Jewel How

What Tarnishes Silver?

Silver can tarnish when this comes into close contact with sulfur, moisture, and other types of components present in the air. It is also common for silver to tarnish faster in highly humid areas or in places with more serious cases of air pollution.

Silver is among the most prized and popular precious metals in the world that has been mined in Greece and Turkey since 3,000 BC. Today, silver has already found its way to pretty much anything under the sun, from jewelry pieces to coins to photographic materials and medical equipment.

However, in spite of its sparkling beauty, owners cannot help but to feel frustrated once their silver ends up tarnished. After all, who wouldn’t want their silver to look as good as new for a long time?

What Tarnishes Silver in the First Place?

Here are some of the most common culprits behind the tarnishing of silver:

Metallic Abrasion

Using chemicals as well as other chemicals once they come into contact with silver can make it rub off or to tarnish with black colored spots. Some chemical compounds contained in makeup products such as calamine and zinc oxide might be much stronger compared to the chemicals present in jewelry.

If possible, you need to stay away from these chemical compounds every time you buy makeup products. It is also recommended that you remove any silver jewelry you are wearing before you apply  your makeup so you can be sure that compounds won’t fall or stick on your jewelry that can lead to abrasion. The last thing that you should put on before you step outside the house is your silver jewelry.


A common reason behind the tarnishing of silver is the deterioration of metal that the piece has been made from. Corrosion takes place under wet or humid conditions. Every time you sweat, chemicals in your perspiration, while considered mild, is already enough to cause corrosion on jewelry metals that you are wearing, specifically if this is supported by air and warmth.

Sterling silver can also readily corrode on your skin if there is sufficient amount of salt. Always remove your ring before you hold salty things such as salted nuts, chips, and every time you swim in the ocean or cook with salt.

Other Common Causes of Tarnishing in Silver

The presence of natural gases or hydrogen sulfide in materials that silver may come in contact with is often the primary reason why silver tarnishes. Generally speaking, any material that contains sulfur might tarnish your silver and one common example is smoke or pollution due to burnt fuel such as oil or coal. This means that if you are living in an area with high levels of pollution, be sure that you always clean your silver items right after you use them.

Some other materials like rubber bands, latex, wool, chlorine, and some paint may also cause tarnishing. Elevated temperatures and increased humidity can worsen and speed up tarnishing.

Tarnished Silver

When it comes to food, those with strong smells such as onions and eggs and oily meals can tarnish silver as well. If you have oily or moist skin, make sure that you polish your silver on a regular basis. You can also use absorbent powder on the areas where you are wearing your jewelry pieces. There are also cases when the body chemistry of the wearer can affect and react with alloys that can result to tarnishing. This is possible if you are taking specific medications.

Your silver jewelry might also get affected because of your line of job and it may worsen or initiate the tarnishing process. For example, if you are in the field of photography and you always handle photographic solutions or chemicals, always remove any jewelry you have before you work with them said chemicals.

For those who are working on perfume counters, the chemicals from perfumes might get sprayed on your silver items. You always have to take extra care when you test perfumes. This is also applicable if you love to buy perfumes.

Your silver items such as jewelry pieces will soon tarnish. However, knowing the top reasons why silver tarnishes can help you slow down the process of tarnishing and hold up the process for a while.

How to Prevent Tarnishes on Silver

There is simply no way for you to protect your silver items from turning black since silver can react with various materials that you use every day.

For example, tarnishing could be accelerated if it comes into contact with tap water that contains chlorine, various foods such as salad dressings, your hair spray and perfume, and wool clothing.

Although tarnishing is an inevitable natural process, it is possible to slow it down although there will still come a time that you have to clean any tarnished layer.

To slow down the process of tarnishing, make sure that you clean your silver items after you use them. Your skin’s natural oils might accumulate on the silver’s surface and may predispose this to oxidization.

You can wash your silver items gently using warm water and use a soft cloth to dry them.

Regular polishing of silver jewelry can also help delay tarnishing. Clean silver items with a polishing cloth at the first signs of tarnishing.

A professional can also buff your silver items.

Try to reduce contact of all your silver items with substances known to cause tarnishing. It means that you should avoid wearing your silver when you take a bath or wash up.

Never forget to remove any silver ring when you cook. You should also not wear your silver necklaces together with woolen clothing.

Another substance that is found to speed up the process of tarnishing is latex. Again, you need to make sure that your silver items don’t come into contact with it. Also, put on your silver jewelry items only after you finished applying perfume and makeup.

While there is no way that you can prevent tarnishing on silver completely, you can still follow the tips above to ensure that you can enjoy using your silver items for a long time.