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Does Sterling Silver Tarnish?

Sterling Silver is a popular option for jewelry. However, many consumers wonder if sterling silver will actually tarnish. Sterling silver is more durable than regular silver. For this reason, many artisans of this day work with sterling silver, with jewelry being a popular use. But does it tarnish? If so, how long? Let’s explore! 

What is Tarnish?
When metals that are exposed to air, they experience a chemical process called oxidation. Oxidation can produce a number of different outcomes from rust to tarnish. When the silver alloy is combined with latent sulfur in the air released from natural organic decomposition and environmental factors, the chemical reaction between silver and sulfur creates silver sulfide, which is black. Therefore, tarnish is a thin film of silver sulfide on your jewelry. Tarnish can look black, brown or green and can appear as spots of discoloration on the piece. 

How Long Does It Take Sterling Silver to Tarnish?
It depends. The amount of time it takes for the tarnish to form depends on the amount of exposure the sterling silver has been exposed to air. Natural oils on the skin such as oils and sweat can help speed up the oxidation process. Also, water, lotions and perfumes can also contribute to your jewelry tarnishing quickly. 

If the piece is consistently worn without applying any preventative steps, it could only take a few months for the piece to begin to show signs of tarnish. In a controlled environment, it could take sterling silver a couple of years to tarnish. 

Can I Remove Tarnish?
If tarnish has already started forming on your jewelry, there are a couple methods to removing it depending on the amount of oxidation.  

If the tarnish is light, you can scrub the piece with an anti-tarnish jewelry cloth and remove the discoloration. You must be careful no to over-do it with the cloth because it can sometimes reduce the luster and shine of your jewelry. You can also use a small amount of baking soda and water mixture and scrub the jewelry lightly with a toothbrush. Let it dry thoroughly before wearing it again.

 

 

Is Tarnish Preventable?
Preventing silver from tarnishing is pretty simple. The best way to prevent your piece from tarnishing is to take your jewelry off at the end of your day and clean them after wearing them. This will help remove dirt and other natural oils that may have accumulated on your jewelry as well as prevent the chemical process of oxidation. Also, keeping your jewelry in an air-tight jewelry box will help reduce oxidation by limiting air exposure.

Overall, sterling silver is popular for consumers and jewelers because of its strength and malleability. More importantly, it is affordable and many designs are exclusive and make a statement. You will not have to even worry about tarnish as long as you show your jewelry the proper care. 

Kate Lowery

Kate Lowery

Kate Lowery is a writer for PaulaMax Jewelry. She has written a lot of content over the years on various topics, but has found a passion for jewelry along the way. When she is not writing, you can find Kate riding her horse or swimming among the waves of each coast of the U.S.

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