the instructions.

Mark Baker
Process Engineering - Phoenix, Arizona USA

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