How To Prevent & Clean Jewellery Tarnish

We’ve all had that sudden moment of panic when we notice our favourite ring or necklace appears to have discoloured and become dull. It is, however, comforting to know that jewellery tarnishing is perfectly normal and simply comes with the general wear of your beloved sterling silver and gold jewellery.

Now, if you’re someone who’d like to get the most out of your meaningful pieces and look after them properly but you aren’t quite sure how, we will explain everything you need to know about jewellery tarnish below!

What is jewellery tarnish?

To put it simply, tarnishing is the oxidising or corrosion of the certain metals within your jewellery. Metals react with the oxygen and moisture in the air to create a black or green discolouration which you may have noticed on your jewellery or rubs off easily on your skin.

Products such as moisturisers, hand wash, sun cream and even sweat can tarnish silver. Which is why it’s always important to keep your jewellery as dry as possible and store it away carefully.

Do both costume jewellery & fine jewellery tarnish?

It is important to know that the higher the quality of the jewellery, the longer it will take to tarnish. As ‘costume jewellery’ (cheaper jewellery) is primarily made up of cheaper and more reactive metals such as nickel, copper or brass, these pieces tarnish relatively quickly and as a result, people tend to throw out cheap jewellery after a short period of time.

Fine jewellery is mostly made of pure and less reactive metals like gold, platinum or silver, so they will still tarnish but at a much slower rate. Only 100% pure gold or 100% pure silver does not tarnish. Both are too soft for everyday wear are not made into jewellery on its own.

This is why sterling silver is only 92.5% pure silver - the other 7.5% is made up of other metals to harden it, making it suitable for wearing.

For gold, such as 14k, 18k and 22k are also all mixed with other metals in the same way to make it harder and stronger.

The percentage of 'other' metals in sterling silver and 14-22k gold are the parts of the jewellery piece that reacts and tarnishes and should only be a thin layer on the surface of the metal. So yes, even 18k gold and sterling silver jewellery will tarnish over time and is completely normal.

Preventing your jewellery from tarnishing

Whether you’re hopping in the shower or popping on fake tan for a night out, your jewellery could do without the harsh chemicals - make sure to remove your bling and keep it in a dry, enclosed area - and not just chucked on the floor of the humid bathroom. Here are some guidelines to follow to keep your jewellery looking in tip top shape for years to come.

Follow last on - first off rule (LOFO)

When getting ready and putting on jewellery, try to minimise any exposure with perfume, creams, sunscreen, makeup & hairspray.

That's why we follow the last on (the last thing you put on before going out) & first off (the first thing you take off when you come back) rule, to minimise damage to your lovely pieces.

No-go areas for your jewellery

Don't swim with your jewellery - chlorine in pools, as well as the salt in seawater can discolour silver & gemstones and you also don't want your jewellery accidentally slipping off!

Don't wear your jewellery while exercising - the sweat can react with the metals and you can also scratch or bend jewellery out of shape accidentally while working out.

Don't wear your jewellery whilst cleaning - try to avoid all chemical and cleaning products as this can discolour your jewellery.

Storing your jewellery

Because the metal reacts with moisture & oxygen, the best place to store your jewellery is in a clean, dry environment.

A jewellery box with separate compartments is ideal. And keeping each piece totally separate prevents them from scratching one another.

A fail-safe way of creating your own tarnish free jewellery storage is by storing your pieces in anti tarnish jewellery bags. They are inexpensive and easily seal off your beloved items from your other jewellery, and the air surrounding them. Their size is also perfect for storing dainty pieces like our crystal rings.

How To Clean Tarnished Jewellery

Cleaning your beloved pieces at home is fortunately an easy job.

However, it is very important to remember to take extra care around gemstones in your jewellery as they can loosen the glue or even ruin the gems themselves.

Always try to avoid any sudden temperature changes on your jewellery.

Lastly wear it! Don't let your jewellery sit in your jewellery box forever. The friction caused whilst wearing sterling silver daily can slow down tarnishing.

How to clean sterling silver jewellery

We often get asked how to clean tarnished silver, and as luck would have it, a regular soft rub with a silver polishing cloth will suffice.

Do not be alarmed if your polishing cloth shows black marks after polishing your jewellery. This is a totally normal reaction as the cloth is removing the tarnish.

How to clean 18k gold jewellery

Try to clean 18k gold with a polishing cloth first. In most cases, if the tarnishing isn't too bad, it will get most of it off.

Otherwise, fill a bowl with lukewarm (not hot) water and a few drops of mild dish soap and leave the jewellery piece inside the solution for five minutes.

Buff them with a soft cotton bud to remove any tarnish in the nooks and crannies and rinse the solution off in lukewarm water.

Lie jewellery flat and ensure it's 100% dry before storing it away as residual moisture will just tarnish the piece again. Do not use paper towels to dry your jewellery as it can scratch the metal.

*Please do not use this method if your piece contains any crystals or stones as this may damage them.

Overcleaning your jewellery

Some jewellery pieces are oxidised on purposed in particular sections to give it definition. Many of our bohemian styled jewellery such as in our bohemian ring collection have patterned bands that have an oxidised finish to bring out the design. Be careful not to 'overclean' your jewellery as this will remove the detail.

Jewellery pieces should only be polished until it shines and visibly looks back to normal - even if you keep rubbing it and black marks come off on the polishing cloth, it doesn't mean it's still tarnished and you shouldn't keep polishing as you can damage your jewellery by overcleaning.

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