Will sterling silver jewellery tarnish?
The answer is yes, but it’s probably not something you will notice on jewellery you wear regularly and keep polishing regularly with a soft silver jewellery polishing cloth. However, yes if left all sterling silver will tarnish over a prolonged period of time, as the components in the air, specifically hydrogen sulphide (a by product of fossil fuel use), will cause a blackening on the surface of the silver. The black is caused by silver sulphide. This can be removed by polishing the surface with a suitable polishing paste. In salt water if there is a copper part to the alloy, then the surface will tend to turn green, if this has thickened (i.e. with artefacts found under water or at the beach) it is quite difficult to remove this without losing the shape of the jewellery underneath, so care should be taken not to wear silver jewellery into the sea to swim, or in to swimming pools or jacuzzis, as the chlorine will react with the copper in the alloy and cause a green tarnish.
When does sterling silver tarnish?
Sterling silver tarnishes when it is exposed to certain elements, commonly including sulphur in the air, which causes silver sulphide to form on the surface, which is black. Or when immersed in chlorinated or salt water the silver will tarnish due to exposure to chlorine or salt, typically this forms a green or black tarnish on the silver. So it is best to care for your jewellery by regularly polishing with a soft silver cloth, this will prevent build up of any silver sulfide on the surface and by not swimming or wearing your jewellery in chlorinated or salt water. If you do by accident, then as soon as you realise, rinse your jewellery in freshwater, and wash with a mild soap, if any discoloration has occurred then use a silver polishing paste to buff up and restore the tarnished area.
Perfume and your sterling silver jewellery will also not mix well, so be careful to avoid spraying or putting perfume on if you are already wearing your jewellery, if perfume touches the surface of the sterling silver it could cause tarnishing or discolouration.
What sterling silver does not tarnish?
Some sterling silver will be less prone to tarnish if the other metal used to make the sterling silver is a precious metal such as palladium, platinum or gold, they give resistance to tarnishing but are quite costly and therefore not commonly used.
You can also paint the surface of the silver with a clear varnish or lacquer to stop the elements in the air that cause damage reaching the silver, this treatment is used in museums to preserve silver artefacts that are on display, but it is not practical for the treatment of jewellery. Oils from the hand will prevent the lacquer sticking to the silver, so it will first need to be cleaned with alcohol. A typical lacquer used is one called Agateer No. 27 or cellulose nitrate.
Can sterling silver rust?
No sterling silver will not rust, however it may discolour when it reacts with other chemicals in the air over a prolonged period of time, and it will discolour if worn in the sea to swim or worn in a chlorinated swimming pool or jacuzzi.
Will silver plated jewelry rust ?
No silver plated jewellery will not rust, however it will discolour in a similar way to sterling silver if immersed in chlorinated water, or salt water. Then you have a big problem, because it will not be possible to repeatedly polish or repair silver plated jewellery, in fact they could be ruined by just one accidental immersion.
Can sterling silver jewellery get wet?
It depends whether you mean hopping in the shower, doing some washing up or going for a swim. Be careful when considering a swim in either a pool, or the sea, as both chlorinated water and salt water will cause discolouration to your silver. It’s not the water that causes the damage but the chemicals (chlorine) or the properties of salt water. The good news is that with sterling silver it is tough enough to withstand you polishing with a paste to bring back the shine of your silver.
Can silver plated jewellery be stamped 925?
No silver plated jewellery cannot legally be stamped 925, because 925 is a hallmark stamp for sterling silver jewellery, which silver plated jewellery is not. Silver plated jewellery just has a thin layer of plating, it is a cheap alternative, usually for costume jewellery and does not have good durability.