Why Does My Gold Jewelry Smell


Gold jewelry has been favored and appreciated for centuries due to its beauty, durability, and malleability. Despite this enduring reputation, however, many owners of gold jewelry have reported that the piece has a foul smell which can be off-putting or unpleasant. The reasons why gold jewelry smells could vary depending on what type of piece it is, but some of the most common culprits might include sweat stain buildup, tarnishing or oxidation, holding onto perfume smells, corrosion from metal alloys in the item’s construction, and even other items being stored with the jewelry. In this article we take a look at each possibility in more detail.

Chemical Properties of Gold

Gold jewelry may have certain chemical properties that can affect its environment and cause odors. These properties can cause reactions with other substances, such as oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur. When gold is subjected to these elements over time, oxidation occurs, creating a tarnish on the surface of the metal. Tarnishing of gold jewelry can bring out an unpleasant smell as the reaction builds up on the metal surface. In addition, when gold comes into contact with other non-gold items around it, an electrochemical reaction (galvanic corrosion) may occur. This reaction can also cause a metallic or moldy odor if not maintained properly. Lastly, some cleaning products used to clean gold jewelry may contain chemicals or materials that can cause reactions with the object and create odors. Properly caring for your gold jewelry through regular cleaning and storage will help reduce potential smells from building up over time.

Sulfur Compounds

Sulfur compounds are molecules in which sulfur atoms are combined with other elements, such as oxygen. These molecules emit a distinctive and unpleasant odor that can be detected when present in even low concentrations. In recent years, it has been discovered that sulfur compounds can be present on gold jewelry, giving it an unpleasant smell.

The presence of these molecules is often due to the environment in which the jewelry is stored. For instance, sulfides form when certain metals react with hydrogen sulfide found naturally in water and air. Sulfides also occur during the refining process when some chemicals used for gold processing contain sulfur or mercury sulfide. Heat from soldering equipment and from wearing the jewelry can further increase the release of sulfur compounds from the surfaces of metals, creating an unpleasant smell. Additionally, contact with cosmetics and perspiration can contribute to this effect and leave what some describe as a “rotten eggs” odor behind on jewelry pieces.

To prevent this smell from occurring, frequent cleaning to remove dirt and oils as well as proper handling of jewelry may help reduce its occurrence over time. Jewelry pieces should also be stored in a dry environment to avoid moisture. Finally, if you find that your gold jewelry has an offensive odor due to sulfur compounds, it’s best to take it to a professional jeweler for expert advice on how best to clean it without damaging its structural integrity or valuable surface finish.

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Proteins and Greases

Proteins and greases can cause discoloration or odor in gold jewelry due to the natural inconsistency and fragility of the metal. When different elements combine on the surface of gold, and harsh chemicals or detergents are used, they can create a reaction that darkens the gold over time. This darkening is caused by tarnish, a chemical reaction that causes a black or green film to appear on the surface of the jewelry. The proteins and greases from skin oils, sweat, creams, lotions, hairspray, and other cosmetics come into contact with gold jewelry when it is worn, and these organic components can react with the gold molecules to create an unwanted coloration or smell. In order for tarnish to be removed from gold jewelry, it needs to be cleaned with a dry cleaning cloth every 1-2 weeks. Cleaning it more often may help to reduce discoloration. Additionally, periodic polishing may also be necessary if bodily oils accumulate too often on the surface more quickly than they are removed.

Jewelry Cleaning Solutions

There are many factors that can contribute to a smell from a piece of gold jewelry. It could be anything from natural body oils and dirt building up on the surface of the gold, to a reaction with chemical jewelry cleaning solutions when they are used in excess. The various chemical components in these solutions can have an impact on the surface of the metal and cause an unpleasant odor when touched or exposed to air.

Gold is soft and porous, which means it is more susceptible to oxidation than other metals like silver or platinum. Oxidation occurs when a chemical reaction has taken place between oxygen and another element, in this case gold. Thus, when you combine water-based cleaning solutions with gold jewelry, you’re creating a perfect environment for oxidation to occur — hence why your gold might start to smell weird after deep cleaning it with these cleaners. If you use too much cleaner or vigorous scrubbing during the process, then this increases the chances for damage due to oxidation even more, thereby producing that musty smell. Furthermore, if any residues from the respiratory fluids of whomever handled your jewelry beforehand remain in contact with your gold items for an extended period of time without being removed through proper cleaning techniques, then this will also cause them to produce a strange odor over time as well. At the end of the day, regardless of what solution you use for cleaning your gold jewelry pieces, it’s important that all residue is thoroughly taken off after each application by polishing and rinsing with clean water so that bad odors do not begin to accumulate over time and ruin its valuable finish.

Prevention Strategies

One of the best ways to prevent gold jewelry from smelling unpleasant is to keep it clean and dry. Immediately after wearing gold jewelry, make sure to rinse it in warm water with a mild soap and then pat it dry with a microfiber cloth or soft towel. Cleaning your gold jewelry on a weekly basis also helps to remove any sweat, oils, or dirt that can lead to unpleasant odors.

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Another way to prevent gold jewelry from developing an unpleasant smell is to avoid exposing it to harsh chemicals whenever possible. This includes perfumes, hair sprays, chlorine or salt water when swimming and cleaning products with strong scents. Additionally, storing your jewelry in designated bags away from sunlight will help protect it against dust and damage that can give off an odor over time.

Finally, you should consider regularly having your gold jewelry inspected by a professional jeweler who can look for signs of wear and tear (which may cause an unpleasant smell) and properly perform maintenance as needed. If properly taken care of, your gold jewelry should remain both pleasant-smelling and sparkling for years to come!

Proper Care

1. Regularly clean your gold jewelry by using a mild soap and warm water. Gently scrub with a soft bristle brush or cloth, to remove any dirt and debris that may be present on the surface of the jewelry.

2. Dry the jewelry completely with a soft, lint-free cloth before storing it away in a well-ventilated area. This helps prevent any build up of perspiration or other moisture which can cause deterioration over time.

3. Polish your gold jewelry regularly with a specifically formulated jewelry cleaner available from most big box stores or online retailers for effective debris removal without damaging the surface of the jewelry item.

4. Store your gold jewelry separately in each item’s own fabric pouch or box to minimize contact with other metals that could potentially cause discoloration or tarnishing on the surface of gold items when stored together for long durations of time.

5. Remove gold items prior to swimming, hot tubbing, saunas, and other activities where direct contact with chlorine or high temperatures is possible as both have detrimental effects on precious metals like gold over time.


Gold jewelry can emit unpleasant odors due to the metal’s interaction with air, body oils, and the environment. Poor care and incorrect storage of gold jewelry can also cause smells. To avoid foul odors, it is important to clean your jewelry regularly with soap and water or a mild cleaning solution. Additionally, always store your pieces in a cool, dry place as humidity can increase the chance of tarnish or corrosion. Lastly, regular polishing will ensure that your gold jewelry remains looking bright and beautiful while keeping away any unwanted smells.