Silver is a beautiful but highly reactive metal, and will tarnish rapidly in certain conditions. If you've purchased an item that contains genuine silver, then be aware that it's going to require special care to keep it looking its best.
Tarnish is a chemical reaction that occurs when the chemical element silver (Ag) reacts with hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and oxygen (O2) to form silver sulfide (H2S). When that happens, you will see a dark skin appear on the surface of your jewellery, which dulls the beautiful silver shine.
The good news is, you can slow the reaction with proper care, or remove the skin of silver sulfide to restore it's shine. Luckily, the rules of silver care are simple and finite! Let's run through them so you can help you keep your silver jewellery looking its best.
Basically, any time silver is exposed to normal air, tarnish is gonna happen a little because that's just what it does. Store your silver jewellery in air-tight conditions when you're not wearing it. A simple ziplock baggie can do the trick. Just make sure you squeeze out the air before you close it.
The residue on human skin will accelerate the chemical reaction that causes tarnish. Obviously, it's kinda pointless to not wear your jewellery, so the best thing you can do is to simply give your jewellery a wipe down to remove any residue when you take it off, before you put it away.
Exposing silver to water and/or human sweat will cause extreme acceleration of the chemical reaction that causes tarnish. Take your silver jewellery off before you bathe or swim, if you're exercising, or if it's just a super hot day and you're likely to be sweating a lot.
If your jewellery does get wet or sweaty, wipe it down thoroughly with a soft, damp cloth and then it dry with another cloth, to remove as much water/sweat as possible.
Yes, seriously. Silver is a fickle beast and it loves to react with anything it can get its little atoms on. The simple way around this is to apply any cosmetics, lotions, and sprays you're planning to wear and let them dry thoroughly before you put your jewellery on. And of course, clean your jewellery when you take it off.
I know I've said this a few times now, but cleaning your silver regularly really is the best way to keep tarnish at bay. Storing it in an airtight baggie isn't going to help if there's already a reactant chemical on the surface from when you last wore it. I clean mine after every time I touch it.
The good news is, there are tools available to help you limit the spread of tarnish in the first place, and to help you remove any tarnish that has built up.
1. If you've purchased an item from us that contains genuine silver, then you're going to receive a little introductory pack that contains a cleaning cloth treated with an anti-tarnish formula, and a baggie with a small anti-tarnish square inside it. The easiest way to keep your new jewellery looking mint is to wipe it down with the cloth after every wear, and store it in the baggie. Sweet!
2. Looking for something bigger to treat all your jewellery with, or to clean up a piece that's already tarnished? Try an E'arrs Buff & Polish Cloth. They're like the big sisters of our little free cloths, and they do a great job cleaning and preserving silver surfaces. We have them available for purchase in store right now.
3. Paint your jewellery with clear nail polish or E'arrs L'Protect Jewellery Shield. This not only protects you from any of the allergens in the metal (such as the copper used to make silver harder), but also provides a layer of protection between your silver and the chemicals that can cause it to tarnish. You'll need to replace it regularly, but it's a great way to protect both you from your jewellery, and your jewellery from you!
4. Reducing the humidity in your bedroom, or more specifically in the box where you store your silver jewellery can slow down the inevitable creep of tarnish. You know those silica packs that come in everything these days? Instead of throwing them out, toss them in your jewellery box instead! They absorb moisture, so they'll help keep the area dry and safe for your silver. Plus, you're recycling. Double-score! Alternately, you can keep a stick of plain white chalk in there for a similar effect.
5. They're a little hard to find in New Zealand at the moment, but you can purchase anti-tarnish tabs or strips that you insert into the bag with your silver items. They're made from a specific elemental cocktail that literally neutralises the chemical reaction that causes tarnish for up to a year. We're looking at stocking them soon, but in the meantime you may be able to find them at your local jewellery store, or on Amazon. Plus, you get a free one whenever you purchase a genuine silver item from us. Yay! Freebies!
Silver is a fussy little blighter, but so long as you understand the basics of the chemistry, it's not too hard to keep it looking great for a long, long time. Always remember, silver is like your gossipy auntie that loves to cause trouble. It reacts with everything, and the best way to keep a good relationship with it is to keep it on an information diet. Keep a careful watch on what you're sharing with it, and you'll be good!
If you have any questions or have any tips you'd like to add to this post to help out fellow silver-lovers, please feel free to send them through to us. You can contact us here.
The above guide was written by author, artist, and entrepreneur, V. L. Dreyer. It is supplied free of charge exclusively through CK Swagworks. Please DO NOT DUPLICATE without express written permission, but feel free to reference and/or link back to this guide in your own work. Thank you!
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