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Why is my Sterling Silver Jewelry Turning Black?

Photo by: Nicole Canegata

Why is my silver jewelry turning black?

We often get inquiries as to why is my silver jewelry turning black. Maybe you have wondered why over time your silver bracelet dulls or starts to turn black? I can assure you it is not because your Sterling (925) Silver is “bad”. Long-term wear and your chemical body compound gradually dulls or darkens the silver’s shine. Your silver will also tarnish sitting unloved on your dresser. In recent years, we have been noticing a rise in environmental issues causing your jewelry to turn a black, blue or an orange tarnished mess overnight. Whether your silver tarnish is environmental or from your chemical make-up, rest assured we can share a few tips and at home tricks you can use to get your shine back.

Silver is a very reactive metal. It loses its original shine because it chemically reacts to your physical composition and environment. Sweat, sickness or a boozy weekend can all change your body chemistry causing your silver to turn black. A light polish with your cloth usually takes it away.

In recent years, we are finding that environmental factors have been causing jewelry to turn black. Certain times of year in St. Croix, you can step outside and are met with the pungent smell of sulfur from decomposing Sargassum Seaweed. Depending on the season, certain beaches are covered in the brown decaying seaweed emitting an odor that lofts to higher ground. The brown leafy seaweed might provide refuge for marine life, but it has become a nuisance for beach dwellers throughout the Caribbean. We are finding, depending on where customers live on island, their jewelry is turning black overnight in reaction to the amount of sulfur in the air, particularly if you live close to the beach or in an area where the smell is pungent. Their silver chemically reacts to the sulfur; thus, causing the silver to turn black and tarnish.

What can you do to keep your silver jewelry from tarnishing?

General rule of thumb, keep your jewelry silver or gold away from chemicals (including heavily chlorinated swimming pools, hot tubs, etc.) and cleaning products as best you can. If you notice your jewelry turning from just sitting on your dresser then keep it sealed in a plastic bag so the air cannot penetrate it. If you chemically treat your home’s water, do not wear your jewelry while showering. While it is safe to wear your jewelry exercising or to the beach, your sweat can cause the jewelry to tarnish as your body sweats out toxins. If you want to keep the silver shiny, it might be best to get your sweat on without the bling.

How to clean your silver jewelry?

  • Light day to day tarnish- Your ib polishing cloth should shine the silver up nicely.
  • Darker tarnish- Try a combination of one-third Simple Green and two-thirds water. Let soak for a few minutes. Every now and then give the bowl a little shake to create friction. Rinse jewelry in water when finished, dry and wipe with ib polishing cloth.
  • Good old-fashioned Colgate toothpaste works well too! Rub the toothpaste on the silver. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse, dry and wipe with ib polishing cloth.
  • Heavy tarnish- Bring to us to polish or try this at home remedy…

At home silver cleaning remedy

  • Bowl or bin large enough for all your tarnished silver, boiling water, and overflow (A disposable aluminum pan should work too in place of bowl and foil.)
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Water
  • Separate device or pot to heat the water
  • Tongs
  • Baking soda (1 cup per gallon of water)
Photo by: Nicole Canegata

Boil water. In the meantime, line a separate bowl or bin with aluminum foil. Choose a bowl that you can add boiling water to. Place your tarnished silver on top of the aluminum (make sure the silver is touching the foil). Sprinkle baking soda over the top of the jewelry and aluminum. We recommend you place the bowl in the sink because once you add the hot water, the mixture might fizzle over a little. Pour the boiling water over the jewelry. Cover the jewelry entirely with the hot liquid. Let it sit for a few minutes and you should start to see the silver shine and tarnish disappear. Remove your jewelry with tongs and let cool before touching. Here is a video if you need a visual!

Congrats! You have completed the science experiment! We hope this helps you keep your treasures clean and throw the concept out the window that you have “bad” silver. Wear well. 

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