Does Sterling Silver Tarnish? What You Can Expect
Sterling silver has a pretty pale sheen that makes it a trendy favorite in the jewelry world. That said, it also tends to tarnish over time. Here's what you should know about silver tarnish, along with some tips to help you keep your jewelry looking beautiful for years to come.
What is Tarnish?
To understand why tarnish forms, you need to consider the science behind it. Tarnish on pure silver is actually the compound silver sulfide, which develops when the precious metal reacts with oxygen and sulfur-containing gasses present in the air.
The tarnish that develops on sterling silver, on the other hand, will also contain copper sulfide. The most common sulfur-rich gas is hydrogen sulfide, which is the type expelled by a hard-boiled egg. Sterling silver begins to tarnish over time when exposed to moisture and a number of common chemicals, including sulfur found in air around cities, chlorine present in swimming pools or spas, and the natural acids on our skin.
What Is Patina?
Commonly considered the look of well-worn jewelry, patina is a natural color change that happens to silver over time. Through the formation of patina, silver essentially protects itself against corrosion that occurs in reaction to the environment and weathering. You can even get gorgeous oxidized silver jewelry that leverages this natural process to create stunning dark designs.
The chemical processes that create a patina are oxidation and reduction, among others. Whatever the case, the best way to prevent tarnish is to wear your sterling silver jewelry often to help create a beautiful protective patina over time.
How to Prevent Tarnish
To help resist tarnish, some sterling silver jewelry is coated with rhodium plating that adds a protective layer that combats tarnishing and corrosion. While this won’t completely prevent silver jewelry from tarnishing, it will significantly slow the process. Whether your sterling silver jewelry is coated or not, there are other ways you can slow the progression of tarnish and keep your jewelry looking its best. Some of our favorite strategies include:
Use a polishing cloth. As previously mentioned, regular wear can help prevent silver tarnish. At the same time, you can ward off tarnish by using a silver polishing cloth, which John Atencio provides with each piece of sterling silver jewelry. In almost every instance, these soft clothes work better on silver than a jewelry cleaner.
Store your jewelry in Ziploc bags. Reduce air exposure by storing sterling silver pieces in an air-tight plastic bag. Be sure to close it halfway, and squeeze all the air out before sealing. You should also make sure the plastic bags don't contain any abrasive materials such as polyethylene or Mylar.
Keep your silver pieces dry. Never shower while wearing sterling silver because the humidity will speed up the oxidation process. You should also avoid wearing your jewelry in the pool or hot tub, which will expose the metal to moisture and chlorine. To delay the progression of tarnish, avoid moisture and store your silver jewelry immediately after wearing.
Use silica packets. Often included in new shoes and clothing, small silica packets absorb moisture and keep the air dry. You can use them to keep the air drier around your jewelry box or shelves and help slow the tarnishing process. You can also place absorbent chalk in your jewelry box or inside storage bags.
Avoid treated wood. You should always keep your sterling silver jewelry away from chemically treated surfaces. One of the biggest culprits, stained and varnished wood contains chemicals that can speed up the tarnishing process.
Prevent needless scratches. Since small abrasions can promote tarnishing, it’s important to carefully store your silver jewelry away from other pieces. Be especially wary of diamonds and other hard gemstones, which can easily scratch your silver pieces and leave them susceptible to rapid tarnishing.
How to Remove Tarnish
If your sterling silver jewelry has begun to tarnish, there are some ways you can restore its lustrous sheen. It’s important, however, to use care so you won’t accidentally damage the jewelry. Many people attempt to remove and clean silver tarnish by soaking their jewelry pieces in a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda. While this may prove effective, it also exposes the jewelry to potential abrasions, especially since baking soda is quite coarse.
John Atencio provides a gentle jewelry cleaner that’s specially formulated for delicate jewelry pieces. He also provides complimentary in-store cleaning over the lifetime of your John Atencio sterling silver jewelry pieces.
In addition to these services, John offers expert inspections and complimentary professional re-rhodium plating. In-store cleanings are available on a walk-in basis, so there’s no need for an appointment. That said, for extensive tarnish removal, John typically relies on reputable third-party tarnish removal partners who charge a cleaning fee.
Caring for John Atencio Silver Jewelry
John Atencio designs every jewelry piece to be a wearable work of art. But his commitment to quality doesn’t end after your purchase. To help you keep your sterling silver jewelry looking incredible for decades, John offers comprehensive after-purchase care from an attentive staff of courteous professionals.
Browse some of John’s most popular sterling silver jewelry pieces or visit one of our many Colorado locations and find a stunning jewelry piece that fits your one-of-a-kind style.