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Timeless Glow! Antique Gold Jewellery Care: Tips and Tricks to Keep Your Antique Gold Buttery and Shiny

Updated: Jan 29

The Importance of Antique Gold Jewellery Care: For Us and Future Generations

A warm welcome to my fellow antique and vintage jewellery enthusiasts! Whether you are a long standing keeper of antique and vintage gold jewellery or just starting out your collection this article I will share with you my best tips, tricks and knowledge, that I have accumulated over the past nine years spent collecting and working professionally with antique and vintage fine jewellery pieces in gold, for caring for your gold jewellery and keeping it in beautiful condition.

As people with a love for the jewels of the past we are also deeply interested in history with these objects connecting us to specific time periods as windows to eras gone by. At the heart of what I do, as a collection curator of antique and vintage gold jewellery, is allowing these windows to the past to stay open for future generations to learn and enjoy. I see myself as a temporary keeper of my personal collection of jewellery and in that time I want to get maximum wear from my pieces but also preserve their current condition and beauty to the max as well for the future generation of antique collectors to enjoy. Each piece tells a story, and it's our privilege to ensure that these narratives continue to shine brightly. This article takes all that I have learnt, through good and bad experiences, over the past 9 years of cleaning and polishing old gold jewellery and simplifies it in to a quick and easy guide to help you best care for your gold jewellery items from rings to chains to pendants and more.

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The Allure of Antique Gold

Exploring the Timeless Appeal of Gold

Gold, with its radiant gleam and intrinsic rarity, has been intertwined with the human story for thousands of years. This cherished metal, adorned by Kings, Queens and Pharaohs, has found cultural significance in every corner of the world throughout history. Before modern manufacturing as we know it, it stood alongside the sun as one of the only true golden entities, adding to its allure and the fascination with this valuable material. In the contemporary era, gold remains a sought-after material, appreciated not only for its aesthetic beauty but also for its trusted universal value.

Its Symbolic Significance

Gold has found meaning within the most precious and sentimental of objects. Symbolically, gold rings have served as emblems of commitment for centuries and across cultures. The unbroken circle of a gold ring symbolises eternity and the timeless commitment between partners. The inherent durability and preciousness of gold mirrors the vows exchanged. If you are interested in the origins of wedding rings I recommend this article from the GIA. Furthermore, our gold jewels, in all shapes and forms, go on to become heirloom pieces, handed down and treasured within families. Lockets containing photos or small objects are worn close to our hearts, engravings hidden on the inside of bands mark special dates and commemorate loved ones, small items are passed between brides or grooms to be inconspicuously worn on their wedding days; it is this nature of gold jewellery which is at the heart of Petit Cœur's mission and values, have a read more about Petit Cœur here.

A Metal Worthy of Your Investment: Why Old Gold Over New Gold?

There's something enchanting about the warm glow of antique gold, don't you think? It's not just jewellery; it's a piece of history that tells a story. The colours in themselves, from the buttery richness of antique yellow gold to the subtle undertones of a warm pink hue in antique rose gold jewellery, seem unmatched with the colours of the more brash colours found in modern jewellery. Not only is its beauty appealing, but more and more people are looking for ethical practices and sustainable solutions when purchasing. This goes hand in hand with investing in old gold jewellery as no new materials are used and you often have the choice to buy from small businesses who tend to prioritise ethical and sustainable practices. Read the Petit Cœur sustainability policy here!

Understanding the Ageing Process

Maintenance and Durability

Good news! The durability of gold jewellery stands as a testament to its timeless appeal. Renowned for its resistance to tarnish, corrosion, and rust, gold requires minimal maintenance to retain its lustrous shine and can easily be brought back to its previous look. Unlike some metals that may succumb to the wear and tear of daily life, gold remains remarkably resilient, making it an excellent choice for cherished pieces that can withstand the test of time. Routine care typically involves gentle cleaning to remove accumulated dirt, but the overall maintenance demands are notably low. This enduring quality not only contributes to the longevity of gold jewellery but also enhances its status as a precious metal that beautifully endures the rigors of everyday life.

