Why Does My Gold Ring Turn into a Copper Color? (Easy Fixes)

Learn how to fix and prevent gold discoloration

Jane Pardo | Updated March 19, 2023

Do you have a gold ring that turned into a copper color?

If your gold jewelry starts changing color, it most likely has some non-gold metal components that tarnish over time.

Learn all about gold jewelry discoloration and tips to fix unsightly copper-colored jewelry.

We will also discuss must-read steps to maintain the stunning beauty of your gold accessories.

Why gold turns into a copper color

Pure gold resists fire damage, corrosion, and tarnishing. It retains its beautiful yellow color and stands the test of time.

However, the purest form of gold is too soft and prone to damage like dents and scratches.

Manufacturers mix metals with gold to create alloys and achieve desired properties, such as enhanced durability and color.

For example, they combine gold with copper, zinc, and silver to create strong, durable, and scratch-resistant yellow gold jewelry. Rose gold is an alloy combining copper with pure gold.

Gold jewelry changes into a copper color because of these base metals.

Reactivity to oxygen

  • Pure gold has low reactivity. It doesn’t mix easily with oxygen, so it remains shiny and resistant to rust and tarnishing.
  • The base metals in gold jewelry are highly reactive to oxygen, eventually causing the jewelry to tarnish.

Oxidation due to sulfur-bearing pollutants in the air

  • Gold jewelry discoloration occurs due to a chemical reaction called oxidation. This involves slight corrosion of the outer metal, causing jewelry to change color.
  • It’s a natural process that happens when metals interact with sulfuric pollutants around us. Gold jewelry discolors when a dark sulfide layer forms over it.
  • Gold itself doesn’t oxidize. Only the metal contents in your gold jewelry will oxidize and cause tarnishing.

Exposure to sweat and moisture

  • Additionally, sweat contains fat and fatty acids that could trigger the corrosion of metals in jewelry, particularly when exposed to warm, humid air.

Some gold alloys discolor faster than others, depending on the type and amount of metal mixture.

The higher the purity of your gold jewelry, the slower the process of tarnishing and changing into a different color.

For example, 18k gold has 18 parts pure gold and only 6 parts base metal, leading to excellent tarnish resistance compared to 10k gold.

3 steps to fix jewelry that has turned copper

We recommend the following techniques to bring back the attractive look of your copper-colored gold jewelry.

Use a gentle cleaning solution.

A gentle cleaning solution is ideal for cleaning gold jewelry. You can find gold cleaning solutions in spray bottles or special jar containers with dip trays.

These cleaning solutions can remove tarnish, gunk, grime, and soap residue on gold and silver accessories.

When using a gold jewelry cleaner with a tray:

  • Put your gold jewelry in the included dip tray.
  • Soak within the manufacturer’s recommended period.
  • Remove from the tray and spot-clean hard-to-reach areas.
  • Thoroughly rinse with water and buff with a clean cloth.

I recommend the following gold cleaning solution:

Note: Be sure to follow the directions carefully. Find out what types of gold must not be cleaned, like jewelry with low-quality gold plating. Some cleaning products are not ideal for gold jewelry with gemstones like pearls and opals.

Use a polishing cloth.

A polishing cloth can help restore the beauty and shine of copper-colored gold jewelry.

Choose a cloth size that can thoroughly clean your gold jewelry, whether you have a gold ring or a heavy necklace.

  • Use the inner cloth to clean your gold accessory.
  • After removing dirt and tarnish, use the outer cloth to gently polish your jewelry.

Here’s the polishing cloth I recommend:

Use a homemade dish detergent solution.

While as effective, you can these steps if you want an easy, DIY method using common household items:

  • Mix a bit of dish detergent with warm water in a small bowl. Avoid using regular soap or chlorine products.
  • Submerge your gold jewelry in the solution, and let it sit for 5 to 15 minutes. If your gold accessory has stones, it’s best to soak it for a few minutes only.
  • Gently scrub it with a soft-bristled toothbrush in circular motions for better results.
  • Rinse with lukewarm water to remove any residue, and carefully dry your gold jewelry with a soft cloth.

