Jewelry Care

What is Sterling Silver?

Sterling silver jewelry is a beautiful, popular choice for many people looking to add to their jewelry collection or give a great gift. One of the reasons why sterling silver jewelry is so popular is because of its brilliant shine. But does that shine fade over time? Does sterling silver tarnish or does sterling silver rust? 

We’re here to help answer those questions by providing some important information about sterling silver, what it is, and how to best care for it, so you can make an informed purchasing decision when looking for your next piece of jewelry.

What is Tarnish?

Tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion or discoloration created when the silver reacts with sulphur compounds found in air, moisture, chemicals, and other elements. Tarnished silver may appear to have a dark gray or black coating and lose its shine. 

While pure silver is actually resistant to tarnish, it’s too soft for creating jewelry. When comparing sterling silver vs. silver, much of the difference has to do with the metal’s durability. Sterling silver is a combination of silver and other metals (known as an alloy), which is strong enough to be formed into jewelry. Yet, silver alloys are more prone to tarnish, particularly in humid environments or those with more air pollution.  

Tarnish vs. Rust

Tarnish only affects the first layer of the metal and is actually known to help protect the deeper layers of your jewelry. In comparison, rust affects more layers of the metal and is typically a reddish color. Rust occurs when iron is exposed to moisture. 

Luckily, sterling silver does not rust. Silver jewelry must be compounded with iron, in order for it to rust over time. Sterling silver is typically made with other metals like copper. 

Why Does Sterling Silver Jewelry Tarnish?

Tarnishing occurs when your sterling silver jewelry is exposed to things like moisture, sunlight, sweat, and other elements. Sterling silver can tarnish faster with more frequent use. But it isn’t the actual silver in your sterling silver necklaces, rings, and silver bracelets that’s tarnishing–it’s the alloy metals that jewelers combine with sterling silver that contributes to tarnish. 

The combination of metals may also cause sterling silver to turn your finger green, but proper care can help alleviate tarnish and discoloration. 


How Long Does it Take For Sterling Silver Jewelry to Tarnish?

Several factors play a part in answering this question, including the quality of jewelry, how it’s cared for, and the type of jewelry. It can take anywhere between 2 months and 3 years for sterling silver rings, necklaces, and bracelets to tarnish depending on various factors.

The first factor is the quality of jewelry. As we just mentioned, .925 sterling silver jewelry contains 92.5% silver, which means it will be less likely to tarnish, or will tarnish more slowly than a piece of jewelry that contains more alloy metal and less silver. 

Another factor in how long it takes for sterling silver to tarnish is how well you take care of your jewelry. A few quick ways for how to make your jewelry shine include the following, which we’ll address in the next sections:

  • Avoid moisture (including sweat)
  • Avoid harsh chemicals 
  • Clean jewelry regularly

How to Keep Sterling Silver From Tarnishing

Now, for the most important part: how to keep silver from tarnishing! Although sterling silver jewelry is bound to tarnish to some degree, you can take care to minimize it. 

Here are some tips on how to keep sterling silver jewelry from tarnishing as quickly:

1. Keep Jewelry Dry

We mentioned before that tarnish occurs when a metal reacts with elements like moisture, so the best thing you can do to keep your sterling silver from tarnishing is to keep it dry. Remember to take your jewelry off before showering or bathing, before swimming, and before working out and getting sweaty. 

Another thing you can do to keep your jewelry bright and shiny is to store it properly. You should store all your sterling silver jewelry in a cool, dry place away from moisture. Even though storing your jewelry in the bathroom next to where you get ready in the morning seems convenient, the excess moisture in the bathroom can cause tarnishing more quickly. Instead, store it in a jewelry box in the closet. 

Additionally, store sterling silver jewelry in a jewelry bag or a jewelry box lined with velvet or another soft material, and Silpada’s anti-tarnish strips. These soft liners and the strips help absorb any excess moisture before it tarnishes your jewelry and reduces the risk of scratches and damage. 

3. Avoid Harsh Chemicals

Always avoid harsh chemicals, as these can react with the metal in your sterling silver jewelry and make it tarnish. This includes chemicals often found in:

  • Lotions
  • Self-tanners
  • Shampoos and conditioners
  • Body washes
  • Hand soaps
  • Hand sanitizers
  • Dish soaps
  • Perfumes
  • Pools
  • Hot tubs

4. Clean and Polish Sterling Silver

Before storing, wipe jewelry off completely. Silpada’s specially treated Signature Polishing Cloth is perfect for this, in addition to other jewelry cleaning supplies that make care simple.