Patina and Character

Let's talk about the magic that happens as your antique gold ages. Not all wear is considered negative in the antique jewellery world. The patina that develops over time adds a unique character, turning your jewellery into a personal work of art with gentle strokes of its wear resulting in a satin like finish that cannot be achieved at a jeweller's bench but only through time. This type of look is highly sought after and is the reason why all pieces at the Jewellery Box d'un Petit Cœur are gently hand polished to give them a subtle buffed up shine that leaves the deeper abrasions intact to insure that silky patina. If you prefer a high shine, that is your personal preference, and you can ask for a machine polish that will give a deeper smoothing effect and bring the piece to a glossy and newer looking shine.

Can Antique Gold Jewellery Tarnish?

Yes, antique gold jewelry can tarnish, although gold itself is resistant to corrosion and tarnishing. The tarnishing of any gold, not just antique, is influenced by the presence of other metals in the alloy. Over time, exposure to air, moisture, and certain environmental factors can lead to tarnish on the surface of the gold. However, this tarnish is typically superficial and can be easily addressed with proper cleaning methods. Regular cleaning, storing jewellery in a dry place, and avoiding exposure to harsh chemicals can help minimise the risk of tarnishing.

Caring for YourAntique Gold Treasures

Cleaning Techniques

Now, let's dive into the nitty-gritty of caring for your antique and vintage gold jewels. The most regular maintenance I recommend, for your jewellery, is a good clean. For cleaning by hand, I swear by a simple DIY solution of warm water and mild soap. A soft toothbrush helps me gently scrub away any accumulated dirt and I even use a toothpick for those hard to reach places. I leave the toothpick to soak slightly in that water so it is soft and pay particular attention to not put pressure on stones. This type of cleaning is safe for all jewellery cleaning no matter the gemstones (although if the setting is backed or there is a closed locket section do not submerge jewels in water). If your piece is made from just gold or set with diamonds, sapphire or ruby it can take a higher temperature of water (don't burn your fingers!) or an ultrasonic clean. The ultrasonic is notorious for shaking out small stones, for this reason I only recommend this to be done either with when you have a piece cleaned professionally and they have the means to reset the stone or when you are prepared for it to be a possibility at home... i.e. not before a big event when you wouldn't have time to have it repaired. The ultrasonic is not safe for all gemstones; for this reason I only recommend using it when you are sure it is okay.

Watch the video to see just how effective a good hand clean and polish can be.

Cleaning Equipement

Essentials -

My essentials for all jewellery lovers is as follows:

a flatlay of essential cleaning items for hand cleaning and polishing gold jewellery
Essentials for Hand Cleaning Your Antique and Vintage Gold Jewellery
  • a loupe - to see where the dirt is and if it is really clean!

  • a bowl - I recommend cleaning in a bowl (see my learn from my mistakes section below to learn why)

  • a soft tooth brush - for gentle scrubbing

  • a softened toothpick - for those hard to reach areas

  • a special jewel sparkle cleaner, I use Town Talk - for extra sparkle (read instructions as not safe for all gemstones)

  • a mild soap - anything gentle enough

  • a drying cloth

  • a gold polishing cloth - I use Town Talk

  • a microfibre cloth - for dusting!


For those of you that have lots of pieces and want to go further you can pick up a home ultrasonic cleaner and with a special cleaner to go with. I use the Town Talk ultra sonic cleaner.

I use and recommend products from Town Talk Polish. This is not in anyway sponsored or affiliated, but just what I like to use .

Hand Polishing Techniques

Lots can be achieved with a hand polish and after 9 years f working professionally with antique jewellery plus being a collector myself this is my preferred way to shine up my jewels. Below are a few techniques I have picked up along the way!

hand polishing gold ring technique
Hold your item in one hand and buff with the cloth with the other back and forth

a hand polishing technique for gold jewellery
Using a soft mat on top of a hard surface, like cork board on a wooden table, lay your cloth flat and buff using the resistance of the surface

hand polishing jewellery technique
Cover a toothpick with your cloth and use it to buff those hard to reach places

Gold hand polishing technique
Gently pull the item through two lightly closed fingers with the cloth layered between. This works perfectly for chains, but keep that pressure light and don't pull to hard

Storing with Care

When travelling or when at home store your jewels safely to keep them from loss or damage. I feel like we have all been there when we have put two chains in a box only to come back and find somehow they have completely interwoven themselves into a frustrating and intricate mess.

I recommend a travel case with hangers for necklaces, slots for rings and compartments for other jewels. A similar set up is great for your home storage too but could be done as creatively and as beautifully as you like. The main point is to keep items separated where they can't mix or rub. I also recommend keeping hand "dump spots" as I like to call them. One by your best, the kitchen sink and the bathroom are great places to start. This means when you quickly need to remove jewellery you have a designated place available to quickly put pieces down. I even have a pouch in my handbag for if I need to do so on the go. I always recommend keeping jewellery on if this risk of loss or damage is greater if you take them off.

Selecting the Right Jewels for You

Knowing how you want to wear your jewels is important to the preservation of their condition. Of course, your loved jewels should be worn and adored but an awareness of their materials and which jewels are suitable to be worn when can help persevere their condition for longer. I have lots of older backed gemstones in my collection so, for me, this means taking them off for swimming, sport, cleaning, gardening, sleeping and washing. But to you this might be different. Plain gold items with no stones are the most resilient with pieces set with diamond, ruby and sapphire coming in next. Each item will have its own needs for if preservation is the most important to you. Each Petit Cœur item has its own care section to explain how it should be worn if preservation is the most important element.

Learn from My Mistakes

Read this list and save yourself from making the same mistakes that I have over the years perfecting my cleaning and polishing techniques!

Gently does it...

Gentle scrubbing and gentle digging with that toothpick. Pay extra attention to not put pressure on the backs of stones as you might just pop one out.

Use a bowl...

You don't want to be standing over a sink of running water and a rose cut pops out of your diamond ring do you? Use a bowl and work over a tray. Always check your piece for any missing stones before you pour the water away.

The right product for the right piece...

Always check the labels to make sure your cleaning product is suitable for a certain gemstone. Ultrasonic only when you feel completely sure about it.

Take them off when you should...

For preservation, take your pieces off for any activity when they are like to get caught, knocked, dangles, exposed to chemicals or dirt!

Yes, gold is very resilient but it is not indestructible to force or wear over time. Remember, I always recommend keeping jewellery on if this risk of loss or damage is greater if you take them off.

Periodic check-ups

I always recommend that you learn to use a loupe so you can keep an eye on your pieces. Check those claws, links and solder joins. Better still, run your piece by a professional antique jeweller every now and then for a check.

Embracing the Journey Together

I invite you to share your own experiences and tips. Whether you're a seasoned collector or just starting your antique jewellery journey! Let's continue this conversation in the comments – share your stories, ask questions, and let's keep the love for antique gold alive!

Join the Antique Gold Adventure

If you're looking to add to your collection or explore the world of antique gold, hop over to my online antique and vintage jewellery shop. It is my pleasure to source the most delightful and unique finds from across Europe, but with a special emphasis on the hidden gems of France.  Every piece in the collection is selected for its distinctive charm; they each embody an era gone by, telling a unique story and reflecting past styles and craftsmanship.

Sign up to the Petit Cœur mailing list from the homepage to get updates on new finds and the latest blog posts. There is only 1-2 emails a month and each email contains an extra bonus like secret sales or a discount code for just subscribers to enjoy, of course, it is completely free!

Reading & Watch List!

If you enjoyed some of the themes covered in this article then here is a bit of further reading/watching for you.


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