Tarnish Prevention 101: Why Sterling Silver Turns Black - The Relux
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Tarnish Prevention 101: Why Sterling Silver Turns Black

Tarnish Prevention 101: Why Sterling Silver Turns Black

Sterling silver is breaking free from gold's shadow, as people's demand for the alloy is up by 70% in 2021. In jewelry, valuable precious metals such as palladium, platinum, and gold have always commanded the spotlight. Despite being one of the four primary precious metals, silver has long been in the background instead of sharing center stage. The question is – why?

The problem many people have with sterling silver is its tendency to turn black. Here at Biltmore Loan and Jewelry, we've authenticated countless silver pieces that the owners initially assumed were fake. In reality, sterling silver tarnishes or turns black due to exposure to certain elements.

What Is Sterling Silver?

Sterling silver is an alloyed form of silver. It contains 92.5% pure silver combined with 7.5% other metals, usually copper, nickel, or zinc. It is the most widely used form of silver when it comes to jewelry making due to its durability and affordability compared to malleable fine silver. Sterling silver also has a bright white luster that many people find attractive. However, it can lose its desirable shine and beauty without proper care, so it's important to know how to prevent sterling silver from tarnishing.

Why Does Sterling Silver Turn Black?

A downside to wearing sterling silver jewelry is that it can turn black or leave a green residue on your skin. As mentioned, sterling silver contains transition metals, and when they come into contact with oxygen in the air or acidity from sweat or skin oils, they can cause silver to tarnish and discolor. Exposure to chemicals in personal care products, including hairsprays, lotions, and perfumes, can also affect your jewelry's quality.

How to Prevent Sterling Silver From Tarnishing

Since sterling silver does not resist tarnishing as well as precious metals or fine silver, it needs more attention and care. Here's how to keep sterling silver looking its best.

  1. Keep It Clean

Fortunately, you can clean and bring sterling silver back to its original shine with a few simple steps. Before you proceed with our tips on how to clean sterling silver, make sure your jewelry is free of loose dirt or grime by wiping it off with a soft cloth.

  • Use sterling silver polish. Available in most craft stores, apply the cleaning agent with a soft cloth. Ensure to cover the entire piece with a thin layer of product, but avoid using too much. Let the polish sit for a few minutes before buffing off with a soft toothbrush or cloth.
  • Make your own sterling silver cleaner. Mix one cup of white vinegar or lemon juice with two tablespoons of baking soda and stir until you have a paste-like mixture. Then, use a soft cloth to apply the paste to your sterling silver jewelry, then gently buff it in a circular motion. Rinse off with warm water and then pat dry with a clean cloth. You can also soak your jewelry in a solution of warm water and ammonia before scrubbing it lightly with a fine-bristled toothbrush.
  • Use an ultrasonic cleaner. You can restore a heavily tarnished sterling silver piece using an ultrasonic cleaner. This device works by using high-frequency sound waves to remove dirt and tarnish from jewelry. Just remember to take extra care with this option, as it can cause damage if used incorrectly.

Even if you don't see signs of tarnishing, remember to clean your silver jewelry regularly. Even the smallest trace of sweat or oil can turn sterling silver black within hours.

  1. Store Sterling Silver Jewelry Properly

Once your sterling silver pieces are clean and brought back to their original shine, the next step is to store them correctly. Here's how:

  • Keep your sterling silver jewelry in a cool, dry place away from moisture and extreme temperatures.
  • For further protection, wrap each piece of jewelry in an anti-tarnish cloth and store it in a sealed, airtight container.
  • As a general rule for all jewelry, avoid any potential damage by storing each piece individually. It's best to invest in a jewelry box with dividers to prevent your pieces from scratching or rubbing against other metals and gems in your collection.

  1. Wear Your Jewelry Last

To help sterling silver jewelry stay in excellent condition for as long as possible, make it a habit to complete your morning routine – showering, applying makeup, lathering lotion, and spritzing perfume – before you put on your jewelry. As mentioned, the transition metals in sterling silver can react to certain chemicals found in perfumes, skin care products, and cosmetics. To minimize the risk of tarnishing your jewelry, ensure putting them on is one of the last things you do before heading out the door.

  1. Remove Your Jewelry Before Going to Bed

Sterling silver can tarnish faster when exposed to sweat and skin oils while sleeping. To avoid waking up and realizing that your jewelry has tarnished and discolored overnight, remove and store them properly before washing your face and applying your nighttime skincare products.

  1. Keep Away From Certain Places

Except for when you're going to the beach, pool, or gym (saltwater, chlorine, and sweat can tarnish or even corrode most metals and alloys), you can safely wear your sterling silver jewelry every day. Simply follow the cleaning and storage tips mentioned above to ensure your pieces look their best for as long as possible.

Best Sterling Silver Jewelry Brands

Luxury jewelry brands are known for their high-quality sterling silver that resists tarnishing. If you're looking for sterling silver jewelry that won't turn black over time, choose from one of these top brands:

  • Tiffany & Co. is a classic staple in sterling silver jewelry, offering exquisite pieces that show off the Maison's commitment to quality craftsmanship.
  • John Hardy is a high-end sterling silver jewelry brand renowned for their artisan handcrafted designs. The company specializes in stunning sterling silver bracelets, necklaces, rings, and more for everyday and occasional wear. 
  • Cartier has been a leader in sterling silver jewelry for decades, specializing in timeless designs that are sure to stand the test of time. From statement earrings and necklaces to sterling silver cufflinks for men, you can never go wrong with anything from Cartier.
  • PANDORA has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its unique designs and affordable prices. In particular, their sterling silver charms and bracelets are in high demand among women of all ages.

Discover what these brands have to offer and more right here on The Relux, where you can buy affordable and authentic sterling silver jewelry.

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