Silver is one of the most coveted precious metals on the planet.
But you’ve probably heard the term sterling silver as well and wondered, does sterling silver tarnish?
The short answer is that yes, sterling silver can tarnish—and today, we’ll look at the reasons why and explain how you can clean and protect your sterling silver.
Here at Blush and Bar, we sell a large sterling silver ring selection and also use this precious metal in our gold vermeil jewelry. Check out some of our best sellers below!
Minimalist Thumb Ring (Resizable)
Swarovski Stud Earrings
Clementine 3 in 1 Choker Necklace
Does sterling silver tarnish?
Yes, sterling silver does tarnish.
Tarnish happens because of a chemical reaction between silver and the air. This reaction creates a thin layer of silver sulfide on your jewelry in a process similar to that which forms rust on iron.
Tarnished silver is natural and just as safe as regular silver. In fact, silver sulfide is what allows cameras to record light onto film.
It’s also a good test if a piece is genuine. If your sterling silver piece develops a darker tint, you know it’s authentic jewelry because imitation metals like stainless steel or aluminum won’t tarnish.
But while tarnish is natural and safe, most of us don't want it on our jewelry.
Sprinkle baking soda over the jewelry and pour boiling water over it, letting it soak in the water for about five minutes. The baking soda creates an ion exchange that transfers the sulfide from your sterling silver to the aluminum foil, meaning you’ll have tarnished foil but glittering silver.
You can also use a silver cleaner or silver polishing cloth, but be careful, as these contain chemicals that can irritate your skin. Don’t wear rubber gloves, as rubber reacts with silver and causes it to tarnish more.
Once you’ve finished removing the tarnish, you can use a soft clean cloth for polishing your silver and bringing it to a bright shine.
Caring for sterling silver
If you own silver jewelry and want to keep it from tarnishing in the first place, what can you do?
First and most importantly, make sure to clean silver jewelry every time you take it off. Wipe off any dust, water, lotions, or makeup residue. These can damage all kinds of metal, including silver.
Proper care will keep your silver clean, but tarnished silver happens because of the air. You can keep it in an air-tight jewelry box to prevent tarnish from forming.
You can also add an anti-tarnish strip to the box. This strip neutralizes the gases in the air that interact with silver, keeping it safe.
Another option is to coat your silver with a thin layer of nail polish or a special protective coating. We don’t usually recommend this method, however, since it can be hard to remove the polish later.
You’ve probably heard the term “sterling” and wondered what it meant. The answer is simple. Pure silver is a soft metal, so metallurgists must mix it with other metals for durable jewelry.
The standard blend of metals, called a silver alloy, is 92.5% silver and 7.5% of another more rigid metal, usually copper. This signature 92.5% mix is known as sterling. Nearly all silver jewelry you can buy is sterling silver jewelry.
One advantage of silver is that while it’s a precious metal used in fine jewelry, it’s far more affordable than gold.
But stay away from silver plated jewelry, as the silver can rub off. These products will leave you with a cheap base metal that can turn your finger green.
Despite the benefits of wearing silver, some people prefer a metal that won't tarnish. Here are the most common four alternative metals.
Platinum is a precious metal that’s much more expensive than silver (and even gold) but doesn’t tarnish. Platinum is a standard metal for wedding or engagement rings. While it won’t change color, platinum will develop a dull patina that you can remove with a soft cloth.
Stainless steel is another silver-colored metal that won’t tarnish. Manufacturers create stainless steel from steel and other alloyed metals, including nickel and chromium.
Argentium silver is a unique patented silver alloy that doesn’t tarnish. Like stainless steel, it includes a mix of other metals that protect your silver ring from any discoloration.
White gold is another common silver lookalike metal. While all gold is yellow, white gold jewelry includes other alloys, including silver. It also has a rhodium plating that gives it a bright white look, though this rhodium will eventually rub off and need to be replaced.
Sterling silver does tarnish, but it’s a safe and natural process you can easily change to get your silver jewelry looking beautiful again.
You can remove sterling silver tarnish with soft cloths, baking soda, or a silver cleaning chemical. You can also help prevent tarnish by keeping your silver clean and using anti-tarnish strips.
Sterling silver is one of the most beautiful precious metals, and with a little TLC, you can keep it looking its best for years to come!