Does sterling silver tarnish? Before answering this question, it would be better to look at what sterling silver is.
Sterling silver is a very popular and fashionable metal for jewellery. Sterling silver is an alloy which consists of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, like copper. Fine silver (99.9% purity) is typically too soft for practical objects. Alloying it with copper increases the strength of the metal while maintaining its colour. However, copper is much more susceptible to oxidation and corrosion, so sterling silver will darken more easily than fine silver.
Other metals that can be used with pure silver include zinc, platinum, and germanium. Silicon or boron can be added to improve the properties of the metal. Although these metals and additions increase pure silver's resistance to fire and tarnishing, the majority of pure silver is still made using copper.
Does Sterling Silver Tarnish?
Does sterling silver tarnish? The short answer is yes. As we mentioned above, sterling silver is obtained from the alloy of pure silver and is frequently used in many fields. And it is natural for sterling silver tarnishes.
The silver jewellery that we bought for the first time, shining brightly and impressing us but they start to tarnish day by day.
Sterling silver reflects the light much more clearly when compared to minerals such as gold or copper. It is one of the two materials most commonly used in the accessory industry. For this reason, while gold highlights itself, silver highlights the person who wears silver jewellery. However, tarnishing is inherent in silver.
Silver jewellery tarnishes once in a while, but it does not mean that silver is going black. Tarnishing, fading or oxidation of silver means that the silver loses its lustre. The darkening of the silver is an interaction that occurs only on the surface of the silver. It is formed as a result of the reactions of the silver mine against external influences. As a result, silver products can oxidize, darken, and fade over time when they are exposed and not used for a long time.
Why does sterling silver tarnish? Hydrogen and sulfur in the air are the most important factors that cause tarnishing in silver jewellery such as silver bracelets for women. Sulfur is found very widely around the world. Silver also has a weakness against sulfur, so it begins to darken even with the slightest sulfur odour.
At the same time, the materials added into the silver, which enables the silver to be processed and to gain the form of jewellery, may cause tarnishing in the silver.
Silver, which is used most intensely after gold in jewellery making, is extracted from nature as a 1000 carat. It is very difficult to process and shape the silver in its extracted form. As you know, silver is too soft to be processed. For this reason, it is mixed with materials such as copper to facilitate processing and make it easier to design. And this causes it to be more affected by sulfur in the air.
So these substances are actually the reason for the tarnishing of the silver. 925 sterling silver occurs after the mines used to facilitate the processing of silver. The fact that silver reflects the light well and is flashy has always attracted the attention of people. For this reason, silver accessories, which are widely preferred in jewellery making, take their place in the showcases with their beauty.
We have said that even the smallest amount of the sulfur element found in large quantities on earth will cause blackening on the silver metal. Silver jewellery standing in a humid and damp area turns black within a day. The reason is the hydrogen, sulfur and sulfuric substances in the air.
The biggest mistake made after acquiring silver jewellery is to expose it to humidity when not in use. Silver left in damp places such as bathrooms tarnishes even in a day. So when sterling silver is not in use, it should be stored in a dry, clean and airy area.
Sometimes, people have their accessories made of radium coating due to the complaint of tarnishing of the silver, but accessories made of radium coating wear rust early in addition to blackening. Therefore, radium coating on silver accessories will damage your accessories.
Conditions that cause silver to tarnish
- Perfume on jewellery,
- Contact with chemical products,
- Being in the same place with other jewellery,
- Long contact with open-air,
- Staying in humid environments,
- Contact with water, acid and salt,
- Covering with radium.
- Swimming with silver jewellery.
Is the Tarnishing of Silver a Physical or Chemical Change?
The question of whether the tarnishing of silver is a physical or chemical change has always been a question on people's minds. First of all, it is necessary to know well what chemical and physical changes are. A chemical event is the transformation of substances by interacting with other substances. Since new products are formed due to the combination of chemical events, the properties of the materials used are lost. So tarnishing of sterling silver is one of the chemical changes.
