Jewelry Care: Why Jewelry Tarnish & How to Prevent Tarnishing

Tarnished jewelry is something we all face at some point due to various factors. Today, I want to discuss why some jewelry tarnish and how to prevent or slow down the tarnish process.

Tarnishing is something that occurs to metals over time and is caused by exposure to moisture and air (Hydrogen Sulfide in the air) which causes a dark coating called tarnish to form on the surface of silver, copper and brass. Unlike silver, gold doesn’t tarnish instead it becomes dirty, however gold mixed with other alloys can cause it to also turn black or receive some level of tarnish. (note that some pieces that appear to be gold are actually brass painted/coated to look like gold).

Tarnishing is actually caused by a process called oxidation. This is the silver metal reacting with elements in the air such as sulphur, thus physically breaking down the topmost layer of the metal giving it the discolored & undesirable look.

So now what? How do you prevent tarnish and clean an already tarnished piece of jewelry.

How to Prevent Tarnishing

Although tarnishing cannot be completely avoided, there are a number of ways to prevent your jewelry pieces from tarnishing quickly. There are easy options with items around the home to inexpensive options that can be bought at the store.

1. Use silica gel: You know that small pouch of beads that come with your new bag or purse, they are a great & very inexpensive way to help prevent your jewelry from tarnishing. Just place one pack in your jewelry box to help absorb the moisture in the air and slow down the tarnishing process.

Silica gel is a commonly used desiccant as bea...
Silica gel is a commonly used desiccant as beads packed in a permeable bag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Anti-Tarnish Strips: This is another good way to slow down the tarnish process. They’re special absorbent paper that protects metal jewelry and other items from discoloration by absorbing and trapping the sulfides and other pollutants in the air. Most of these strips protects silver, nickel, copper, bronze, brass, tin and gold. Open up the packet and place one of the strips in your jewelry storage box.

You can buy a set of 5 strips for about $4 on Amazon ~ see here or

A set of 16 strips for about $11 by 3M Anti Tarnish Strips for Sterling Silver & Silverware ~ see here (There is also a really short & easy to follow FAQ on how to use them)

anti tarnish strips

3. Plastic Bag: This method is less elegant & can be a hassle over time but also a method worth mentioning. Just store your tarnish free pieces in an air tight plastic bag

4. Chalk – An old remedy for preventing tarnish, store regular chalk (for your chalkboard) in your jewelry box or container and it will naturally absorb chemical residues in the air.

5. Some people suggest storing such jewelry pieces away from any form of rubber such as rubber bands as they cause serious damage that could require repairs by a silversmith.

6. Clean down your jewelry at the end of the day especially if it came in contact with sweat during the day.

How to Clean Tarnished Jewelry

Some tarnishing may just be surface discolorations, in this case this is easily removed by either patiently & gently cleaning down the jewelry piece or taking it to a professional jeweler.

I usually don’t suggest using items such as baking soda solution because if not done right, you can scratch off some of the surface silver. To check out this method, follow this link on Jewelry Making Daily

2 Cleaning without baking soda here

3. Use polishing cloths like the one pictured below.

Now that you are armed with these powerful tools! Go forth & shine bright! 🙂

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    • Hi Kimberly, thanks for your comment and glad you found this post helpful. I am really big on jewelry care because jewelry is one of the valuable investments we make and taking good care of jewelry helps elongate its lifespan and maintain most of its value.

  1. The silica get packets are wonderful! I have used them for years. Often, if I make a really expensive piece with fine silver or silver clay, I include a pack with the piece when I sell it along with instructions for care.

    • Thanks for your comment Strega! and that is such a brilliant after sale service, helping customers take care of their pieces… I also like the silica packs because they are super easy to come by.

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