Whether you're into jewelry crafting or want to buy a silver piece, you need to prevent sterling silver from tarnishing for as long as possible. You may even have inherited silver jewelry from a family member or have some heirloom-worthy pieces that you wish to protect.
How long does it take for sterling silver items to tarnish? That depends on many factors.
Can sterling silver tarnish? Yes, it can. Why do your sterling silver pieces tarnish? How long does it take for the sterling silver to tarnish? How can you remove the tarnish and keep it from tarnishing so that you may enjoy the .925 sterling silver for longer periods?
Clearly, sterling silver is a timeless symbol, so you want to know how long it takes for the sterling silver to tarnish and whether you can stop it from happening. These questions are answered below, and you find effective ways to remove the tarnish from your silver jewelry.
The Science of Silver Tarnish and Why It Happens
Can sterling silver tarnish or fade with time? Yes, it can. Tarnish is the thin layer of corrosion found on metals. It's a chemical reaction (oxidation) between the non-metal and metal elements and contains gases like sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, or oxygen.
The chemical process makes the sterling silver look yellow, black, or gray and takes on a dull coating or film.
Thankfully, silver tarnish is just a surface problem. Unlike rust that eats away at the metal object from all levels, silver tarnish just affects the first few layers of your sterling silver. In a sense, it's the everyday wear of black coating you get from using the pieces.
Whenever your clothes are dirty, you wash them in detergent to clean them. If your hands are filthy, you use soap and warm water to cleanse them. You can clean sterling silver and get rid of the natural oils from your skin.
How long does it take for the sterling silver to tarnish? That depends on many factors discussed below:
What's Silver Sulfide?
Silver sulfide is the black and dense solid called tarnish. It can indicate that metal mixed with something it shouldn't have, but it often refers to the oxidation process of silver hitting air.
White gold and other gold products don't do this as much because they are mixed with other metals in lower amounts. However, average sterling silver rings take on that blackened color.
Is Pure Silver Tarnish-Resistant?
Pure silver is tarnish-resistant, but it's too soft to turn into jewelry and other household items. Sterling silver jewelry often uses silver and other metals, such as copper, with a ratio of 7.5 percent metal to 92.5 percent silver, so it's called .925 silver.
Overall, you can't use pure silver, but sterling silver is as close as you can get.
In fact, it's the other metals that react to sulfur and moisture in the air to tarnish the sterling silver. Since you can't use pure silver because it wears out too quickly and reacts poorly with your body chemistry, most manufacturers use sterling silver as jewelry to give the best of both worlds.
How to Tell If It's .925 Sterling Silver Jewelry
When you want the right jewelry to wear or are shopping for a sterling silver bracelet, ring, pair of earrings, or necklace, you should ensure that you're buying something of quality. Within the fashion world, some sellers pass off silver-plated jewelry as legitimate sterling silver products.
Make sure the silver jewelry is real. It should have a small stamp to show that it's .925 sterling silver, but that may not be reliable. The unspoken rule is that .925 pieces are the only ones to carry a stamp, but some sellers stamp it anyway, even if it's not sterling silver.
Other Ways to Tell That It's .925 Sterling Silver Jewelry
If you prefer to wear sterling silver jewelry, you should use a magnet test to ensure that it's .925 sterling silver and not rhodium-plated. Put a small magnet next to the ring. If the magnet doesn't affect it, then it's genuine .925 sterling silver. However, if the magnet is attracted to the piece, it probably has silver plating on it.
Another great way to tell if your jewelry is real is to rub a soft cloth on the tarnished parts of the jewelry. If it's real sterling silver, you should get black marks on your cloth. Otherwise, it's not likely .925 sterling silver.
Polishing Sterling Silver Rings
How long can sterling silver rings last? They can last forever, but they could develop tarnish on them with time.
Sterling silver rings tend to tarnish faster if they aren't polished frequently and aren't stored correctly. Therefore, you should use a polishing cloth, add some silver polish to it, and rub the sterling silver rings to remove dirt, scratches, and fingerprints. That can help your sterling silver rings last longer.
You can also wash the ring with soap and water, drying them thoroughly before the polishing session.
If you've got a lot of sterling silver jewelry, consider storing them in anti-tarnish bags. They work well to prevent tarnish and keep your pieces looking their best.
Can You Put Your Sterling Silver Jewelry in Water?
