Jewel How
Home » What Causes Silver to Tarnish

What Causes Silver to Tarnish

Did you notice your silver jewelry turning black after some time of using it? If this happens, it means that your silver has already tarnished. Don’t worry, though. All types of jewelry items made from silver will tarnish over time, whether you like it or not. Tarnishing is a completely natural phenomenon and it doesn’t mean that the life of your silver item has come to an end.

what causes silver to tarnish

Even if it can be very annoying to see tarnish on your silver item, the good news is that you can easily prevent or remove it if you know what you have to deal with in the first place.

Before you decide sending back your silver pieces to the marker, you have to keep in mind that the tarnish on your silver is not in any way related to the quality of the product or the silver itself. Instead, it all boils down to chemistry.

What causes silver to tarnish, then?

Why Does Silver Tarnish Anyway?

Tarnishing in silver items is actually the result of oxidation of the surface of silver with the air, particularly with air contaminants that contain sulfur. Once sterling silver gets exposed to the general conditions of the environment, it stars reacting with chemicals that are present in the environment.

This results to the formation of silver sulfide on the metal’s surface. The only sad news for all silver jewelry owners is the fact that silver sulfide is black in color. As the coating continues accumulating on the surface of the silver item, it will continue to turn dark and soon, it will become black.

Tarnished Silver

Is It Normal for Silver to Tarnish?

Yes, tarnishing is normal in silver. Silver used in flatware, jewelry, as well as other utilitarian purposes is a type of alloy. These are usually made from sterling silver made from 7.5% alloy, normally alloy, and 92.5% pure silver.

This metal combination results to a metal reactive in the natural environment. Pure silver tends to react less with the environment compared to silver alloys. But, silver in elemental state is extremely soft and not often used for or suitable for jewelry making. The sterling silver serves as the standard in the jewelry industry and sadly, pairing it with an alloy like copper will only mean that it will always tarnish.

How Fast Will Tarnish Appear on Silver?

The rate in which a silver item will tarnish depends on the specific conditions where the metal is used or placed.

In general, compounds in the air that contain silver naturally occur. This means that if you leave sterling silver unattended out in the open air, it is natural for it to tarnish to a dark color. Using jewelry and exposing this to sweat, perfumes, colognes, soaps, lotions, as well as other chemical exposures could slow down or speed up the process of tarnishing. When the circumstances are right, silver can start turning black in a matter of days. There are also instances when it might take several months or even years.

Why Does Your Silver Tarnish Faster Than Others?

You have to know that silver can tarnish slower or faster depending on the environment. It also means that it is going to tarnish at different rates based on the wearer.

Every person’s body has a unique chemistry that might detract from or compliment the performance of the sterling silver jewelry and other metals. There are times when it is called silver allergy.

In extreme cases where silver tarnishes faster than normal, it is probably since the wearer’s specific chemistry forces premature tarnishing of the sterling silver. Once again, it shouldn’t be a cause for worries.

There are several things that you can do to combat this kind of silver allergy. Among the easiest things that you can do is to buy a coating that you can apply to the jewelry when you purchase it for the first time.

Such coatings can prevent the jewelry from having direct contact with the skin to help ensure that your jewelry will remain free from tarnish for a longer time.

One more alternative that you can try is using clear fingernail polish and applying it over the jewelry’s surface. It is very effective and you can reapply it as needed.

Tips to Maintain Your Silver Jewelry to Prevent Tarnishing

Maintaining your silver is the very first step to prevent tarnish even before it starts. Well, there is some truth to it. But as far as sterling silver jewelry is concerned, the process of tarnishing already starts from the time it was made. In cases like this, maintenance is all about being able to retain the appearance of your silver over time before your piece gets completely consumed by tarnishing. There are several things you can do to maintain your silver jewelry:

Keep it clean

Ensuring that your jewelry is always clean is crucial for its maintenance. Now that you know the reason why tarnishing forms on sterling silver, it means that it always gets exposed to the different tarnishing agents. The key here is to remove these contaminants. You can do this using warm water and mild dish detergent. You can also use a soft bristle toothbrush. Once you are done cleaning, wash the jewelry clean then dry it properly.

Store it properly

Since silver continuously tarnishes whether you use it or not, proper storage is also equally important. There are several special fabrics, boxes, and bags made especially for jewelry storage that can prevent silve from tarnishing.

Polish it regularly

Regular polishing not just slows down the tarnishing process on your jewelry as it also ensures that your piece retains its shine much longer. The best thing you can use is a polishing cloth. Using it once a week or even twice a week can help add some luster to your piece and get rid of any tarnish from your silver jewelry.

Your silver will tarnish whether you like it or not but at least, you now know that it is a normal process.