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Why Does Silver Tarnish? 5 Ideas To Keep Tarnish Free Silver

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Together with gold, silver is probably the most commonly used metal for jewelry. It’s common to see people wearing silver rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Silver is fairly cheap, lightweight, and beautiful.

But one of the things that many people dislike about silver is the fact that it tarnishes. While gold always maintains a luster, silver tends to get dull with use. But why does silver tarnish? What causes silver to tarnish, and what can you to do avoid it?

Below, we’ll take a look at the reasons why silver tarnishes, as well as what silver does not tarnish. Best of all, you’ll learn how to keep silver from tarnishing. By the time you reach the end of this page, you’ll have learned how to protect your silver and keep it bright and shining!

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Why Does Silver Tarnish?

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The word “tarnish” means “lose or cause to lose luster, especially as a result of exposure to air or moisture.” That pretty much explains what causes silver to tarnish!

When your silver is exposed to air and water (sweat, rain, dishwashing water, shower, lake, ocean, etc.), the metal begins to corrode. Tarnish is basically a layer of corrosion forming over the silver as the water and oxygen causes a chemical reaction with the metal. The tarnish will reduce the brightness and color of the metal, making it look less lustrous.

If there is heavy pollution in the air, the tarnish may happen faster (due to the high acidity of the pollutants). Silver can tarnish as a result of contact with a lot of different things:

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  • Tap water (courtesy of the chlorine)

  • Food (acidity in vinegar- and lemon-based foods)

  • Woolen clothing

  • Hair spray

  • Perfume

  • and the list goes on!


Tarnishing is a fully natural process, one that cannot be fully avoided. If you own and wear silver jewelry, it’s going to tarnish. All you can do is take steps to reduce tarnishing and polish your jewelry when it gets tarnished.

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What Silver Does Not Tarnish?

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If you are looking for a type of silver that won’t tarnish, you’ll find that pure silver is always going to end up developing this corrosion. However, there are other types of silver that won’t corrode.

For example, many people wonder “Does silver plated jewelry tarnish?” The answer is no, due to the special plating (a mixture of silver and rhodium) used to protect the jewelry. The outermost layer of the jewelry (the “flashing”) will protect the silver from exposure to air and moisture.

However, be warned: the plating/coating will wear off. Frequent use will speed up the degradation of the plating, as will regular polishing. You will have to have your jewelry re-plated to restore both the look and protection of the plating.

To answer the question “Does sterling silver tarnish?”, you have to understand that sterling silver is. Sterling silver isn’t 100% pure silver, but it has about 7.5% copper and other metals mixed in. Anytime you see a piece of jewelry with the “.925” mark, that is sterling silver.

The fact that sterling silver has copper means that there will be tarnish. Copper is a metal that oxidizes very easily. In fact, the copper used in sterling silver jewelry is one of the primary reasons that most silver jewelry tarnishes.

100% pure silver is far less likely to corrode, but there are very few pieces of jewelry made exclusively from pure silver. The addition of copper and other metals makes the silver more durable and less malleable, hence making your jewelry longer-lasting.

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How To Keep Silver From Tarnishing

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Seeing as 99% of the silver jewelry on the market is made from sterling silver, it means there’s not a lot you can do to completely avoid tarnishing. However, you can take steps to prevent and reduce tarnishing. If you want to know how to keep silver from tarnishing, here are a few things to try:

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Store it

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Store your silver in airtight bags, and there is no exposure to air. Add in a silica gel pack to prevent moisture, and there’s no exposure to water.

Without air or moisture, there is no corrosive reaction with the silver, thereby eliminating the risk of tarnishing.

If you have a collection of silver jewelry, it’s worth storing in an air- and water-tight location. This will help to slow down tarnishing and potentially stop it altogether. The tarnishing will continue when you take out the jewelry to wear, but at least it won’t tarnish when stored.

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Clean it

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Cleaning your silver jewelry after each use can help to slow the tarnishing process. The oils of your skin, dirt on your hands, and pollutants in the air will make the ring more likely to oxidize and tarnish.

Once you take off the silver jewelry, run it under some warm water to wash away any traces of oils, dirt, or pollutants. Use a soft cloth to dry it, then store it in the air- and water-tight container. Do this after each use, and the jewelry will be far less likely to tarnish.

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Polish it

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Polishing the jewelry will eliminate any existing tarnish AND protect it from further tarnishing. The silver polish will get rid of the corroded materials on the surface of the ring, eliminating anything that could speed up oxidization of the metal.

Once the metal is clean, the polish will coat the ring with a protective layer to prevent air and moisture from damaging the metal.

It’s easy to find silver polish products in just about every department store around the country, or online. Talk to your local jewelers and see if there is a specific product they recommend. Polishing your silver is a good way to reduce tarnish and protect the metal.

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Be careful

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There are a surprising number of things that can speed up the tarnishing process. Latex and wool, for example, make your metal more prone to tarnish.

Water—shower, bath, or dish—can speed up the oxidization. The chemicals in your perfumes, hairsprays, and moisturizing lotions can cause tarnish.

Be careful with your jewelry. Always take it off when showing, bathing, cooking, working, or applying your makeup. Only put it on when you’re ready to go out, and make sure your hands are clean.

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Have it professionally cleaned and buffed

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If you want to keep your jewelry looking amazing, it’s a good idea to take them to a jeweler every few years for a professional cleaning and buffing. The professional cleaning will get rid of every trace of rust and tarnish, and the buffing will restore the shine and sparkle to your jewelry.

Yes, it’s a bit pricey to have your jewelry buffed, but it’s totally worth it! Once the luster is restored, your silver jewelry will look as beautiful as it was the day you bought it.

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No one understands the value and beauty of polished, untarnished silver better than we do! At Twery’s, our goal is to give you the fairest price for your silver jewelry, which means we want jewelry that is as untarnished and lustrous as possible.

We understand that taking care of your silver jewelry is the best way to protect its value until the day you decide to sell it. That means regular polishing and cleaning of those very important pieces.

When it comes to silver jewelry, it’s vital you take steps to protect it from air and moisture. Not only will tarnish ruin the appearance of the silver, but it can actually cover up serious blemishes or damage—which could lower the value of the jewelry. By keeping your jewelry free of tarnish, you can protect its value.

What did you think of the information above? Got anything you’d like to add or questions you want answered? Leave a comment below and let us know…

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