We all know that feeling. When we want to wear our favorite jewel and realize that it has suddenly darkened. Every jewelry lover experienced the moment when you take off your ring and find out it has left green marks on your skin. But why it happens? In this post, we tell you why your jewelry tarnishes and how you can remove and prevent it.
Tarnishing, even known as oxidation, is a natural process. It's a chemical reaction due to the metal surface of the jewelry and the elements it is exposed to. It results in a thin layer of corrosion that forms over our jewel.
The main cause of tarnishing is sulfur. That's why if you dip a silver spoon into the egg yolk it immediately tarnishes! Other factors are moisture, oxygen, and chlorides. Moreover, new research shows how even some elements of packaging can cause or accelerate it.
Luckily, tarnishing doesn't cause any permanent damage and can be easily removed.
Almost all jewelry tarnishes, some quicker than others. The reason is that all types of jewelry that aren’t 100% pure gold (24k) or 100% pure silver (fine silver) can tarnish. On the other hand, precious metals in their purest form are too soft and malleable for jewelry.
Pure gold or silver jewelry would not withstand daily wear and tear. So to create more durable jewelry materials, they are often alloyed with other metals to increase hardness. That's why metals used in jewelry are generally sterling silver or gold between 9k and 18k gold, rather than fine silver or 24k gold. (To learn more about what “k” means, refer to our post on “Carat vs Karat”).
Sterling Silver: This is a silver alloy including 92.5% of silver and 7.5% of copper. It tarnishes because of the copper content in the alloy which oxidizes when exposed to air and moisture.
Gold Plating & Vermeil: Gold-plated or vermeil jewelry may tarnish. This depends on the base metal. If the plating wears off, the base metal will be exposed and the jewelry will most likely tarnish.
Rhodium Plating: Like gold-plated jewelry, rhodium plating may tarnish due to the base metal. If the plating wears away and the base metal is exposed it will begin tarnishing.
As part of a natural chemical reaction, we can't avoid tarnishing. But the good news is that it doesn't affect the underlying metal at all. And it's easy to remove.
Tarnish is simply a layer of sulfur that sits on top of our jewelry. Therefore a soft cloth is often enough to clean it. If there is quite a lot of tarnish, we can use a silver cleaner to wash our jewelry. Taking care to not apply it directly on gemstones and pearls as they can be damaged!
Chemical dips are also available but we suggest avoiding them. Over time these may leave marks impossible to remove.
Even if we can't avoid tarnishing, we can prevent the process. With love and care your Mantarraya NYC jewelry will last you a lifetime. Here are some easy tips: