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Why Does Jewellery Tarnish?

and how to prevent it

Jewellery Style Journal

Jewellery that tarnish can take the shine out of your day and outfit. What causes it and can it be avoided? We have everything you need to know about the reasons why jewellery can tarnish. For choosing your next pieces, we also give guidance on the best metals in order to minimise its occurrence.

What is Tarnish?

Tarnish is a dull grey, sometimes even black finish that can develop over time on your jewellery. It is a natural process and almost all jewellery tarnish, some quicker than others. Tarnishing can appear with prolonged wear of certain pieces, whilst others seem to lose the shine you bought them for almost straight away. The unfavourable colour is the result of sulphur in the air reacting with your jewellery.

The difference between tarnish and rust is that whilst rust commonly appears on iron, tarnish can emerge on a wide range of metals. Tarnish is a surface level issue that corrodes the outer layers of your jewellery. This is the result of oxygen reacting with the metal to change the colour and finish of your affected jewellery.

What Causes Jewellery to Tarnish?

Jewellery tarnishes because of the reactions caused between itself and the outside world. When wearing a necklace, bracelet or ring for a long period, it becomes more and more exposed to harsh elements and substances that can cause damage. The most common substances that cause the oxidation of jewellery are perfumes, sweat, body oils, deodorants, makeup, and body lotions. They all contain elements like sulfur and oxygen that react with the chemicals present in the jewellery, changing its color. Moreover, these same elements are also present in the air that reacts with your jewellery, causing it to oxidize and tarnish over time.

There are lots of theories on how to eliminate the effects of tarnishing, with some bringing more successful results than others. Some methods can actually cause more damage to the jewellery than the tarnish did in the first place. When choosing a new piece of jewellery for your collection, it’s helpful to know which metal types are less likely to tarnish. This can ensure you get more out of your jewellery, whilst maintaining that gleaming finish that made you fall in love with it in the first place.

Gold Vermeil vs Gold Plated vs Gold Filled - Which one is better?

The metal of your jewellery can affect how likely it is to tarnish. Understanding these differences will ensure you pick a piece resistant to damage. Though gold vermeil, gold plated and gold filled may all produce a similar look in jewellery, their differences are significant.

Gold plated jewellery is commonplace in the jewellery market and a big part of many collections. Despite its gold content, this metal type is also highly susceptible to tarnishing. When a piece is gold plated, it means that a thin layer of gold has been applied over the top of another, more affordable metal like brass or copper. Whereas, gold filled jewellery is covered in sheets of gold, also on top of an inexpensive metal base. This makes these pieces vulnerable to scratching and oxidising, often quickly creating that dreaded tarnish effect.

Gold vermeil jewellery uses a similar technique to gold plating, but there are some key factors that set the two apart. For one, gold vermeil uses a much thicker layer of gold than that of gold plated. In the case of gold plated jewellery, the gold content must at least be equal to 0.5 microns. By contrast, gold vermeil requires a layer that is above 2.5 microns. This makes gold vermeil jewellery much less easy to scratch or rub down compared to its gold plated counterparts. Also unlike gold plated and gold filled pieces, gold vermeil has a centre of sterling silver rather than one of the previously mentioned cheaper alternatives. For these reasons, gold vermeil will last against the effects of tarnish and remain beautiful for extended periods of wear.

How to Stop Sterling Silver Jewellery from Tarnishing

A simple rule to live by – make putting on your jewellery the final step in any beauty routine.

When you have a taste for gleaming silver accessories, maintaining that shine is essential. Luckily, there are ways in which you can prevent your sterling silver jewellery becoming dull and tarnished.

One important tip to keep in mind is to remove all jewellery before showering, bathing, or going swimming. Contact with water – or even sweat and cleaning products – can lead to tarnishing. Keeping your silver pieces away from heat and humidity is also a must to keep dullness at bay.

Bracelets and rings are more likely to tarnish because of their frequent contact with water and creams. Taking your rings and bracelets off your beauty routine is key to protecting that stunning high shine.

Caring for Your Jewellery to Prevent Tarnishing

Luckily for lovers of gold and silver jewellery, we have plenty of tips for keeping your jewellery shiny all year long.

Knowing how to clean your gold jewellery can make all the difference to those pieces you style on a daily basis. The regularity with which you should maintain gold jewellery will depend on how you store it. We recommend keeping your pieces safely tucked away in the pouches you receive them in. This will limit their exposure to the elements and make them less likely to tarnish. A polishing cloth is also a must when taking care of your gold accessories. Gently rubbing your jewellery in one direction will help wipe away any dirt that may be building up, even if you can’t see it yourself.

Believe it or not, the simplest way to remove tarnish from silver jewellery and keep it looking bright is to wear it often. A piece sitting in your jewellery box for 6 months is more likely to tarnish than one that gets polished gradually by everyday wear.

Cleaning your silver jewellery is also an important process to prevent tarnishing. Though our sterling silver jewellery won’t tarnish quickly because of the metal properties, keeping your favourite pieces clean is always a good idea. Be sure to avoid harsh scrubbing and instead use a paper or microfibre towel when caring for your silver jewellery.

Professional cleanings are recommended as often as once a year. If your Reve Jewel pieces have any signs of tarnish, we encourage you to bring them back to us for professional cleaning. Our team is knowledgeable and experienced in all aspects of jewellery care & they will make your jewellery look as good as new.