How to Prevent Your Jewelry from Tarnishing Over Time
Tarnish on jewelry is caused when the metal reacts with sulfur, a chemical found in the air, wool, and foods such as onions and eggs. Handling silver after touching these items can cause it to tarnish. To keep jewelry clean, "the best thing you can do is wipe it with a soft cloth each day after wearing it," says Don Brown, owner of Don's Jewelry and Design in Washington, Iowa.
There's a distinction to be made between types of jewelry, too: Unlike fine jewelry that's made with materials like gold, diamonds, and gemstones, fashion jewelry is commonly made with plated metals, semi-precious stones, beads, and glass—the latter is more prone to tarnishing over time. Ahead, we share how to minimize signs of wear and discoloration.
Store It Properly
Store pieces in a closed jewelry box or in velvet or cotton jewelry bags, keeping the items in separate compartments or bags to prevent them from scratching one another. You can also add strips or Tarnish Inhibitor Cases (from $8.99, containerstore.com) with adjustable dividers that have a patented, anti-tarnish additive molded into them and provide up to five years of protection.
Clean It Regularly
Remove existing tarnish by filling a dish with warm water and a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid; dip a soft toothbrush into the mixture, and scrub jewelry, working around stones and any grooves that are meant to be blackened. (Silver-and-turquoise jewelry is often deliberately tarnished in these areas.) Do not soak pieces, as this can loosen glue that holds stones in place. Dry thoroughly with a soft cloth or hair dryer set to low in order to avoid spotting.
If soap and water don't do the trick, try a commercial cleaner. Brown likes polishing cloths treated with cleaning chemicals—find them at jewelry stores or online, such as Mayflower's Jewelry Cleaner and Polishing Cloth ($8.95, amazon.com)—because they are gentle and easy to use. Liquid polishes and pastes, applied with a soft cloth, also work well. Avoid submerging jewelry in a silver dip, which contains harsh acids that can damage the surface. If tarnish persists, you may want to take the items to a jeweler for a professional cleaning.