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Jewelry, Gems, & Minerals/gold jewelry turns clothes black


I have an antique 24 ct gold pocket watch and chain (both in excellent condition).  I polished them with 'jewelry wipes'.  Now they turn my clothes black.  I have rubbed until the wipes are free from black, but my clothes still become black.

The watch does not touch my skin, just my clothes.

Can you suggest another cleaning method to stop the black nightmare?

Dear Nita,

I am curious if you have had the watch case and chain checked to determine if the metal is truly 24k gold or if this is a gold overlay of high karat gold?  A case of 24k would be very, very soft and quite easily deformed and dented. Also, 24k will not tarnish.

I suspect that if the case and chain are truly high karat gold and not an overlay, there is a reason for the black smudges other than tarnish.  In that case, you can clean and wipe everyday but the black will still show on certain clothing.

This is like a detective case and we must look at a few factors to start with.  1. How do you know the watch case and chain are solid gold and not a high karat overlay atop a brass base metal?  With wear, a base metal when exposed will create tarnish and that will show on clothing.  2. Why would black show on clothes after all the metal has been cleaned, whether solid gold or not?  3. What kind of fabric is showing the black smudge: Is this all clothes or do some get more smudge than other fabrics?  4. Does the clothing fabric have any remnant of chlorine bleach from washing, as revealed by a very close sniff test? 5.Did smudges show prior to cleaning? If not, maybe there was a lacquer or wax coating on the metal to help prevent tarnish.

You will need to answer these questions because you are there and you are the one who wears the watch.  

Ladies have come to me with black showing on their neckline, a black which is totally unexpected from a high karat(like 18k) necklace.  Others wear similar jewelry with no smudges. What was the difference from one woman to the next considering they did not show any particular sensitivity to wearing gold and could wear rings and bracelets with no problems?  In these cases, the difference was make-up: Make-up around the neckline.  Those with heavier make-up on the skin where the gold made contact had black smudges show on clothing or skin. Those with quite light or no make-up at all on those areas did not have smudges.  Why is that?

When gold is rubbed on very fine sandpaper, there is a residue of metal on the paper surface. With coarse sanding the powder is gold. With very fine abrasive, the powder is too small to appear gold and shows to the eye as black.  Make-up and certainly heavier sorts is made of minerals as a large component. The very finely ground minerals are sanding away at the gold and the gold residue shows as black on skin and is carried to the fabric.    It is possible with a very high karat and therefore quite soft gold, the fabric itself is rubbing off enough metal to show black, black residue of metal and not tarnish.  If this is the case, cleaning will not solve the situation.   Simply rubbing the metal on the same sort of fabric will show if this is happening.

Nita, with the metal clean and no base metal causing tarnish, there must be another reason for the smudges. I have provided a possible cause.   Otherwise, we get into odd and difficult to discover happenings such as chemicals in the wash, where the watch is stored or other environmental sources.  There is no way for me to track that.  If only very high karat gold such as 24k or 22k is touching the clothing, no chemical reactions should be causing tarnish. If a pin on the case lid(s) is held in place with a soft solder(grayish metal) that could cause tarnish but I would not expect it to be excessive enough to smudge dramatically.  Examine the case and chain very closely and look for any areas which do not look like gold, better done with several days of wearing since cleaning.  The watch and chain should be examined by a reputable jeweler to determine if indeed this is 24k metal, a quite rare find if it is.

This answer is inconclusive and can not be otherwise considering the jewelry/watch is there and I cannot have it in my hands to examine.  If I could, there is not a certainty of finding out why the smudges.

A few polishes are designed to leave a temporary protective coating on the metal after cleaning. These are generally silver polish.  Trying a silver polish is not a bad idea but you need to use one with the statement that it leaves a protective coating on the metal.  Another possibility is to use the rub-on metal polish called "Semi-Chrome".  Go gently with either sort and be sure the polish does not get into the watch movement area, keeping any liquid or powder residue on the outside for easy removal. Avoid the "apply and let dry then wipe" sorts of silver polishes because of possible dust getting into the movement.

Nita, a nice jewelry/watch item like you have is meant to be worn. I do hope that you may glean something of help from this answer.  Thanks for asking. I wish I could be of more definite help.

God Bless and Peace, Thomas.  

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Have a question about jewelry repair or working with precious metal jewelry and gemstones? For many years up to December 31, 2010, I was a working professional bench jeweler, involved everyday with setting stones in mountings, designing and making jewelry, repairing and limited custom manufacture. If you work with jewelry as a hobby or as a profession, I might be able to help. I deal with the retail business, not mass production. Ask privately if you wish. See the box for that: It keeps your question between us. Please DO NOT ask MAKER'S MARKS, but metal quality marks are fine to ask. Please DO NOT ask diamond prices. See a gemologist for that.


I have extensive experience in design, service and making of jewelry. I deal mostly with precious metals and gemstones but work with many materials as needed and usable to create an artistic design. My experience also includes freelance photography and photographer of jewelry and similar items for a former employer and individuals. Design of custom items requires reading the desires of the client and being clear on what can be done within that framework...then fulfilling the transition of idea to reality. Effective communications is essential in a working designer/producer and customer relationship.

Education is English/Physics! Started in human resources, to advertising, to, what a road. I have had formal training in jewelry work and many shared experiences with top grade jewelers. We just never know were we will go or be. Follow your best, your dreams, with some discretion! Don't let the work tear up your body along the way as it has mine.

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