Does Silver Tarnish? What You Need To Know

Author: Jewepiter Team

Does Silver Tarnish? What You Need To Know

Silver is a precious metal that has been used for centuries to create beautiful pieces of jewelry that last a lifetime. However, one common problem that silver jewelry sellers face is tarnishing.

Tarnish is a thin layer of discoloration that forms on the surface of your silver jewelry due to a chemical reaction with air, moisture, and other substances. It can detract from the appearance and value of silver items, making them look dull and unappealing to sell.

That’s why in this article, we’ll delve deeper into what silver tarnish is, why it affects silver, and how to prevent and clean tarnished silver. So if you’re a jewelry business owner also having this kind layer of tarnish problem, then this blog post is for you!

What is Silver Tarnishing?

What is Silver Tarnishing

As jewelry retailers, it’s important to understand what silver tarnishing is and how it can affect the appearance and value of our products. Simply put, why tarnishing occurs is the natural process that occurs when silver reacts with sulfur-containing compounds, moisture, and other substances in the air.

While pure silver has some natural resistance to tarnishing, it’s not strong enough to be used in silver jewelry production on its own. Sterling silver is a silver-copper alloy made up of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals like copper and zinc to make it more durable.

However, these additional metals can also contribute to the tarnishing of silver jewelry. When a piece of sterling silver jewelry tarnishes, it causes discoloration on the surface of the sterling silver jewelry item, making it look less appealing.

This can be a problem for us sterling silver jewelry retailers, as tarnished sterling silver jewelry just may not be as eye-catching or desirable to our potential buyers, ultimately reducing our sales potential.

It’s also important to note that tarnishing can affect the functional aspects of silver jewelry. For instance, silver earrings may become almost impossible to open and close if tarnishing corrodes the metal. Additionally, tarnished silver jewelry can cause skin irritation due to contact with oxidation particles.

In the following section, we will explore how the tarnishing process happens in jewelry in more detail.

How does tarnishing happen?

How does tarnishing happen?

A sterling silver tarnish happens when silver reacts with the surrounding environment such as the air, moisture, and sulfur-containing compounds and here’s how it happens:


The most significant contributor to tarnishing is exposure to air. Silver jewelry reacts with the oxygen in the air, forming a layer of silver oxide on its surface. Over time, this oxide layer reacts with sulfur-containing compounds, such as hydrogen sulfide in the air, to form silver sulfide, which is responsible for the discoloration commonly known as tarnish.


Moisture is another factor that contributes to tarnishing, as it can accelerate the chemical reaction between silver and sulfur-containing compounds. High humidity levels can increase the rate of tarnishing, making it important to store silver items in a dry environment.

Sulfur-containing compounds

Sulfur-containing compounds are the main cause of silver tarnishing. These can come from a variety of sources, including air pollution, foods, and even products like lotion and perfume.

When exposed to these compounds, silver reacts to form a thin layer of silver sulfide on its silver plating, which gives it a dull, grayish color. It’s important to note that tarnishing is a gradual process that develops over time.

The chances at which silver tarnishes depends varies depending on the factors that contribute to its development. For instance, silver items stored in a humid environment will tarnish faster than those stored in a dry environment.

In the next section, we’ll discuss how to prevent silver from further tarnishing, by taking proper storage and handling precautions.

How to Prevent Silver from Tarnishing

How to Prevent Silver from Tarnishing

Prevention is the best way to keep your silver items looking their best and avoid the need for constant cleaning. Proper storage and handling are essential to prevent tarnishing and maintain the value of your silver items.

In case your future customers inquire about preventing the tarnishing of their new jewelry, these are some ways to effectively clean tarnished silver.


Storing silver items in a dry, cool, and dark place can help slow down the rate of tarnishing. It’s best to store silver jewelry, coins, flatware, and other items in airtight containers or bags. This can prevent air and moisture from coming into contact with the silver, which can cause tarnish to form.

Avoid Moisture:

Moisture is a major factor that accelerates tarnishing. To prevent moisture from damaging silver items, it’s recommended to store them with anti-tarnish bags, cloths, strips, or jewelry boxes. These products contain materials that absorb moisture and prevent it from coming into contact with the silver.

Avoid Chemicals:

Contact with chemicals, cosmetics, perfumes, natural oils, chlorine, and other harsh substances can accelerate tarnishing. Therefore, it’s important to avoid exposing silver items to these substances as much as possible.

This includes not wearing silver jewelry when using cleaning products or swimming in chlorinated water. By taking these preventative measures, silver pieces of jewelry can be kept in excellent condition for a longer period of time, preserving their beauty and value.

How to Clean Tarnished Silver

How to Clean Tarnished Silver

Even with proper storage and care, silver items may still develop tarnish over time. However, there are various methods you can use to clean tarnished silver, depending on the degree and type of tarnish. 

Here are some commonly used and highly effective methods that you can try to keep your silver items looking great for a long time. You can also share these tips with your customers to help them maintain the shine of their silver jewelry over time.

Commercial silver polish

This is a specially formulated product that can remove tarnish from silver items. Follow the instructions on the label carefully, as some polishes may require rinsing or buffing after application.

Use Silver Polishing Cloth

Special silver polishing cloths are designed to remove tarnish from silver items. These cloths contain a chemical formula that will break down the tarnish over time. Be sure to use the cloths gently and in a circular motion to minimize any scratches that may occur.

Ultrasonic Cleaners for Jewelry

If you have a lot of silver jewelry to clean from your storage, an ultrasonic cleaner may be the best option to clean silver out. This machine uses sound waves to break up dirt and grime on delicate pieces, restoring them to their original shine.

Baking soda and water

If you want to save money on other methods I mentioned, you can use baking soda and warm water to clean your silver jewelry from tarnishing. Mix baking soda with warm water to make a paste, and apply it to the tarnished areas using a soft cloth or sponge. Rinse the item with water and dry it with a clean cloth.

Aluminum Foil

If you have silver jewelry that needs a deep cleaning, grab some foil. Line the bottom of a container with aluminum foil, and fill it with boiling water and a tablespoon of salt. Place your silver objects in the container, and let them soak for a few minutes. The tarnish should start to come off. When it’s done, rinse the jewelry with cold water and dry them with a soft cloth.

Vinegar and baking soda

If the tarnish is particularly stubborn, you can try this method. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with a tablespoon of white vinegar, and add enough water to make a paste. Apply the paste to the tarnished areas, and let it sit for a few minutes. Rinse the item with water and dry it with a clean cloth.

Lemon juice and salt

Cut a lemon in half, sprinkle salt on one of the cut surfaces, and rub it onto the tarnished areas of the silver item. Rinse the item with water and dry it with a clean cloth.

Before attempting any of these methods, make sure to test them on a small, inconspicuous area of the item to avoid any damage or discoloration. Also, be careful not to use abrasive materials or rub too hard, as this can scratch or damage the silver surface.

In addition, consider using gloves or a soft cloth when handling silver items to prevent fingerprints and oils from transferring onto them. And always store your silver items properly after cleaning to avoid future tarnishing.


We have learned that silver tarnishes faster due to its reaction to air, moisture, and sulfur-containing compounds. Tarnish not only affects the appearance of silver items but also reduces their value.

However, there are ways to prevent and remove silver tarnishes, by properly storing silver items in dry, cool, and dark places, avoiding exposure to moisture and chemicals, and regularly cleaning them using appropriate methods depending on the degree and type of tarnish.

As jewelry business owners, it is crucial to take good care of silver items to maintain their beauty and value. By following the tips and techniques provided in this article, you can ensure that your silver products remain in excellent condition and meet the satisfaction of your customers.

Please feel free to reach out to us for any inquiries or assistance regarding the jewelry industry or our services. You can visit our website for more information as well. Our team of experts is always ready to help you and guide you through the process of creating your ideal jewelry pieces for your business.

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