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Why does jewellery tarnish and how to prevent it

Why does jewellery tarnish and how to prevent it

It’s lovely getting a new piece of shiny jewellery that you can enjoy wearing but what happens when it starts to tarnish and how can you prevent it from happening.

Why does my jewellery tarnish?

There are a number of reasons why jewellery tarnishes.

The main reasons are:

  • Reacting to humidity,
  • Reacting to oils, cream, make-up, perfume and sweat.
  • Reacting to chemicals such as chloride (which is why you shouldn’t wear your jewellery in the pool) can cause it to tarnish.

My jewellery always tarnishes very quickly, turning brown or black, why is that?

The sulphur in the air and on our skin (our body produces sulphur to varying degrees) can react with the metal (jewellery) we are wearing, turning it black. If your skin tends to be more acidic and therefore has more sulphur, you may notice that your jewellery tarnishes quickly.

Are there any other reasons why my necklaces, earrings and rings tarnish?

All types of jewellery tend to tarnish eventually, over time due to the reasons listed above and also because your jewellery is not kept dry (this includes it being exposed to humidity, body sweat, cream and oils.) Tarnishing is a natural occurrence when wearing silver, copper or brass.

Why does jewellery tarnish and how to prevent it
How can I prevent my jewellery from tarnishing?

There are a few things you can do to extend the shine of your jewellery and prevent it from tarnishing.

  • Keep your jewellery dry.
  • Put your jewellery on after applying any cream, make-up or perfume.
  • Don’t swim, shower or bathe with your jewellery on
  • When you take off your jewellery, wipe clean your jewellery of any moisture
  • When storing your jewellery, keep it in an air-tight container
  • Use an anti-tarnish swatch and a sealable bag to prevent tarnishing
  • Separate your jewellery by metals.

Don’t throw away those Silica gel sachets you get when you buy an item! Save them and use them to store with your jewellery. The work by drawing away any moisture and thus prolonged the condition of your pieces.

How can I remove tarnish from my jewellery?

It’s important to use the correct cleaning products for your type of jewellery.

For example, if wearing pure silver (also known as fine silver) or sterling silver, it’s important to use a silver polishing cloth.

If you have gold jewellery, a gold cleaning cloth is needed.

Intricate pieces of jewellery may need to be professionally cleaned by an experienced jeweller.

Using warm soapy water and a soft toothbrush to initially clean the piece can also work.

Always pat dry with a soft cloth, then clean.

Most jewellery cleaning cloths are coated with an anti-tarnish solution to prolong the shine.

Brass and copper jewellery can also be initially cleaned with soapy water. A brass polishing liquid or paste can work wonders in reviving the shine.

Copper pieces oxidise over time and it is more of a preference whether you like the ‘Antique’ look of copper or shiny copper.

Does gold tarnish?

Gold will tarnish over time and lose its lustre.

Soaking it in warm, soapy water should revive its colour.

Using a gold polishing cloth to bring it back to its original shine.

Can I prevent plated jewellery from tarnishing?

Plated jewellery is affected by the same elements in the air and on the skin as 100% base metals.

Keep your plated jewellery, clean, dry and stored properly to continue to enjoy wearing such pieces.

You need to take extra care when cleaning your as it’s plated with a layer of gold or silver. A gentile wipe with a soft cloth should suffice. Also keeping it inside a sealable bag with an anti-tarnish swatch will prolong the look of the piece.

Can I stop my jewellery from tarnishing altogether?

In short, no. As long as your jewellery is exposed to things like moisture, oils, creams, perfume and the pH of your skin, it will have a tendency to tarnish over time.

Are there metals that don’t tarnish?

Yes, steel is an extremely strong metal, hence the reason why we use it for cutlery. It is also a durable metal to make jewellery from and is tarnish resistant.

Aluminium is a soft, lightweight metal that is often used to make hand-stamped pieces. Again, it is tarnish-resistant.

Finally, gold in its purest form, is tarnish resistant. Gold used for jewellery tends to be mixed with other base metals to strengthen it and it is these base metals that react with substances in the air such as sulfur and cause jewellery to tarnish.

Where can I buy jewellery cleaning cloths/creams and liquids?

You can easily buy silver, brass, copper and gold cleaning cloths online from well-known places such as Amazon and Ebay. Furthermore, liquids and creams can easily be bought from local jewellers as well as online shops.

cleaning your jewellery using the correct polishing cloth according to the type of metal

I have intricate, expensive pieces of jewellery that I’d like to have cleaned, where can I go?

Always seek the advice of the jewellers you obtained your pieces from and find out whether they provide a professional cleaning service.

Precious pieces of jewellery, including those with diamonds and gemstones and heirlooms

should always be cleaned by a specialist.

In short, why your jewellery tarnishes is down to how the base metals react with substances in the air and on the skin. Ways to prevent it include keeping your jewellery dry when not in use, storing in an air-tight container and using the correct polishing method to maintain its shine.

Finally, the advice given here is just that, please seek the correct instructions on how to clean your jewellery from the manufacturer you obtained your jewellery from.