Preventing Sterling Silver from TarnishPreventing sterling silver from tarnishing is a question I often receive as a jewelry designer. It's so disappointing to go into your jewelry case for that beautiful piece of silver jewelry that you may not have worn for a while and see it darkened from tarnish. You wonder how it happened and can easily assume it's the fault of the material. However, you may be surprised how many different ways your prized pieces can tarnish.
Sterling silver is comprised of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals. The other metals, while comprising a small part of the component, is what makes sterling silver tarnish. All sterling silver contains copper and it reacts to moisture and sulfur in the air. Silver tarnishes faster in high humidity and air pollution. Chemicals such as perfume, lotions, hairspray, etc. also contribute to the tarnishing process.
Here are some simple tips for preventing tarnish:
- Minimize sterling silver’s contact to chemicals. For example, if you are wearing a sterling silver necklace, don't spray perfume on your neck, spray on your arms instead. The same goes for body lotion.
- Jewelry should be the last thing you put on and the first thing you remove. Spray your perfume and hairspray before putting on your jewelry. As soon as you get home, take off your jewelry. This will prevent you from accidentally exposing it to household cleaners.
- After taking off silver jewelry, clean it with a dry soft cloth before putting it away.
- Store clean, dry sterling silver in a dry airtight container, like a ziploc bag and store it away from sunlight such as a drawer or jewelry case. Sunlight will speed up the tarnishing process. If you want to take an extra step, purchase anti-tarnish strips and place those in the ziploc bag for extra protection. They are inexpensive and can be found at most jewelry supply stores.
- Don’t leave silver jewelry in the bathroom or by the kitchen sink - any area that is regularly exposed to moisture. Do not wear it the shower, swimming pool or hot tub. Remember that humidity is not your friend!
- Do not use rubber bands to bundle jewelry because when rubber bands age, they release sulfur that causes tarnishing.