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Jewelry As Art Inc

FAQ: Does Sterling Silver Tarnish? Will It Turn My Fingers Green?

Posted by Danny Mosco on

One of the most common questions we receive from customers about our jewelry is whether it will tarnish, or if it will turn their fingers green. Well, there's good news and bad news, sort of...Yes, sterling silver does tarnish (that's the bad news). The good news? It's not going to turn your fingers green. Here's some more good news - sterling silver, even after it has tarnished, can be cleaned up. Why does sterling silver tarnish? And how can you prevent it from tarnishing in the first place? Read on for the answers!

First thing's first: sterling silver, contrary to what some might believe, is not pure silver. Sometimes we hear people ask us if our jewelry is pure silver. Technically, no it is not, but that person is asking the wrong question. The better question is, is it real silver? Real sterling silver jewelry has a stamp on it that reads "925". You might be asking yourself, "What do the numbers 925 have anything to do with sterling silver jewelry"? Good question! It's because the standard for something to be considered sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver, and the other 7.5% is combination of metals. Any metal that isn't pure and is instead of combination of metals is known as an alloy. So technically, sterling silver is an alloy. One of the most prominent metals in the sterling silver alloy is copper, and copper is actually the main culprit when it comes to seeing tarnish on sterling silver jewelry. Sterling silver, when it is exposed to the air, will naturally tarnish over time. The other metals (again, mainly copper) are reacting to various agents in the air, like the moisture and sulfur content. More polluted air will cause the tarnish reaction to happen even faster. Other chemicals that are found in everyday products like deodorant, lotions, and perfumes can also contribute to speeding up the tarnishing reaction. So how can you prevent that from happening?

There are a few different methods available to you to prevent or slow down the tarnishing process in your silver jewelry. And, we will also cover a couple of methods of how to clean up your jewelry should you find it is already tarnished.

To prevent tarnish:

1. We recommend that while you are not wearing your jewelry, keep it in a sealed ziplock plastic bag with all of the air pushed out of it. Pushing all of the air out will create a vacuum where the pollutants in the air will no longer be able to react with the metals in the silver. 

2. Keep your jewelry away from sunlight, heat, and moisture as much as you possibly can. These are all things that contribute to the tarnishing process. That doesn't you shouldn't wear your jewelry outside, but if you aren't wearing it, you can at least store it some place where those variables are eliminated. 

3. Do not wear your jewelry in the shower, or leave it in a bathroom, or near a pool or hot tub. The humidity in the air is going to cause the tarnishing process to speed up!

To clean up tarnish:

1. Use a polishing cloth. Polishing cloths are treated specially to clean tarnish off of several precious metals, not just sterling silver. A word of advice on polishing cloths - don't wash them! They are going to turn black and dirty looking, which is because of all the tarnish they are removing, but if you wash it, you will be washing the treatment right out of it.

2. If I polishing cloth isn't getting all the tarnish off of your silver jewelry, fill a bowl with some warm water and baking soda. The baking soda should help to pull the tarnish off of the silver. If your jewelry has gemstones or pearls, be very careful not to submerge them in the solution - it's only the silver you are trying to clean! 

3. If that still doesn't get it all, use an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. They use ultrasonic vibrations to remove tarnish and grime from jewelry. Here is an example of one you could look at: https://www.amazon.com/Magnasonic-Professional-Ult...

Note: we have never used that specific product and we are not endorsing it, just rather giving you a place to start looking.

And as a last resort, if nothing else worked, take it to your local jewelry for them to use their polish wheel to buff out the tarnish. This should only be needed if your jewelry is extremely tarnished, as the methods stated above should work in almost all cases! 

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