Let's Examine The Situations That May Cause Tarnishing of Sterling Silver More Closely
We learned the answer of the question which is ‘’Does sterling silver tarnish?’’ and the most common reason for it. But there are other reasons which may cause it.
Silver jewellery primarily tarnishes for different periods of time depending on the body acid ratios varying from person to person. In some people, silver jewellery does not tarnish at all, and in others, the symptoms of blackening and fading begin within 1 week of the day they are bought.
Silver Bracelets for Women Can Tarnish According to Person
This is not caused by the product, but by the body's excessive acid secretion. For example, the same silver bracelets for women can tarnish at different times depends on the user. To test this, you will need to wear silver jewellery at least once. Since sweat usually occurs intensely in the neck area, you can usually achieve a clearer result with necklace products. If the necklace you wear starts to tarnish, you may think that your skin has a high response to silver. In other words, silver jewellery is a substance that can vary from person to person, depending on the acidity in the person's sweat.
Also, this can be affected by external factors. At the beginning of this list comes soap, deodorant, saltwater and other chemicals.
These substances remove the coating on the surface of the silver and dull the silver and cause it to tarnish. That's why we recommend that it be kept away from these chemicals. Especially keeping it away from soap and perfume will extend the life of silver much more. But silver bracelets for women and necklaces can be affected by sweating and perfumes. Since silver men's rings are usually on the finger, they are not affected much by sweating, but because they are on the finger, they face washing with soap.
Alcohol and other chemicals in perfumes cause the silver to tarnish. Also, salty seas affect silvers. Especially in the summer months, when you go to the sea to cool off, it will be to your advantage to remove your silver jewellery.
Air pollution is one of the reasons that may cause tarnish on your sterling silvers. It is almost impossible to argue that the air we breathe is pure oxygen in cities. These harmful elements in the air can damage the silver. Being in the same areas with many people in daily life and in crowded areas where it is very difficult to be isolated, the substances that get into the air directly interact with silver and cause it to darken.
As we explained in our article, sterling silver tarnishes easily. So what you should do to prevent silver from tarnishing.
How to Prevent Silver from Tarnishing?
The most effective way to prevent silver from tarnishing is to use it. If you noticed, darkening does not occur in silver jewellery that you always wear. However, once in a while, you will see that your silver jewellery turns black in a short time. We made a list that you should avoid if you don’t want your silver jewellery.
Tips for Using Silver Jewellery
- Do not go into the sea with your silver jewellery in summer. Seawater can cause great damage to your silver jewellery. It may cause staining or discolouration.
- We do not recommend that people who sweat excessively use silver jewellery at such times. The acid in the sweat can also cause permanent damage to silver jewellery as we said. It can even cause silver to rot.
- Never use bleach to polish your silvers. After a while, your jewellery may become unrecognizable.
- Perfume, cream, chlorine, etc. You must protect your silvers from these kinds of chemicals.
- To protect the product from perspiration, rinse it with water and dry it quickly.
- For fast and sweating activities such as sports, keep the products in a dry place.
- Do not leave silver in contact with saltwater. Dry it quickly after showering.
- As a method to allow it to dry quickly, put it in the tissue paper and remove the wetness. Do not leave the products in the moistened tissue. Put it on a second dry tissue or hold in the dryer if possible.
- Keep your silvers in a dry environment when not in use.
- If you are not going to use the product for a long time, wrap it in a thin paper package and store it in a dry environment in a box.
- Many warranties also cover yearly cleaning for your jewellery. If your sterling silver jewellery tarnishes, you can use your warranty to make it look new.
- You should know where to take it off your jewellery.
- Take off your silver jewellery when you will be in sunlight for a long time.
When you are not using the silver, storing it in an airless and moisture-free box or in a gelatin bag will keep it in the condition you last left it. If you leave it outdoors, it will interact with the air and a humid environment such as a bathroom will start to darken in a short time. So does sterling silver tarnish? Yes. Can you prevent it? Also yes.
Darkening and fading is just the surface of your jewellery. So do not be scared for your silver jewellery. Paying attention to the points we explained above, you can use your silver for a much longer and brighter way.