Here we are going to discuss tarnishing - that awful discolouration of sterling silver.
Are you a bit miffed that you've spent your hard earned cash on a sterling silver piece of jewellery, for it to have turned yellow or black? This is not uncommon and does not mean you've necessarily been duped into buying 'fake' or 'plated silver'. Unfortunately it's all down to oxidation which is a natural chemical reaction.
So, what is oxidation? The official definition is 'the process or result of oxidizing or being oxidized' So that doesn't tell us much! We're going to have to break this down.
So, what is sterling silver?
925 sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper. 100% silver is way too soft to make jewellery with therefore they add other metals to harden it and make it workable.
Scientific bit - It's the copper in the sterling silver that causes the yellowing, eventually tarnishing (turning black) as copper mixed with moisture and sulphur causes a chemical reaction. The molecules in the copper react to the air and the body causing it to create a yellow then green layer (copper oxide). This can result in it rubbing off on to your skin to create a green mark.
Eventually, if not cleaning your sterling silver jewellery it will turn black.
Think of it like this - you peel a banana, within minutes that banana turns brown and then black. It is a very similar chemical process. Unfortunately chemical reactions are out of our hands.
However, there are ways to slow down the reaction:
- Use a silver polishing cloth to clean your jewellery in between wearing. (I use Town Talk polishing cloths pictured above)
- When not wearing your jewellery, keep in an air tight bag - this helps prevent air getting to the item slowing the process.
- Avoid contact with chemicals, soaps, perfumes - basically anything other than your skin. Remove before activity as sweat can also speed up the chemical process.
- Don't sleep or shower in your jewellery - sterling silver does not like damp, moist conditions!
I hope this post gives a little explanation in to tarnishing and you found it helpful.
(Disclaimer - Inspired Handmade Jewellery is not affiliated with Talk Town or their associated brands, these are purely recommendations)