Does Sterling Silver Tarnish?

Sterling silver gained its popularity during the 12th century in Europe. When it was discovered that pure silver was weak, people began adding metals, thus creating sterling silver.

Sterling silver is constructed from 7.5% copper and 92.5% pure silver; because of these metals’ addition, sterling silver will always tarnish, even .925 sterling silver.

It’s essential that you understand tarnished silver does not mean that the value or purity is any less. However, since .925 has a high level of pure silver, the tarnish will happen slowly over time, rather than the way it would on a silver that has a low purity level. We’ll discuss what tarnish is and how you can prevent it from happening to your sterling silver collection.

Why Does Silver Tarnish?

Since copper has been added to pure silver, the copper reacts to sulfur and salt in the air, which causes your silver to tarnish. The tarnish can appear as a black or yellow tint. Sometimes, it even shows up as green.

Something else that can cause silver to tarnish is the chemicals found within makeup, lotions, hand soaps, and human sweat. These chemicals will react with the jewelry, causing it to discolor much faster than air alone.

On the other hand, if your sterling silver tarnishes, there are some steps you can take to clean it up and make it look brand new. Once it’s cleaned up, taking action to prevent the tarnish in the first place will keep you from needing to clean it often.

Clean Tarnish Sterling Silver Jewelry

How To Clean Silver Tarnish

Once your silver has tarnished, you have several options to choose from to clean up the discoloration of your silver, such as:

  • Clean it with a silver polishing cloth
  • Make your own silver cleaning dip
  • Take it in to have it professionally cleaned
  • Use silver polish

The method you choose depends solely on your preferences. You can use a silver polishing cream to remove heavy tarnish or use a silver polishing cloth covered with the same chemicals. Or, if you wish, you can drop it off at a jeweler who will clean it for you.

Create Your Own Silver Cleaning Dip
Another option you have is to create your own silver cleaning dip using household products. While some people swear by toothpaste, this is something that should be avoided since it’s incredibly abrasive and will scratch your jewelry. Instead, you can use salt and baking soda.

  1. Grab tin foil and a glass container. Line your container with tin foil and fill it with hot water.
  2. Add the salt and baking soda. Use two tablespoons of both baking soda and salt. Stir the ingredients into the hot water until they dissolve.
  3. Set your silver in the dip. Let your tarnished pieces sit for at least five minutes. For bad tarnishing, let it sit for up to 10-minute total.
  4. Rinse and dry your jewelry. When the tarnish dissipates, rinse off your silver and then dry it with a soft piece of cloth.

How To Prevent Silver From Tarnishing

Knowing how to stop silver from tarnishing will help so that you won’t need to constantly clean the discoloration from the surface of your beloved jewelry. Below are some steps you can take to prevent the silver from tarnishing or slow down the process.

  • Know When To Put It On And Take It Off – Never put your fashion or customized jewelry on before you apply any makeup, lotions, or cologne. Sterling silver jewelry should be put on only after you have cleaned your hands after touching these chemicals. Likewise, you will need to ensure you remove your jewelry before you go swimming or take a shower.
  • Clean Your Jewelry After Wearing It – Sometimes your sweat will react with your jewelry and cause it to tarnish. When you take the jewelry off, take care to wipe it down after each use to slow the process. Additionally, you should only wear your silver jewelry when you want to stop it from tarnishing, as this can happen if it sits too long. It all really comes down to balance and maintaining your beloved silver. This also means that you should remove it before sleeping and wrap it in a soft cloth to store it in a Ziploc bag so that it doesn’t react to the air.
  • Keep Away From Solutions – Chemicals and salty solutions are other factors that will cause your sterling silver to corrode due to the salt and strong acidic bases inside of the substances. This means that you’ll want to keep your jewelry at home if you go to the beach since the salt in the air can cause it to tarnish. Additionally, you shouldn’t wear your jewelry when cleaning the house, doing dishes, or applying any types of lotions or oils, or while playing sports. If you forget, it’s not a big deal. You can always clean the jewelry off as soon as you are able.
  • Be Mindful Of Your Environment – If you work in an environment where you’re handling perfume or makeup all day, these things can make their way onto your silver jewelry. Or, if you are in an area that has a high amount of Sulphur in the air, then these circumstances will cause your silver to tarnish quickly.
    You don’t have to refrain from wearing your silver to work or while traveling. However, it would be a good idea to have a silver polishing cloth on hand just in case.

Q & A

How Long Does Sterling Silver Last?

The amount of time your sterling silver lasts depends on what it is. For example, if you have a personalized sterling silver necklace that you wear all the time, this will last you around 25 years. However, if it’s worn occasionally and you’ve stored it properly, then it will last a lifetime. Therefore, if you have a sterling silver memorial plate, or perhaps some other type of collectible décor, then this can last a lifetime as well. You will just need to ensure you take care of it the right way to prolong the life of the object in question.

How Long Does It take For Sterling Silver To Tarnish?

Many different factors will determine just how fast your silver will tarnish. For instance, if your silver encounters chemicals frequently, such as pool water, or cosmetic products, your silver will tarnish quicker.

Does Sterling Silver Rust?

Tarnish is essentially rusted sterling silver, so in a way, yes, sterling silver does rust. However, it’s different than the usual rust, as this can be removed without damaging the surface of your object. This may trigger the question, “Does sterling silver change color??” The answer to that is, yes, it does.
Since the .925 sterling silver is created using copper, this copper will react with specific elements and take on a green color. The green can rub off on your skin; however, it’s harmless and preventable.

Can You Shower With Sterling Silver?

Now, for the age-old question, “Can you wear sterling silver in the shower?” The answer is yes, but you should refrain from doing so. If you accidentally forgot to remove your jewelry before getting in the shower, then it’s no big deal; you can simply clean it before putting it away.

However, the water will cause oxidation, which will then cause it to tarnish. Not to mention, there’s a risk that you could drop your jewelry down the drain, which is why it’s a good idea to leave it on your dresser instead.

Taking Care Of Your Sterling Silver Will Help Prevent Tarnish

Tarnished silver does not mean that your silver is ruined or that it takes away from the value. The tarnish is merely a reaction of the copper to different chemicals found in the air, human sweat, and other various products.

By ensuring that you store your silver correctly and avoid contact as much as possible with different chemicals and solutions, you can help your silver to last a lifetime.