From time immemorial, people have always spent a fortune collecting precious metal products, and rightly so. Many of these products have stunning beauty, enduring value, and rarity, making them prized possessions of whoever can afford them.
These precious metals come in rings, necklaces, bracelets, and even silverware, some passed down from generation to generation. Unfortunately, these precious jewelry that aren’t supposed to tarnish also suffer deterioration and discoloration, much to the surprise and dismay of their owners.
If you’re wondering why this is happening to your jewelry, this post is for you. Here, we will take a deep dive into experts’ submissions on why precious metal products tarnish. We will also provide solutions on what you can do to restore the pristine allure of your precious metal products. But before we do that, let’s briefly discuss metal tarnish.
What Does Metal Tarnish Mean?
Metal tarnish is a gradual process in which a precious metal product suffers discoloration. In this case, the product’s surface, which could be either gold, silver, or platinum, shows a dark and worn appearance. And whenever it happens, it affects the original luster of the jewelry, frustrating the owner.
The thicker the tarnish on a precious metal product, the more the color changes. What starts out as yellowish transforms into reddish brown before eventually turning black. Through this transformation, the precious metal loses its luster that initially attracted the owner to purchase it.
The popular assumption whenever a metal product tarnishes is that the product is impure. While this is a possibility, it’s not always the case. You can acquire a piece of pure jewelry that may still be susceptible to tarnishing after a period. It is a natural but manageable occurrence. In fact, you can easily clean off a tarnish as soon as you notice it. But it’s better to follow due process to avoid damaging the jewelry while cleaning it.
What are the Precious Metal Products Prone to Tarnish?
Research shows that most metals tarnish, especially those without 100% purity. However, some are more susceptible to tarnishing than others. Below are some of the precious metal products susceptible to tarnish:
Silver – Silver products, whether in rings, necklaces, or bracelets, are susceptible to tarnish because it’s mixed with copper to produce an alloy. When it tarnishes, it appears dirty, with brownish coatings that cover its pristine shine.
Copper – Copper is the metal that’s most prone to tarnishing. It is a reactive metal that reacts when exposed to oxygen. When the tarnishing starts, it creates a green patina known as verdigris.
Gold and Platinum – Gold and Platinum are naturally resistant to tarnishing. However, their combination with other metals reduces their purity, causing them to be susceptible to tarnish. Environmental elements and improper storage are potent triggers of gold and platinum tarnishing.
Brass and Bronze – Brass and bronze have copper components, so they’re also susceptible to tarnish. The oxidation that affects them creates a greenish-blue that covers the product’s beauty.
Why Do Precious Metal Products Tarnish?
Metal products tarnish due to a chemical reaction that occurs naturally and is enhanced by non-natural factors. Below is a highlight of factors that trigger the chemical reaction that causes the jewelry to tarnish:
While this may be surprising, environmental factors are the significant causes of your precious jewelry tarnishing. Out in the air, several elements like sulfur, oxygen, moisture, and humidity may settle on your jewelry. This settlement triggers the chemical reaction that causes the metal product to rust. Why does this happen when natural gold and platinum don’t rust?
The truth is that your golden ring or necklace doesn’t have 100% purity because it is combined with other metals. For example, 18-karat gold has about 75% gold, while the remaining 25% is filled with metals like silver, palladium, and in some cases, copper.
The combination of these properties and their exposure to elements like oxygen corrodes the jewelry, triggering discoloration or tarnishing. Living in areas with elevated levels of sulfur, like industrial areas or high-traffic arrears, can also subject your jewelry to tarnishing from sulfuric environmental elements.
You must know that your actions may also contribute to your jewelry tarnishing. You have the responsibility to protect your jewelry from tarnishing. Failure to uphold these responsibilities is what makes up the human factors that cause tarnishing. Below is how each one plays out.
Frequent handling and improper storage are the first human factors that tarnish jewelry. When you spend a fortune on jewelry, you should only handle it carefully. Frequent handling can cause scratches, and improper storage may lead to exposure to environmental elements that may cause the jewelry to corrode.
The second human factor is improper cleaning. Cleaning your jewelry with harsh chemicals and abrasive materials will make it tarnish. We often advise people to take their jewelry to professional cleaners for proper care and maintenance.
Finally, perfume spray and hairspray contain chemical properties that harm jewelry pieces when they land on them. While it might not be as potent as other factors, it is also significant enough to trigger tarnishing. So, it’s another human factor worthy of mentioning.
Another reason why some jewelry tarnishes is because of their production material. Some jewelry is made with materials that have low purity levels. As a result, the products discolor after a short period. You can avoid buying such products by only buying from genuine merchants.
You must know that while most precious jewelry pieces are expensive, high cost doesn’t make them valuable. Instead, the purity of the production material, the rarity of their design, and their beauty make them valuable. So when you’re buying jewelry, cost shouldn’t be the reason you decide to buy.