Water generally doesn't damage sterling silver, so you can wear your ring in the shower. Just make sure that you dry it thoroughly when you're done.
However, the chlorine from a swimming pool can increase the tarnish rate. If you forget about it and dive into the pool while wearing a sterling silver ring, wash the piece with mild soap and rinse it immediately. Polish it with your special polishing cloths!
Since sterling silver is a mixture of precious metal alloy products, you should ensure it's fully dry before you polish it. Otherwise, you could damage the cloths and your jewelry.
Can Where You Live Cause Silver to Tarnish Faster?
Yes, a sterling silver ring tarnishes much faster if it's exposed to air pollution and high humidity. Those who live on the West or East Coast in the US should think about the salt in the air from the ocean. Saltwater is corrosive, so you should be more careful about storing and cleaning sterling silver items if you happen to live in those regions.
Hairspray, deodorant, perfume, and body lotion may also speed up the tarnishing process, so it's best to keep those items in airtight containers when you aren't wearing them. Plus, you should avoid exposing your sterling silver necklace or other pieces from makeup and body sweat whenever possible!
It's best to use a special polishing cloth to get deep into the pores of the jewelry. That way, it removes the tarnish and leaves a wax-like film that protects the piece in the future.
How Long Does Sterling Silver Last Before Tarnishing?
There is no definitive answer to that question. You can prevent sterling silver from tarnishing for the most part, but many factors come into play. These include household sprays, the environment, beauty products, exposure to chemicals, and more.
A slightly tarnished ring tarnishes more slowly than one with no tarnish at all. Still, sterling silver reacts to your environment, so that ring is going to change colors and require cleaning.
Always keep your silver safe and learn how to remove the tarnish!
How Do You Polish and Remove Tarnish from Silver?
Gentle dish soap and water can work to clean tarnish, but it might not be the best method. Here are a few ways to clean your jewelry pieces:
Baking Soda and Hot Water
You can create a paste with hot water and baking soda to clean your ring. Make sure you use a soft-bristle brush and be careful around any softer stones you may have on the piece. You may want to line a glass roasting pan with some aluminum foil and cover the ring with that. It makes it easier and ensures that everything stays in the same place.
Generally, baking soda is the best option, but you can mix it with lemon juice or olive oil, as well. Gently rub the silver until the tarnish is gone.
People often purchase silver cleaners, but they can be harsh on the skin and eventually wear silver down.
Since you want to keep these pieces for as long as possible, they require proper care. It might be wise to get a professional cleaning the first few times and ask a jeweler what they recommend for at-home cleanings.
Should You Coat Your Silver with Lacquer?
You can coat your silver with lacquer (called flashing) because it doesn't hurt the surface. However, it can wear off, especially if you wear your ring frequently.
Sometimes, it changes the color of the silver, so it's not recommended in most cases. Plus, the sterling silver ring design might make it hard to get the lacquer into each nook and cranny.
Instead of worrying about how to coat the silver in something, just use a cloth to polish it and keep it looking new and shiny for many years to come.
What's the Difference Between Silver and Platinum?
Platinum and silver are actually the same color, so they look alike if you're untrained or not paying close attention. However, there are a few notable differences.
For one, platinum jewelry is brighter and shinier, but silver takes on a gray and dull look. With that, platinum is much heavier, and it's stronger than silver.
Those who have platinum pieces know that they don't have to be polished as often. Plus, it's hypoallergenic, but it's more expensive because it's rarer than its silver counterpart or gold.
Where to Store Your Jewelry
You've got to make sure your silver is properly stored in a jewelry box when you aren't wearing it. The oxygen in the air (as well as other environmental factors) can change the color of your silver, tarnishing it.
When the jewelry is worn occasionally, keep them in anti-tarnish bags and check on them periodically. If you see tarnish, make sure to polish it off. Many people choose specific days and put it on the calendar each month to polish all of their silver, regardless of whether tarnish is present. This is a good habit to get into!
How long does it take for your sterling silver to tarnish? You've learned about that and even know the rate of how quickly it tarnishes. There is no real way to prevent silver from tarnishing, but you can ensure that your sterling silver jewelry is authentic. It's best to visit a reputable jewelry store to buy your ring, ensuring that it's not made of silver alloy.
Overall, sterling silver jewelry is bound to tarnish with time. Make sure that you store your sterling silver ring safely and polish it as needed so that it keeps its shine and gives you many hours of enjoyment while wearing it.