Why Does Silver Tarnish?
Silver naturally reacts with hydogen sulfide found in the air which causes the silver to darken and patina (tarnish) over time. If worn, silver RARELY shows signs of tarnishing, since the small amount of rubbing against your skin or clothes will keep it completely clean. Please note that the process of tarnishing can be sped up by additional factors, please see below for "Reasons Your Silver Jewelry May Tarnish More Quickly Than Others".
Some tips for keeping your silver bright and clean, if you live in an area where silver tarnishes more quickly:
1. Wear your silver. Silver usually will not tarnish when worn, since it is constantly being rubbed on your skin or clothes.
2. When not being worn, place it in a zip lock plastic bag with as little air inside as possible, this will minimize the exposure to moisture and sulphur in the air.
3. Place your silver jewelry in a jewelry box that is lined with anti-tarnish fabric. Most jewelry boxes contain this type of fabric to preserve jewelry, mostly silver, from tarnishing.
4. Place a anti-tarnish strip or tab in the place where you keep your jewelry, this will act just like the anti-tarnish fabric in jewellery boxes (we now add 2 of these strips in with all our jewelry shipments and they last for about a year). I hope this helps!
Here are some great ways to remove tarnish once it has taken hold:
1. Polishing Cloth. Rub silver areas that show tarnish with a jewelry polishing cloth (we include one with almost every piece of jewelry we sell for free). These cloths are impregnated with polishing compounds and anti-tarnish agents to quickly remove light tarnish and protect against future tarnishing.
2. Chemical Dip. A chemical dip is a great way to remove more substantial tarnish, and can be purchased at online stores Amazon or Ebay. Simply dip silver jewelry in this solution and tarnish gets removed within seconds and your silver is bright and clean once more. BE CAREFUL to not get solution on other jewelry parts, especially pearls, as this dip will remove the natural lustre of pearls and dull them.
3. Buffing Wheel. This process, usually performed by a jeweler, can quickly remove tarnish on larger or smoother items quickly and will add anti-tarnish agents to the silver to help them stay clean a little longer. This process takes off a little more silver than the other two fixes, and therefore is not recommended for antique items or thinner pieces. Also, it is very hard to buff a chain or delicate pieces of jewelry as the buffing wheel spins at a very high speed.
Reasons your Silver Jewelry may tarnish more quickly than others:
Sulfur is enemy number one when we are talking about the tarnishing of silver, mainly Hydrogen Sulfide and Carbonyl Sulfide found in the air. There is naturally a very small amount of these substances in the air, and therefore cause silver to tarnish slowly over time, but many environmental factors can increase the levels, which will cause your silver jewelry to tarnish more quickly.
Humidity will speed up the reaction between silver and sulfides in the air. Salt sulfides found in sea water will act quickly to tarnish silver jewlery. Chlorine and other chemicals found in swimming pools will cause tarnishing and discoloration of silver.
If you live next to the ocean, you have several factors that can increase the tarnishing rate of silver including humidity, salty air, and salt marshes in some areas (which can produce a lage amount of hydrogen sulfide). Salt marshes and other marshlands have bacteria that breakdown organic matter and release hydrogen sulfide into the air, which is the main airborne silver enemy. The sulfer in the air is what causes the "rotten egg" smell found in marshlands.
Also, other environmental factors in your local area may also play a part in more speedy tarnishing, like coal burning fireplaces, oil-burning heaters, or coal/oil burning industrial areas (since coal and oil contains anywhere between 0.5% to 5% sulpher, which is the main reactive chemical for silver). Also, oil and gas refineries, paper producing plants, sewage treatment plants, and many other industrial processes produce hydrogen sulfide.
Many foods contain a high amount of sulfur, these are mainly foods that contain a high amount of protein, like eggs, nuts, cheese, and meats (including fish), as well as foods like onions, garlic, and broccoli. Cigarette smoke also contains hydrogen sulfide and therefore if you are a smoker or are around cigarette smoke daily, the additional hydrogen sulfide in the air will increase the rate your silver jewelry tarnishes.
Don't think that because you live in an industry-free area that you are going to be free from the chemicals that may cause your silver to tarnish more quickly, according to the EPA, an air sample taken on the open sea can contain more than ten times as much carbonyl sulfide as one taken in downtown Philidelphia, Pennsylvania.
In 99% of cases, your silver will tarnish very slowly over time, and if worn, will likely never tarnish at all. If you are not going to be wearing your silver jewelry for a while, you should store it away in an air-tight plastic bag or a jewelry box that has anti-tarnish fabric. See "Preventative Measures" above for the best ways to keep your silver jewelry tarnish-free.
In a recent study, researchers in Switzerland found that samples taken from female armpits had different, higher, levels of a sulfur-containing compound than levels found in the sweat samples taken from male armpits: 5 milligrams in female sweat compared to 0.5 milligrams in male sweat [source: Troccaz ]. The makeup of male and female sweat differs in the concentration of sulfur, and the more sulfur we have in our sweat, the stronger our body odor can be. But at least we aren't walking around smelling like rotten eggs. This study also found that women's body odor smells similar to onions or grapefruit while men smell more like stinky cheese.
The Sulfur Content of Foods