Additionally, it would help if you bought your expensive jewelry from merchants offering a warranty. This gives you a degree of peace, knowing fully well you can get a repair, refund, or new product. The idea is to get a product that matches the amount you’re paying.
How Can You Prevent Your Jewelry from Tarnishing?
As much as precious metal products tarnishing can be a natural phenomenon, you can prevent it from happening. Below are experts’ suggestions on how to prevent your jewelry from tarnishing:
The most effective way to preserve the quality and value of your jewelry is to observe proper storage at all times. It would help to store your jewelry in boxes or cotton or velvet bags. While doing this, ensure you don’t pack all the jewelry together in a box because they may scratch one another or entangle.
Also, the storage box where you place the jewelry must be clean. Dirt is one of the causes of discoloration and tarnishing. So, if you want to observe proper storage, clean the box before placing your jewelry inside.
The easiest way for your jewelry to tarnish is by bringing it in contact with liquids and moisture. Even if the marketing information on it at the point of sale says “water resistant,” that’s not an excuse for you to drown it in liquids. Get your jewelry far from moisture to prevent tarnishing.
Besides actual liquid, other moisture contents like lotions, perfume spritz, and hand sanitizers are things to be cautious of. If you ever have to use them, remove your jewelry first. If you accidentally wet your jewelry, ensure you dry it off immediately.
Understandably, you bought your jewelry to wear as often as you can. But if you want to keep your jewelry sparkling for an extended period, you must keep them away and only wear each piece when important. You can use regular jewelry for regular outings, but the more expensive ones should be for important outings.
Additionally, whether you’re storing or wearing your jewelry out, you can consider using a protective coating. This is a product that adds a layer of protection to the surface of your jewelry. If you need to know which one to buy, consider seeing a professional jeweler for expert suggestions.
Another unpopular preventive measure for jewelry tarnishing is separating each piece of jewelry by metal. This means all your gold jewelry should be stored differently from your silver jewelry, and vice versa. Doing this helps block every possibility of jewelry components interacting to cause tarnishing.
Use a shallow tray with different compartments if you have so many earrings. If you have collections of bracelets, get a bracelet box or bar holder with large compartments to store each. If it’s necklaces, you should get tiered stands that have hooks you can easily hang them on. Lumping them together in a box will cause them to tangle.
You can take your preventive care a notch higher by getting the services of professional jewelry cleaners. They are experts who offer jewelry maintenance using specialized processes and products to achieve desirable results.
These professionals would remove the tarnish from your jewelry and dry it thoroughly afterward. You only have to pay some amount depending on the cleaning your jewelry requires and the location of your jeweler. Professional jewelry care is essential to maintaining your jewelry’s integrity and luster.
What To Do When You Realize Your Jewelry is Tarnishing?
When you realize your jewelry is tarnishing, there are practical care tips to observe. Below are some you can explore:
The first thing to do when you notice your jewelry is tarnishing is to examine it carefully. The idea behind this examination is to determine the extent of tarnish. Doing this will help you realize whether it’s something you can correct yourself or get the services of professionals.
How do you determine whether a tarnish is minor or severe? For most jewelry, a little tarnish appears as a slight discoloration that’s not easily noticeable except when you give it a close look. On the other hand, a severe tarnish seems dark and dull on the surface of the jewelry. If it’s a minor tarnish, below are care tips to observe.
You can observe a DIY cleaning if the tarnish is minor. All you need to do is gather specific cleaning supplies, including mild dish soap, a soft-bristle brush, warm water, and a microfiber cloth.
DIay jewelry cleaning is simple, but you must follow expert suggestions to achieve the correct result. Before you start, note that you should only add two pieces of jewelry at a time to avoid scratching.
To start cleaning, pour warm water into a bowl, add three drops of mild dish soap, dip the jewelry inside, and begin soft brushing with your soft-bristle brush. Once you’ve removed the debris in the jewelry, remove the jewelry and empty the bowl.
Refill the bowl with cool water to rinse the jewelry. After rinsing properly, dry the jewelry thoroughly with a microfiber cloth. Remember that liquids are one of the causes of tarnish, so you must wipe off all of it from the jewelry. If you must, repeat the drying process to get the desired result.
Knowing how to remove tarnishing from your jewelry isn’t a reason to always expose it to tarnishing agents. Once you remove the minor tarnish, you must proceed to observe preventive measures.
We have highlighted some of the preventive measures above. Observe each one to protect your jewelry from tarnishing. The more you prioritize these measures, the more you retain the integrity of your prized jewelry for an extended period. So, ensure you do due diligence at all times.
Realizing that your jewelry has started tarnishing is no cause for alarm. There are care tips to observe to correct them. You either practice a DIY solution or contact a professional jewelry cleaner to remove the tarnish. That said, you must follow preventive measures to preserve the luster of your jewelry for an extended period.