How to prevent gold jewelry from changing color

Maintaining the beautiful color of your gold jewelry takes proper care and attention.

Follow these essential steps to keep your gold jewelry shiny and tarnish-free for as long as possible.

Avoid exposing your gold jewelry to makeup.

Cosmetics usually have chemical compounds that can rub off tiny metal particles in gold jewelry.

  • Make sure your gold jewelry pieces do not come into contact with makeup containing ferric oxide, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide.
  • Skin care products with traces of heavy metals, such as nickel, chromium, cadmium, and lead, can also damage gold jewelry.
  • Hairspray, perfume, and medicated lotions are also corrosive products you must avoid.
  • We recommend removing your gold jewelry before applying makeup and skin care products.

Remove gold jewelry before swimming.

  • Planning a beach summer vacation? Be sure to leave your gold jewelry in a safe location away from the sea.
  • Exposure to warm, salty air will rust gold jewelry, particularly those containing non-ferric metals like steel and iron. It’s very harmful to rose-gold pieces as sea salt is corrosive to copper.
  • Chlorine in swimming pools can permanently stain and damage gold.

Tip: Fine gold jewelry is durable enough to withstand elements on the beach. Just be sure to take them off before swimming to avoid accidentally losing them.

Take off gold jewelry before showering, cleaning, washing dishes, and cooking.

  • Safeguard your gold jewelry from bleach and other cleaning products with abrasive chemicals. These can stain your gold and make it more vulnerable to corrosion.
  • We also recommend removing gold accessories before showering to prevent contact with hygiene products containing elements that can discolor gold.
  • Avoid wearing your gold accessories in environments with lots of heat and fire, like the kitchen or a pottery studio.

Store jewelry properly.

  • Put your gold jewelry in a clean, multi-compartment box with a soft fabric lining. It should have enough spots for organizing all your gold rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets.
  • You can also get a jewelry armoire featuring doors with hooks for holding necklaces.
  • Be sure your gold jewelry pieces do not come in contact with each other to prevent scratches.
  • Store costume, gold-plated, and gold-filled jewelry separately from more valuable, high-purity gold items.
  • Avoid putting your jewelry boxes in locations with extreme temperatures and humidity, like a stuffy attic or a cold, drafty closet. It’s best to store them at room temperature, away from direct sunlight.
  • Store fine jewelry like 18k and 22k gold pieces in velvet-lined drawers with secure locks.

Tip: Small silica gel sachets (the ones you find in new handbags and shoes) can help absorb moisture in jewelry boxes.

Avoid frequent exposure to corrosive foods.

Highly acidic and alkaline foods form sulfur compounds that can harm your gold jewelry.

These include:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Onions
  • Strongly salted food
  • Products with added flavors
  • Pulp from organic products

While it’s hard to avoid all these situations that can tarnish gold, it helps to be aware of the factors that come into play in gold discoloration to slow down your gold jewelry’s tarnishing.


Can I use baking soda to remove the tarnish from my gold jewelry?

Avoid using baking soda to remove the tarnish from your gold jewelry. It is an abrasive chemical substance that can cause hairline scratches when rubbed too hard, particularly on fine jewelry.

What should I do if my gold jewelry still looks discolored?

Take your gold jewelry to a trusted jeweler if it still looks discolored after trying to remove its unsightly copper hue. A professional cleaning will help restore your gold accessory to its original beauty.

Final thoughts

Gold jewelry turning into a copper color is a natural process, as most gold accessories are alloys with varying metals.

But with proper care, you can enjoy the striking yellow color and attractive shine of your gold jewelry for a long time.

Written by Jane Pardo

Jane Pardo

Jane Pardo is our senior gold & silver expert. Jane lends insight into precious metals investing, collecting, testing, and maintenance.