It’s hard not to fall in love with sterling silver jewelry, with its sheen, brightness, and adaptability. However, when some substances come in contact with this stunning metal, they chemically bond to its surface, causing the silver to turn black. Who wants that?
In this guide, I’ll tell you all the details on caring for silver sterling and preventing it from turning black. I’ll also explain why your jewelry is tarnishing and how to clean black sterling silver for a renewed shine.
1. Keep Your Sterling Silver Jewelry Clean
When you take off your sterling silver jewelry at the end of the day, or put away your sterling plates and silverware, clean it right away. You’ll discover that keeping silver gleaming and polished is simple with frequent, short cleanings.
It might be as simple as wiping your jewelry off with a clean cloth when you take it off for the night. Cleansers for sterling silver jewelry, polishing cloths, and polishing pens can help you get into every nook and cranny, and they also work well as everyday cleaners.
Sometimes, all you’ll need is a microfiber rag, but you can use anything else that is equally soft and non-scratchy. Avoid using toilet paper or paper towels. Although they don’t appear as abrasive, they can scratch your silver.
To clean a piece of sterling silver jewelry, run your cloth over it in streaks, using light pressure and avoiding circular motions. To avoid spreading dirt and tarnish, use various polishes or solutions (keep reading to learn more about what you can and can’t use).
Also, keeping your chain free of dust and avoiding exposing it to extreme temperatures helps keep it looking new for longer.
You can also have a professional conduct an occasional cleaning. Remember that silver is a delicate, glossy metal, so it’s essential to clean it gently.
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2. Store Your Sterling Silver Correctly
After cleaning your sterling silver, store it in a dry, air-tight container.
Some people like keeping their jewelry in the bathroom to help them remember to wear it every day. However, the moisture from the shower can cause sterling silver to tarnish and turn black more quickly.
Instead, store it in a jewelry box, Ziploc bag, or Tupperware. Many jewelry boxes and bags are lined with velvet to absorb excess moisture. You can also store it in air-tight plastic bags with anti-tarnish strips.
Pro Tip: Avoid storing several pieces together to reduce the risk of scratches, tarnish, and damage. Keeping link or chain bracelets unclasped or unhooked can also help to prevent scratching.
If plastic bags aren’t an option, ensure the storage room has a low humidity level. To further prevent silver sterling from turning black, keep a piece of chalk, a package of activated charcoal, or a jar of silica gel in your storage location.
3. Avoid Exposure to Direct Sunlight and Household Chemicals
Sterling silver tarnish is also caused by contact with sweat, rubber, chlorine, or sulfur-containing items like eggs and onions.
So, when bathing, swimming, or before a workout, it’s recommended to take off silver jewelry. You should also remove sterling silver jewelry while cooking to keep sulfurous foods from tarnishing the metal.
Also, silver tarnishes quickly in direct sunshine, so remove your silver jewelry before going sunbathing.
4. Put Your Jewelry on Last
There’s a reason why generations of women have worn jewelry as a final touch to their outfits. That’s because things like lotions, hair treatments, cosmetics, and fragrances can speed up the tarnishing process.
Although silver is a rigid metal that can withstand a lot of abuse, you can damage it if you expose it to these chemicals for an extended period. Because of the chemicals in your shower gel and perfume, it will tarnish considerably faster than it would otherwise.
If you wear your sterling silver jewelry while applying cosmetics, or if you don’t wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before putting it on, blackening or smudging might occur when minute particles of chemical compounds present in makeup settle on the jewelry.
Furthermore, wearing clothing over all of your sterling silver might cause scratches. As a result, it’s better to put it on only when you’re ready to leave the house.
5. Avoid Wearing Your Sterling Silver Jewelry To Sleep
Silver charms, especially pure silver charm bracelets, should not be worn to bed.
That’s because, when you’re all tucked in under your sheets and blankets, silver jewelry worn on the hands, ears, and neck gets too warm. Some people will sweat more than others, causing the silver jewelry to oxidize faster and change color more quickly.
It may also be inconvenient to sleep with jewelry on, so taking it off is better for sleep quality.
6. Polish Sterling Silver To Prevent Tarnishing
Besides avoiding certain chemicals, you should also polish your jewelry regularly. Doing so will extend the life of your item and keep it shiny.
Polishing your sterling silver items will suffice to remove the tarnish and prevent it from turning black. It’s also the best approach to clean oxidized silver since you can target the tarnished parts.
Silver is a delicate metal that is readily scratched. So, you should only use a soft towel or non-abrasive cloth to polish your pieces. Also, never use paper towels or tissues to polish your silver because they contain scratchy fibers that might harm the metal.
When polishing, use lengthy back-and-forth motions rather than rubbing in circles.
Also, to avoid the blackening of the silver, switch to a new portion of your fabric regularly. You can use a cotton swab to reach small, detailed regions, but don’t apply too much pressure.
It’s also important to note that you can polish silver too much. Sterling silver scratches easily, so rubbing it too hard too much can remove the plating and leave your metal in worse condition than ever. So, just be gentle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Does My Sterling Silver Turn Black When I Wear It?
After some use, silver sterling jewelry gets a black coating on its surface due to contact with air and other chemicals.
