Why Does Silver Tarnish?
Sterling silver is a really popular material for jewellers to work with and is also very popular with customers because it looks classy and is actually pretty durable! There is just one thing though that can turn people off silver jewellery or make it seem high maintenance, and that ogre is tarnish!
The purer the silver, the more likely it is to tarnish. 925 silver for example will not tarnish as quickly as 999 silver. Many silver manufactures add an anti-tarnish plating to their jewellery which also makes it more scratch-resistant.
We all hate tarnish – so what causes it? It’s a very natural phenomenon caused by the oxygen in the air and exposure to certain other elements can also accelerate tarnishing.
It has often been said that the best way to prevent your silver jewellery becoming tarnished is to wear it often because the natural oils in your skin will prevent it from tarnishing. However, sunbathing in your jewellery is not a good idea as chlorine, salt water, and sunshine all help to cause tarnish. It is also wise to avoid contact with certain chemicals found in everyday household products.
There is a lot of wisdom in the old adage that you should put your jewellery on last – after you have done your makeup and hair, and remove it first – before beginning your nightly cleansing routine and going to bed.
When you are not wearing your silver jewellery, it is advisable to store it in a pouch separate from other jewellery so it cannot get scratched. You could also use a small sealed polythene bag with an anti-tarnish tab inside. These tabs will need replacing every six months or so. If you do not have any tabs, a piece of chalk, or a sachet of silica gel (which we send out with our silver jewellery) will work just as well because it helps to reduce humidity, and humidity will speed up the rate of tarnish.
Do make sure that if you have any link or chain bracelets that you store them unhooked/unclasped to help prevent scratching.
Silver is a very soft metal and can therefore scratch easily so do not use anything even mildly abrasive – such as paper towels or tissues – to clean it with. A specially impregnated silver polishing cloth is best thing to use. Every time you polish silver, a small amount of silver gets removed, so be careful not to over-polish. Polishing can actually damage silver or rhodium plating, plating if the plating is not very thick. Silver dips also remove a layer from the silver and should be used very sparingly and only for very short periods because they will eventually break down the surface.
Special Care for Rhodium Plated Silver
Never use any chemicals on your rhodium items. Clean rhodium plated silver with warm water and a mild eco-friendly liquid soap (ammonia/phosphate-free). Rinse and dry with a soft microfiber cloth immediately to avoid mineral residue from the water.
The first thing you should try is the method described above for rhodium plated silver. For more stubborn tarnish, there are many tips and suggestions to be found on the internet. Our favourite involves baking soda, salt, aluminium foil, and boiling water. These ingredients produce a chemical reaction which cleans the silver naturally. Simply, line a container such as a washing up bowl or glass baking dish with the foil, shiny side facing up. Place your pieces of silver jewellery on the foil. Cover the pieces with boiling water and then add 2 tbsp each of baking soda and salt. Stir until the soda dissolves completely.
The chemical reaction will cause the tarnish to transfer to the foil in approximately 5-10 minutes. Once the tarnish has disappeared, gently remove the items from the water (do not use rubber gloves because they may contain sulphur), and drain. Rinse with fresh water, and then dry and buff with a soft cloth.
Other tried and tested remedies involve natural acid ingredients such as vinegar and lemon juice. For example, natural lemon juice (1/2 cup) mixed with olive oil (1 tsp), and distilled (white) vinegar (1/2 cup) and baking soda (2 tbsp). These methods have been around for years using substances which are all well-known for their natural cleansing properties.