Tarnished jewellery is something everyone who enjoys accessorising will encounter at one point or another. But what is tarnish, and how can we avoid it from developing?
What is Tarnish?Tarnish is an oxidisation of jewellery that usually displays as a dull, grey, or black film coating.
Tarnish is a form of corrosion, but unlike rust, it does not destroy the underlying metal. Because the tarnishing process only affects the top layers, the tarnished layer itself will ultimately protect the underlying silver.
Tarnish develops as a chemical reaction with air-based components. As the reaction develops, the jewellery will change colour from a shiny, mirror bright surface, to a yellow sheen, to completely black, depending on how long the process is allowed to continue.
Tarnish is a result of a chemical reaction between the jewellery and sulphur-containing substances in the air. The metal from your jewellery combines with sulphur and forms a thin black coating. That’s what we call "tarnish".
The Science Bit!
There is no way to completely protect your jewellery from tarnishing because metals react with so many different components found in our everyday life, in foods, fluids (tap water!), cosmetics and even clothing. For instance, tarnishing can be accelerated by any chlorine-containing item, acidic components or perfume and hairspray.
Did you know everyday items cause Tarnish?
Wearing jewellery leaves oils from your skin to accumulate on its surface and can predispose it to oxidisation. Even the relatively mild chemicals in our sweat, especially in those on medication which may be altering your bodies natural Ph levels, will accelerate the oxidisation process.
As said, it is not possible to completely prevent the tarnishing process. The best way to deal with tarnish is slow the rate in which it develops. Try to remember to wipe down jewellery soon after use, as it slows down the process. Avoid wearing jewellery when washing up or taking a bath, remove rings while preparing food, avoid contact with wool, rubber, and latex items.
So how do you avoid Tarnish
Choose a jewellery storage solution that is air-restricted, as it will greatly diminish the developing of tarnish due to the limited exposure of the jewellery to the air. A small Tupperware tub or similar makes an excellent air tight storage solution.
A low humidity will also help slow the rate with which your jewellery will tarnish. If humidity is a problem in your home, try adding silicate bags to your storage solution, as they reduce the humidity in the air.
The quality of the metals used in the jewellery greatly influences the oxidisation speed. However over time all jewellery items will tarnish, even pure silver and gold! In general, though, the purer the metal is, the slower the reaction will take place.
Does all jewellery tarnish, or only fashion jewellery?
At Seashore Jewellery we Rhodium Plate all our Abalone Shell jewellery. This not only makes it more hardwearing and resistant to damage, it also means it is hypoallergenic (containing no allergens such as nickel) and more resistant to tarnishing.
The best thing you can do to protect your jewellery is to properly store and maintain it, and use a polish with tarnish preventative.
Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
At Seashore Jewellery we make sure we use the right packaging for our jewellery. We only use tissue paper and boxes that have been tested to ensure they contain no tarnish-accelerating chemicals, and we store all our stock in air tight boxes keeping it in a cool, non-humid environment.
This ensures you will always receive your jewellery looking its absolute best, whether it be as a gift for someone special or a purchase for yourself.