Your sterling silver turns black when you wear it because of its continuous reaction with sulfur compounds in the air. This phenomenon is called tarnish, and the result is a black coating on the surface of sterling silver items. This coating is called silver sulfide.
Any sterling silver jewelry can tarnish. Even British hallmarked 925 solid silver will eventually tarnish. It’s not a flaw in silver; it’s a natural occurrence. It’s normal, and it’s not a hint that your sterling silver is of poor quality.
That said, constant maintenance can help slow down the tarnishing process and prolong the life of your jewelry.
Below are some of the factors that contribute to the blackening of jewelry.
Cosmetics, Perfumes, and Sunscreen
The most prevalent cause of blackening is makeup on the skin or clothes. Cosmetics are mostly made of chemical substances that can break down metals, such as sterling silver.
For example, some cosmetics and sunscreens contain zinc oxide, which causes silver tarnishing.
Chemicals in perfumes and sprays can also react with your sterling silver and cause it to tarnish. These compounds may rub off microscopic metal particles, resulting in a jet-black dust coating.
Moisture and Humidity
The atmosphere typically has a significant effect on jewelry. That’s why manufacturers usually put them in protective boxes or bags before being sold to keep moisture out.
Sterling silver jewelry contains copper, which can react with moisture in the air or on the skin, resulting in a black discoloration. The more your jewelry comes into contact with water or its many forms, the more likely it will develop a black stain.
The increased moisture level on our skin during the summer also leads to increased tarnishing. Hot nights, long bright days, frequent bathing, and other factors contribute to increased moisture exposure, which can cause tarnishing.
Contact With Sulfur Compounds
Sterling silver can also tarnish due to sulfur chemicals. When possible, avoid wearing your jewelry in contaminated areas.
Also, eggs, seafood, and onions can cause tarnishing, so be careful when handling these food items.
Will Sterling Silver Tarnish if You Wear It Every Day?
After reading all of the tips in this article so far, you may feel it’s best to throw your sterling silver jewelry back in its box.
However, that is the very last thing you should do. While it’s true that tarnishing is a problem with this type of jewelry, one of the simplest methods to slow down the process is to wear it often rather than storing it in its box.
Sterling silver will not tarnish if you wear it every day because your skin has natural oils that help to clean and polish it. They protect your sterling silver from the many factors that hasten the tarnishing process.
So, the most efficient way to maintain your sterling silver jewelry and keep it looking its finest is to wear it often. It will appear new and last a long time if you wipe it down every time you wear it.
Best Ways To Clean Black Sterling Silver
If you notice a little bit of tarnish on your sterling silver jewelry, there’s no need to panic. Don’t be concerned. There are several ways you can clean it.
However, remember that some cleaners can stay in cracks and solidify. That’s especially true for delicate or highly detailed silver items. So, to avoid white water spot stains, dry the items with a soft towel after cleaning or wearing them.
Rinse your silver thoroughly with running water or a clean, moist towel after using any cleaning solution. Because polish can stay in microscopic cracks and solidify, this is especially critical for detailed sterling silver pieces.
Below are some ways to clean black sterling silver and restore its luster.
Silver Cloth or Soap and Water
Typically, you will be sent a silver cloth when you purchase a piece of jewelry. If yours doesn’t come with one, you can buy a similar material, such as glasses cleaning cloth or a phone-screen cleaning towel.
You only need to rub it on the tarnished spots to use it. If the fabric fails to remove tarnish, use warm water and a moderate, ammonia- and phosphate-free dishwashing detergent to clean it.
Baking Soda and Water
If the silver cloth isn’t enough to remove the black coating, you can mix baking soda and water until it forms a paste. Still, don’t use too much of this abrasive substance since silver (especially silver-plated metals) is easy to scratch and damage with gritty things like baking soda.
If you’re dealing with intricate designs, add extra water to the baking soda. Then, use a very soft brush to scrub it, and try not to push too hard. Lastly, run warm water over the sterling silver piece and dry it.
Aluminum Foil & Bicarbonate
This procedure is worth the extra work if you have a lot of tarnish to remove. Here’s how to use aluminum foil and bicarbonate to clean black sterling silver:
- Line a large bowl or kitchen sink with aluminum foil and place the silver jewelry on it.
- Fill the sink or bowl with boiling water and add a spoonful of bicarbonate until you see the tarnish lift off.
- Empty the water and repeat the process if all the black coating doesn’t come off.
- Rinse and dry thoroughly.
Olive Oil and Lemon Juice
Add 1/2 cup lemon juice and one teaspoon olive oil in a cup or bowl to use olive oil and lemon.
Then, wet the fabric in the solution, and squeeze it until it’s barely damp. Then, rub away at your silver, being gentle, of course. Afterward, rinse off any excess juice or oil and hand dry the metal to prevent further tarnishing.
White Vinegar and Baking Soda
White vinegar and baking soda are strong, and they’re only suitable for very heavy tarnish on large pieces of silver.
To use them, combine 1/2 cup white vinegar and 2 tbsp baking soda in a bowl or cup. Then, let the silver soak for about two hours before rinsing and drying.
To use this method, squeeze some toothpaste onto a soft toothbrush and gently scrub the affected sterling silver back and forth. When cleaning, be careful not to touch the water and avoid placing it on the faucet when rinsing it.
For more, check out Does Vinegar Clean Concrete? (And Should You Use It).
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