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Can Real Silver Jewellery Turn Black?

tarnished silver ringIf silver jewellery 'turns black' does it mean it isn't real? Not necessarily!  All real or sterling silver can tarnish under the right/wrong conditions but the good news is that sterling silver jewellery can be cleaned and polished as good as new and prevented from tarnishing again.
However, if the silver jewellery isn't hallmarked or from a reputable seller it may not be real sterling silver and removing the discolouration may not be as easy. 
These simple suggestions will help solve the mystery and restore your sterling silver jewellery to its true glory.

Why is My Ring Leaving Black Marks on My Finger?

removing tarnish from ringsTarnish is a surface discolouration. If you notice yellow, brown or black marks on a ring that's also leaving a dark black or greenish marks on your finger it is probably tarnish rubbing off the ring and on to your finger. That's a good sign to clean the ring and find out what was causing the tarnish to stop it from happening again.

Preventing Sterling Silver from Tarnishing

There are three simple guidelines for keeping sterling silver jewellery tarnish free:  
1. Wear it
2. Clean it
3. Store it in an airtight container away from light when not being worn...
...  but, as we know, sometimes things in life aren't always simple!

What Causes Silver to Tarnish?

sterling silver keyrings soccerSterling silver is a mixture of metals: 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals. Copper is one of the other metals that can oxidise with elements such as sulphur, moisture, oxygen and chlorides to create tarnish or silver sulphide. You may think you don't come into contact with any of those things but they can be found in the atmosphere, packaging materials, perspiration, perfume and deodorant sprays to name just a few. 
Tarnish can usually be traced to exposure to air, moisture or chemicals (including sunscreen, shampoo, soaps, cleaning agents, chlorine, bleach) but occasionally sterling silver may also react to individual skin acidity, hormonal changes or even multivitamins, medications or antibiotics. Putting on make up or lotions, handling onions, eggs or fish, coal or oil or even exposure to air pollution while wearing sterling silver can also lead to tarnishing in some cases.  

Jewellery Treatment to Stop Tarnish

All jewellery should be removed when bathing, swimming, exercising, putting on make-up or lotions and sleeping - for the wearer's safely and the sake of the jewellery. 
jewellery boxKeep your jewellery dry. Moisture on the skin or in the air can react with the copper in sterling silver but keeping your jewellery dry and out of hot, moist environments such as gyms, spas and bathrooms will help.
Put your jewellery on last when getting dressed. If you are wearing jewellery while you apply cosmetics, or not washing hands with soap and water and drying them properly before putting your sterling silver jewellery on blackening or smudging can occur as tiny particles of chemical compounds found in make-up settles on the jewellery.

Storing sterling silver in an airtight container or jewellery box away from the light, moisture and other tarnished jewellery should also keep it fairly free of tarnish but it will still need a clean every now and then to keep it looking beautiful.

The Best Ways to Clean Tarnished Silver Jewellery

sterling silver charm braceletRubbing sterling silver firmly with a good quality, anti-tarnish cloth designed for cleaning sterling silver should remove most tarnishing.  Silver dips are also quite good but some Jewellery Home Cleaning Remedies also work well as long as you don't use harsh brushes or cloths that can scratch silver. The methods below are for silver only; jewellery set with gems, stones, pearls, crystals or plating will need to be cleaned differently.
Detergent and Water
Cleaning silver in warm water and a mild dishwashing detergent is easy and simple if the jewellery isn't too tarnished.  Just make sure it is thoroughly rinsed in clean water and dried properly.

Magic Aluminium Foil & Bicarb
If you have a lot of tarnish to remove, this system is worth a little extra effort.  Line a large bowl with Aluminium Foil and position jewellery or other silver on the foil. Pour boiling water into the bowl and sprinkle bicarb a spoonful at a time until you see the tarnish lift off... like magic!  Water must be boiling.  If you need to do it again, empty the dirty water and start with fresh boiling water and bicarb. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

Cornflour Paste
If you have a bit of time (and like to fiddle) make a paste of cornflour and apply it with a damp cloth. Allow the paste to dry and then rub it off gently with a cloth.  

Laundry Detergent
Line a bowl with aluminum foil and fill it with boiled water. Add a tablespoon of laundry detergent powder and soak your jewellery for a minute or two.  Rinse and dry thoroughly.

You can also try Hand Sanitizer, Toothpaste, and Window Cleaner... or for a really sparkly clean visit your local jeweller who can clean it for you with an ultrasonic or tumbler cleaner.

What about Tarnish Free Silver?

engraved silver tie clipToday, a lot of mass produced 'silver' jewellery is plated, even if it is sterling silver.  This gives jewellery a shiny finish and the plating covers up flaws.  Plating is often marketed as 'anti-tarnish'.  Different lacquers or coatings are also used as 'anti-tarnish' as well as different silver alloys.
Real, non-plated sterling silver needs to be hand-finished for a smooth, shiny finish and most Oh My Giddy Aunt Australian custom made sterling silver is made this way. Even though more time and effort is required, the result is a beautiful piece of jewellery that can be cleaned, polished, hand-engraved, and with proper care, treasured always. 


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