Does 18k Gold Tarnish? Unveiling the Truth About Tarnish Resistance

Gold has always held a special place in our hearts as a symbol of luxury, beauty, and timeless elegance. While this precious metal is available in many forms, 18K gold remains a popular choice with a fine balance of purity and durability. Containing around 75% gold and 25% other metals, 18-karat gold is adored for its promise of everlasting shine. 

But does 18K gold tarnish or live up to this promise? Will your engagement ring continue sparkling as brightly as the day you first wore it? Is that family heirloom safe with an 18K gold plating, or will it fade with time? Let’s find out! 

Understanding 18K Gold Composition

18K gold is a blend of gold and other metals. The “K” stands for karat, a unit used to measure the purity of gold (in a total of 24 units). Pure gold is 24 karats, meaning it is 100% (or 99.99%) gold with no other metals mixed in it. While pure gold (or 24 karats) is beautiful and shiny, it is quite soft and can be easily damaged — making it unfit for jewelry that’s meant to last. 

To improve its durability and suitability for everyday wear, gold is often alloyed with other metals. So, when you see 18K, this means the piece is 18 parts gold and 6 parts of another metal. In other words, 18K gold is composed of 75% pure gold and 25% other metals, like copper, silver, nickel, and zinc. This blend maintains the luxurious yellow shade of gold and also adds the strength and hardness needed to make it suitable for everyday use. 

What Causes Tarnish in Metals?

Tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion produced by the chemical reaction between metals and nonmetals. When a metal comes into contact with environmental elements (air or water), the oxygen, sulfur, or other chemicals present in it react with the metal. This chemical reaction tarnishes the metal, resulting in a dull, discolored, or darkened layer on the metal’s surface. 

For example, sulfur compounds in the air, such as Hydrogen Sulfide (H₂S), can react with silver metal to form Silver Sulfide (Ag₂S). This compound is responsible for the black tarnish we usually see on silver jewelry pieces. Plus, humidity and moisture can further speed up the tarnishing process because water works as a catalyst in the rusting reaction. 

The chlorides found in sweat, seawater, and household cleaning products can also cause metals to tarnish. If you’re exposing your precious metals to cosmetics, perfumes, and lotions, be prepared for them to tarnish quickly. This is because the alcohol content in these compounds leads to surface damage and discoloration of metals. 

Does 18K Gold Tarnish?

Pure gold, or 24K gold, is highly resistant to tarnish because it is a noble metal, meaning it is relatively unreactive. Since gold is an inert metal, it does not react with salt, water, air, and most acids. This means that your 24K gold bracelet will stay as shiny as the day you brought it, resisting all forms of rust and corrosion. However, as discussed earlier, pure gold is very soft and not practical for everyday jewelry pieces, which is why it is combined with other metals. 

But does 18K gold tarnish? Yes, 18K gold can tarnish, but it's less likely to tarnish than 10K or 14K gold as it has a greater content of pure gold. In other words, the 75% gold content of 18K gold is unreactive and does not tarnish even with everyday wear. But the 25% alloy metals can still react with environmental elements over time, causing your jewelry pieces to fade. 

Can You Wear 18K Gold in the Shower?

While you can wear 18K gold in the shower, it's generally not recommended. Over time, exposure to water can cause your jewelry pieces to lose some of their shine, appearing dull and discolored. But, does 18K gold tarnish in water? Gold has a tarnish-resistant nature, which means that it doesn’t lose its luster in water. 

However, the non-metals or alloys in 18K gold may tarnish and oxidize under water exposure, impacting the beauty of your accessories. Generally, the higher the gold content of a jewelry piece, the less likelier it is to tarnish. This is why 18K gold tarnishes less than 10K or 14K gold, and 24K doesn’t tarnish at all. 

How to Best Protect Your 18K Gold jewelry

If you’re someone who just invested in a gold plated 18K chain or an engagement ring, you’d naturally be thinking “does gold fade over time?”. The answer is yes, your 18K gold may fade over time due to its alloy and non-metal content. Even so, it doesn’t lose its bright yellow color easily, and it's possible to keep your 18K gold shining like new. To do so, follow these tips:

  • Store your 18K gold jewelry in an airtight container or a zip-lock bag to prevent exposure to moisture and pollutants
  • Place silica gel packets or anti-tarnish slips in your jewelry box to absorb moisture
  • Clean the pieces using a mild soap and warm water solution; then dry with a soft cloth
  • Remove your jewelry when doing household chores, or dealing with cleaning agents
  • Appy lotions, perfumes, and hairsprays before putting on your gold accessories 
  • Avoid wearing 18K gold jewelry in swimming pools and hot tubs (because of chlorine)
  • Take off your jewelry during physical activities (or exercises) that may cause sweating



18K gold, with its beautiful blend of 75% pure gold and 25% alloy metals, offers a great combination of elegance and durability. It is more resistant to tarnish than lower-karat gold, but is not completely immune to the after-effects to everyday wear. With proper care and storage practices, you can extend the life of your 18K gold pieces, keeping them shining like new. 

If you’re looking for exquisite, high-quality jewelry pieces coated with 18K gold, there’s no better place than Drivn. Our stunning 18K gold accessories are designed to last a lifetime, without tarnishing or losing their lively yellow spark. So, shop our premium jewelry now and up your style with confidence!