Tarnish-Here's 5 Things You Need to Know

  • May 08
Tarnish-Here's 5 Things You Need to Know

You have a favorite piece of sterling silver jewelry that looks great with a certain dress, but when you go to put it on, it’s covered in a blackish gray haze of tarnish.

Our favorite metals, often sterling silver, get covered with what looks like a coating of gray or black. Your first instinct may be to clean the piece of jewelry, but the coating doesn’t go anywhere. Why? And how can you actually get the metal shining again?


Here is a quick Q&A covering all things tarnish:


1. What is tarnish?

Tarnish is not dirt. It is a thin layer of corrosion that forms on a metal when it undergoes a chemical reaction with a non-metal compound, usually oxygen or sulfur dioxide gases. The surface of the metal undergoes a chemical change, the result of which discolors the metal.


2. Does cleaning remove tarnish?

No, it does not. Because the discoloration is not the result of dirt or something that can be washed off the surface using a cleanser, cleaning will not remove tarnish.


3. Then, how can I remove it?

You need to use a professional jewelry cleaning product designed for the purpose. The Silver Jewelry Cleaner from Gem Glow uses a mild, organic, acidic base to quickly and efficiently remove the oxidation. Because it is milder than other tarnish removal products, there is no risk of pitting or excessive silver loss that can result from harsher products. Because you can use this mild formula frequently, you can prevent a build-up of tarnish which becomes harder to remove over time.

But do note: the liquid Silver Cleaner is not safe for gemstones, so do not use it on silver jewelry set with stones or silver jewelry with designer antiquing.

For pieces with a light amount of tarnish, you also can use the chemically treated white inner cloth of the Gem Glow Gold & Silver Polishing Cloth to polish away the oxidation. Then buff the piece with the outer cloth to restore its shine.


4. Should I use DIY cleaners?

Google is full of DIY ideas for cleaning jewelry. They harken back to your high school chemistry days, and might sound pretty cool. But while the chemical reaction may indeed work, using boiling water on our your beloved jewelry can definitely cause damage. Use of a professional silver cleaning formula is a much safer (and easier) bet.


5. How can I prevent tarnish?

For jewelry, the very best way to prevent tarnish is to wear the piece frequently. The natural oils on your skin help prevent the chemical reaction that causes tarnish. A win-win!

For jewelry you do not wear often, the key to prevention is proper storage. If your piece sits out in a dish, it will be exposed to the air and will tarnish. So, you need to store it in an air-tight container, such as a jewelry pouch or jewelry box (even a ziplock bag will work). Consider adding an anti-tarnish strip treated with a tarnish preventing chemical, usually copper-based polymers that neutralize the oxidation-causing gases. Finally, do not store your jewelry in paper, cardboard or cotton-filled boxes, as they can contain sulfur which contributes to the chemical reaction that creates discoloration.

When you properly care for your silver jewelry, you keep it sparkling and maximize its beauty.