Why does Silver Tarnish?

Silver is the Most Popular Type of Metal used for Jewelry in the World today. Jewelers love it, customers love it, there’s a great abundance of it, and it’s inexpensive! It seems like such a win-win situation, doesn’t it?

But there’s one huge down-fall to Silver…

It Tarnishes!

It turns black. It leaves dark black, blue, purple stains on your fingers, wrists and neck. It even leaves stains on your clothes. Everywhere that Silver touches, Silver leaves its mark. And not in a pretty way! It’s gross and ugly!

The funny thing is, it doesn’t stop people from buying it or wearing it. People know Silver does this, and they don’t care. It’s still highly popular.

Why is Silver so Popular?

I would surmise that there are 3 main reasons why Silver is so sought after. 1) It’s Cheap! (Very Cheap!) 2) It’s very malleable. Jewelers and Artists have no problems molding and shaping Silver into wonderful works of art. 3) It’s White! People have always been attracted to White Metals. Now more than ever. If you go into any Jewelry Store, over half the cases will be full of White Metals like: Silver, Platinum, Titanium, Tungsten, Steel or White Gold. There’s no denying it, White Metals are HOT!

Silver Jewelry has been around forever. But forever doesn’t help the fact that Silver is very soft. Silver is actually too soft to wear as Jewelry. That’s why most of the Silver you find on the market today is called “Sterling Silver“. Sterling Silver is more durable than pure Silver because of one main reason. It’s mixed with other alloys. Sterling Silver contains 92.5% Silver, and the other 7.5% is Copper. Copper makes the Silver stronger and more durable so it can be crafted and styled into beautiful Jewelry pieces.

Sterling Silver Stamp

That’s why you’ll normally find a karat stamp inside the Rings or Jewelry that says “.925” That means 92.5% Silver, which is what the Government says Silver needs to be, to be sold in the U.S.A. as “Silver“.

No matter what, Pure or mixed, nothing stops Silver from tarnishing. When Silver is exposed to the air and atmosphere, it causes a chemical reaction that creates something called Silver Sulfate. That’s what that lovely little black mark is on your finger. A Sulfate Stain.

What can you do about Silver Tarnishing?

There really isn’t much you can do about Silver tarnishing. It’s just the nature of Silver. Silver’s a metal that reacts to chemicals. Whether it be chemicals in the air, or chemicals touching it…

Silver Reacts!

That’s why most Sterling Silver sold today is plated with a thin layer of metal protection. This process is called “Flashing“, and they use either Silver or Rhodium to coat the outside of the Rings or Jewelry to make them look Whiter, Brighter, and to keep the tarnishing down to a minimum. So until that plating wears off, your Silver will actually hold up pretty well.

Bad Reactions with Silver

Here’s a list of things that Silver has a bad reaction with: Wool, Rubber Bands, Latex Gloves, Oils from your Hands and Fingers, Ammonia, Chlorinated Water, Carpet Padding, Air Pollution, Perfumes, Hair Sprays, and believe it or not, some foods can even make Silver tarnish. Foods like: Onions, Mayonnaise, Salad Dressing, Eggs and Salty Foods. (Put down those Chips!)

In fact, just the humidity alone can cause Silver to corrode!

It’s a never-ending battle!

The good thing is, it’s easy to buff and clean Silver. It doesn’t take much to Polish up a Ring with a Polishing Cloth, Silver Jewelry Cleaner, or a Jeweler’s Buffing Wheel. Just a couple of minutes and your Silver Jewelry will look new again.

The best way to store your Silver Jewelry is in individually sealed poly bags or zip lock bags. Store it with those cute little Silica Gel Packs and it’ll help remove any moisture from the air. It won’t keep your Jewelry from tarnishing, but it will delay the process.

Cleaning your Silver Jewelry with warm water and drying it with a soft cloth after you wear it, will remove any oily residue and slow the process down as well.

Some people also advise storing your Jewelry with chalk just because it absorbs the toxins in the bag. Keeping your Jewelry in Tupperware or Rubbermaid Bins works great also. (Especially if you can seal them air-tight!)

But what’s the best medicine for your Silver Jewelry tarnishing?

The best medicine for preventing Silver from tarnishing, believe it or not…

Is to Wear it!

It’s true. Just normal wear and tear and friction of daily life will sometimes be enough to keep your Rings outer surface Bright and White! Fancy that! And if it starts to tarnish, what ever you do… Don’t use Toothpaste to clean it with! The chemicals in Toothpaste are too harsh for Silver and it’ll do more damage than good.

How to Clean Silver?

I’d recommend using a Good Silver Polish or a Soft Polishing Cloth made for Silver, or the best thing to do, is to take it in to a Jewelry Store twice a year and have them buff and clean your Jewelry.

Silver makes great Jewelry, and it makes it cheaper than any other White Metal out there. Silver’s popularity with handcrafted goods have been passed down from generation to generation. Great American Indian Tribes have dabbled in Silver for centuries. Tribes like the Navajo, Domingo, Zuni, Hopi and Pueblo Indians have been incorporating Silver with wonderful Gemstones like: Turquoise (also known as the “Sky Stone“), Tigers Eye, Onyx, Lapis, Malachite, Amber and Coral into their Folk Lore, Culture and into our admiration, hearts and souls for countless years. Silver is just inspiring!

Art and Silver!

Just go to any Art Show or Exhibit today and you’re sure to see their great influences. Trays and trays of wonderful Silver Pieces line Jewelry Cases, Jewelry Stores and fingers galore! And the best part of it all… Prices start at just a couple bucks! Gotta love that!

And if you’re looking for a great gift to buy, I’ll let you in on a fabulous secret… The Pandora Bracelet is the best selling Ladies Bracelet today! It’s hot!

And just remember, wear your Silver often, keep it dry and clean, and polish it a couple times a year.

That way, your Sterling Silver Jewelry will last you a lifetime, and for only a couple of bucks, that’s a great investment you can’t deny!

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  1. Laura daynos // August 29, 2015 at 1:22 am // Reply

    This page is so helpfull…thanks

  2. I’ve had silver rings before, my current one has a rose gold band on it. I forgot to take it off when I went swimming twice and 1/2 of it has turned black. I just got it two weeks ago and my polishing cloth isn’t doing anything to help, none of the black is being removed.

  3. ErinBrooke // July 31, 2016 at 6:25 pm // Reply

    Great article, and yes, I love that you mentioned WEARING your silver is the best way to keep it tarnish free.

  4. Best description I’ve encountered.

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