Your Sterling Silver Jewelry: Why Does it Tarnish? [PART 1]
We know that you love your sterling silver jewelry and like to wear it everywhere you go. However, there are a few places your precious metal jewelry would rather not go! Two places that top the list are the beach and swimming pools. Not only are salt and chlorine damaging to your jewelry but just being around that much water can hasten the advent of that dreaded scourge of sterling silver jewelry... tarnish!
Just what is tarnish?
Even pure silver tarnishes, although it takes a long time and the presence of the tarnish is subtle. Sterling silver (92.5% silver) tarnishes so much more easily because of its 7.5% copper content. That copper is there to strengthen the silver and make it more usable for jewelry. Unfortunately, the presence of copper also makes sterling silver much more prone to tarnishing.
Sulfur compounds in the air are the main culprits responsible for tarnishing your silver jewelry. Those sulfur compounds actually bond with the surface of your silver to form silver sulfide, which is naturally black. It's that thin film of black silver sulfide that dulls and eventually darkens the surface of your sterling silver jewelry.
Moisture, humidity, and UV radiation hasten the tarnishing reaction between the sulfur and your silver. That's why wearing your sterling silver jewelry to the pool or the beach is such a bad idea. All three are generally found in abundance there! If you do forget and expose your sterling silver jewelry to saltwater or pool/hot tub chemicals, wash it as soon as possible and make sure to dry it thoroughly. A good polish with a soft silver cleaning cloth wouldn't hurt, either!
Tarnish preventers can help keep your jewelry tarnish-free. They work by one of several methods. Good quality tarnish cloth is impregnated with tiny particles of silver that bond with the sulfur before it reaches the jewelry securely wrapped inside. Some products contain highly reactive materials that are more attractive to sulfur than your silver is. And tarnish paper is usually coated with activated charcoal that absorbs and neutralizes the sulfur.
Storing anti-tarnish paper with each piece of jewelry can help prevent that ugly tarnish from forming. That's why we include a piece (usually in the form of a butterfly to match our logo) with every bag of jewelry we ship. Be sure to keep them with your jewelry for tarnish protection and replace them every few months.
Frequent, gentle washing with phosphate-free dishwashing liquid can also help prevent tarnishing. You should consider washing and drying your prized silver jewelry each time you handle it since even skin secretions can trigger tarnishing. Certain medications or even foods can increase the chances of your skin secretions causing your jewelry to tarnish. Keeping your jewelry clean and storing it properly can help prevent most tarnishing.
Learn about Cleaning & Preventing Tarnish in your Sterling Silver Jewelry in our next post.