For especially tarnished pieces made of just sterling silver, commercially available silver polishes, such as Wright’s Silver Cream, can be effective. This type of cleaner is not recommended for oxidized sterling silver pieces, however, as it may remove the oxidation. Remember to keep jewelry polishes away from gemstones that are in your jewelry. 

How to Clean Tarnish Off Your Sterling Silver Jewelry

Even if you take care of your jewelry properly, some tarnish is inevitable. With that said, there are many ways to clean your jewelry. In fact, you can even clean tarnished silver with toothpaste in a pinch.

Here are our favorite ways to clean sterling silver jewelry:

Use a Polishing Cloth

The quickest way to clean your sterling silver jewelry is to use a silver cleaning cloth, also known as a polishing cloth. Using a polishing cloth is a great way to wipe off any dirt or chemicals that collect on your jewelry throughout the day, which in turn, limits tarnishing. 

Use a DIY Solution

You can make a gentle jewelry cleaner with some ingredients that you likely already have at home! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Dish soap and water – Use an ammonia- and phosphate-free dish soap and water to clean your jewelry. Make sure you thoroughly rinse off any soap when you’re done cleaning. You should also make sure to dry your jewelry completely to reduce the risk of excess moisture that can cause tarnishing. 
  • Toothpaste and water – Yes, you can clean tarnished silver with toothpaste, although you have to be very careful about which toothpaste you choose. It shouldn’t be a gel-based toothpaste. You can also use baking soda and water to create a paste for the same effect. 

Keep your jewelry looking lustrous and new, no matter how long you've had it for by following these simple guidelines. With any jewelry, if you want it to last long you should be keeping these in mind.

1. Do Your Makeup Before Putting On Accessories

Lotions, hairspray and some cosmetics have chemicals in this that can harm or tarnish your precious jewelry. To keep your customized piece looking its best, keep it out of harm’s way by putting it on after your do your makeup and hair.

2. Take Off Your Jewelry When Cleaning

Lotions, hairspray, and certain cosmetics have chemicals in it that can cause damage to jewelry, such as tarnishing. By putting on jewelry after putting on makeup, you limit your jewelry's exposure to the chemicals.

3. Pools and Jewelry Don't Mix Well

Everyone loves a cool dip in the swimming pool on a hot summer day. But pools and Jacuzzis are full of chlorine, which can discolor your jewelry if exposed too long. So play it safe: When you’re stripping down into your bathing suit, take your jewelry off, too.

4. Don't Wear Your Jewelry in the Tub

Soaps and shampoos may help you smell fresh and clean, but they could do a number on your personalized jewelry if they also have chemicals in this.

5. Keep Your Storage in Mind

Properly storing your jewelry will do wonders for keeping it looking new. Keep your jewelry in a box where it won’t get tangled up with other items or dinged up from too much movement. A jewelry box with a soft felt lining is a great idea, but you can even line a simple shoe box with fabric to keep your items nestled and safe. Anti-tarnish strips are also a great investment to keep out oxidants than can tarnish and dull your pieces.

Our Wear & Tear Policy / Metal Allergy and Sensitivity 

We take our product quality very seriously. We vigorously test all our items to ensure that our materials to have longevity. That being said, all plated jewelry including sterling silver will tarnish overtime. To extend the life of the jewelry, it's definitely best to give them occasional breaks and to keep them away from any moisture; this includes sweat, lotion, sunblock and perfumes. Please do not wear your jewelry in the shower or when washing your hands. It is very important to keep your jewelry away from chemicals, hand creams, makeup, and cleaning products. All fashion jewelry will experience normal wear and tear over time. 

Those that are sensitive to metals should not purchase copper/brass based jewelry and instead opt for our Stainless silver jewelry. Our 925 Sterling Silver Jewelry (all 925 Sterling Silver contains 92.5% sterling silver and 6.5% copper) which may be a better option for you if have had green tainting before.

Alternatively, you can prevent oxidization by adding a layer of clear nail polish or polymer coating inside the ring or necklace.

If you have any questions about your order or caring for your jewelry, reach out to our support team by email at: