Why does silver jewellery darken over time?

If you have silver jewellery but have not worn it for some time, you may discover that your silver beauties have turned grey and dull over time. It may help a little if you understand why silver tarnishes.

If you have silver jewellery but have not worn it for some time, you may discover that your silver beauties have turned grey and dull over time. It may help a little if you understand why silver tarnishes.

silver-jewellery-tarnish

Silver turns dark as a result of oxidation by reacting to various substances that it comes into contact with. Although not very chemically active, silver reacts to hydrogen sulphide (tarnishes the metal surface in humid air) and nitric acid, at higher temperatures also to concentrated sulphuric acid and other oxidising agents. All the given substances may be found in (polluted) air and also water, reaction is accelerated by humid conditions and higher temperature.

Thus, we suggest that you take off your jewellery when doing housework, washing and applying cream on your hands, going to sauna or swimming in the sea. You certainly should not wear jewellery to sauna or shower. Similarly, it’s not a good idea to wear jewellery while sleeping or exercising as the sodium in your sweat may damage the surface of silver and gemstones.

The easiest rule to remember is that putting on the jewellery is the last thing you do, once the dishes have been washed, make-up done and perfume sprayed. Various fats and oils damage both the surface of the metal and gemstones. Household chemicals may have a far more permanent and serious effect on silver than regular oxidation so cleaning may be quite a struggle.

How to maintain silver jewellery?

The best way to store silver is to keep air, humidity, sweat, cosmetics, chemical substances, perfume, hairspray, chlorinated and sea water away from it. When you store the jewellery for a longer period of time, it’s better to keep various materials apart – silver and other metals separately. Contact with other materials can easily scratch the silver surface and although they are not visible to the naked eye, it will accelerate the tarnishing process. Dirt sticks to the scratched surface more easily and the risk of new reactions increases.

In the ideal circumstances, each piece of jewellery is in a separate zip-lock bag with air squeezed out. Keep jewellery away from direct sunlight and excessive moisture, preferably in a dark and dry place. In humid and warm conditions, silver will undergo oxidation, while sunlight may bleach various gemstones irreversibly damaging their colour.

It’s worth keeping in mind three things hated by silver:

  • Humid conditions (don’t leave jewellery in the bathroom or unheated rooms);
  • Leather pouches and wooden boxes (don’t store jewellery in a material that contains and/or traps moisture);
  • Environment laden with chemicals (hairdresser’s, factory, kitchen or other environments with various substances in the air).

But even if you store your silver well, it can nevertheless tarnish. Sometimes silver turns darker on the person’s skin, as body fluids and the sodium level in their sweat are highly individual. Thus, cleaning the jewellery is indispensable in case you want to start wearing your silver beauties again. Loe siit, kuidas hõbedat puhastada!

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