Will acetone nail polish remover damage gold?
December 13, 2008 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Removing nail polish from a diamond & white gold engagement ring?

Asking for a friend - she was painting her nails with a dark red Sephora brand nail polish, and got some on her engagement ring. The ring is 14K white gold, and the polish is dried and on the part where the little diamonds and metal meet. She's already tried store bought jewelry cleaner and it's just made the rest of the ring sparkly. Googling brings up information on removing nail polish in general, and using clear polish to prevent tarnish on cheap jewelry. Would using regular acetone polish remover damage the metal? If it would cause damage, are there other in-house options?

posted by librarianamy to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total)
Once it dries out completely, she may be able to just peel it off with a fingernail. If it does not come off right away, she may be able to chip it off over time. I have had this happen with paint on jewelry and yet I still never learn. It's always come off, though, even outdoor house paint
posted by isogloss at 1:55 PM on December 13, 2008

Acetone should be ok on white gold unless it is plated or has a rhodium finish. It sounds like a nice ring worthy of a jeweler and not something to be experimented on, though. The jeweler will be able to take it off in the safest way for under $20.
posted by rmless at 2:01 PM on December 13, 2008

I'd avoid acetone - it's not recommended for use on silver, and 14K gold has silver in it.

Chipping or peeling it off is almost certainly the best option. Use a toothpick or a little sliver of soft wood to chip at it - that won't scratch the metal.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:04 PM on December 13, 2008

Best answer: I'd definitely take it to a jeweler. It's an engagement ring... why take chances?
posted by desjardins at 2:04 PM on December 13, 2008

If you're worried about acetone, there are non-acetone polish removers that should do the trick, and you could always test it on a small spot on the inside of the ring first. But, I agree with isogloss that chipping it off with a fingernail would be the best option.
posted by amyms at 2:05 PM on December 13, 2008

Just dropping in to play Captain Safety for a second - the non-acetone nail polish removers are often made using methyl acetate as their main ingredient, which is widely considered by industrial hygienists to be more dangerous from a health standpoint. Methyl acetate (in the "non-acetone" variety) is very slightly less flammable than acetone, but it's worse for you when you breathe it: 500 parts per million of acetone molecules in the air are considered safe over an eight-hour period, but only 250 ppm of methyl acetate in the air are thought of as safe.

So if you use a lot of nail polish remover, it might be better to go back to the acetone and remain just as careful.

But as for this, I'm with the above in voting for just chipping it off or taking it to a jeweler.
posted by lauranesson at 2:24 PM on December 13, 2008

I'd avoid acetone - it's not recommended for use on silver, and 14K gold has silver in it.

Where are you getting this info from? Googling "acetone cleaning silver" brings up quite a few hits suggesting that you use acetone to clean lacquer off of old silver.

Acetone is an organic solvent. Organic solvents can attack things that are based on oil, like plastics or wood finishes. Metals shouldn't react with organic solvents, they're more likely to be attacked by strong acids or bases.
posted by TungstenChef at 3:33 PM on December 13, 2008

Take it to a jeweler. Don't take risks.
posted by tzikeh at 4:15 PM on December 13, 2008

Well diamond is really friggin hard, so is gold, even gold with silver in it.

Drop it in acetone for like 2 hours, scrub it with a tooth brush, rinse, repeat if necessary.

The diamond is not glued in, the little tangs hold it in place.
posted by Max Power at 5:05 PM on December 13, 2008

Acetone will have no effect on metal or diamond, but it will dissolve oil and grease and glue and nail polish. So if you're sure that the setting is purely mechanical and isn't glue-based, an acetone soak will do the ring no harm. If you're unsure about that, a rub with an acetone-dampened rag will take off the nail polish without putting enough acetone on the ring to get inside the setting.
posted by flabdablet at 5:59 PM on December 13, 2008

Best answer: Jeweler's son here. Acetone won't hurt the metals nor the gems (excepting porous stones like opals, turquoise, & amber). Won't hurt silver. Won't hurt the plating.

The 2 hrs Max Power suggested is a bit longer than needed (but not harmful). 5 min at room temps should be plenty. But, as he says, scrub & repeat if necessary.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:15 PM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding acetone. Another good way to clean jewellery is using toothbrush and toothpaste: gently abrasive and safe.
posted by BadMiker at 10:57 PM on December 13, 2008

Amateur chemist here. Use acetone. Scrubbing shouldn't be necessary; you can scratch your 14K gold, and if it's rhodium plated that won't be pretty. Light rubbing with something soft might be OK if it's necessary.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:34 AM on December 14, 2008

Response by poster: Follow up from my friend - she used a bit of the remover on a Q-tip and was able to get most of it off, but will need to follow up with a jeweler to get the dried pieces in the crevices out. Thanks so much everyone!
posted by librarianamy at 7:38 AM on December 15, 2008

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