Why Is It Green? How to Keep Jewelry from Tarnishing

Leigha is a writer and artist living in Toronto, Ontario. She loves to mix and match…

Jewelry is a great way to add a personal touch to any wardrobe, but it can be frustrating when it starts to tarnish – no one likes to see their jewelry lose its luster.

Tarnish is a natural process that happens when jewelry is exposed to oxygen and moisture, and it can make even the most expensive jewelry look dull and lifeless. If you’ve been wondering how to keep jewelry from tarnishing, you’re in luck!

There are a few simple ways to prevent jewelry tarnish – but before that, let’s get into a little more about why tarnish happens and which metals are most susceptible.


Why does jewelry tarnish?

Jewelry can tarnish for many reasons. Some of the more common reasons include exposure to:

  • Sulfur
  • Body oils
  • Cosmetics
  • Perfume
  • Lotions
  • Sweat
  • Chorine or saltwater pools

The level of tarnish also depends on how well your jewelry is maintained and how often it is being exposed.


Which types of jewelry metals tarnish?

Some jewelry metals are more prone to tarnish than others. These are some of the more common ones.

Copper

tarnished copper bracelet - how to stop jewelry from tarnishing

Copper jewelry is easily tarnished and is commonly oxidized on the skin. This is due to a chemical reaction between body oils and atmospheric oxygen.

Slight discoloration, streaks, or spots may appear on your piece over time due to this process – it’s also what turns your skin green.

But don’t worry! Discoloration and tarnish can be removed with an easy cleaning routine that’s simple and affordable.


Brass

black woman wearing brass earrings

Brass is a common metal alloy used in jewelry, construction tools, and musical instruments. It is durable, lightweight, and versatile.

Brass is made by combining copper and zinc in various proportions – depending on what it is used for. In jewelry, the copper level is usually higher to achieve a more golden look. 

However, because of its use of copper, brass is prone to tarnishing.

Some people prefer the look of tarnished brass, but if you don’t want your piece tarnishing, there are a few ways to prevent it.

💡 Related: Here’s how to clean brass jewelry and preserve the patina.


Sterling Silver

sterling silver loop necklace

Tarnish will naturally occur on sterling silver because of exposure to natural chemicals and pollutants in the air. 

Over time and depending on how much they’ve been worn, prolonged exposure can cause your sterling silver jewelry, such as bracelets or necklaces, to turn black.

You can reduce the rate of tarnish by caring for your sterling silver jewelry using daily maintenance practices.


Gold Alloys or Gold-Plated Jewelry

gold-plated necklace - how to keep jewelry from tarnishing

Real or pure gold will never tarnish. However, we can’t say the same for gold alloys or gold-plated jewelry. 

Since gold is a relatively soft metal, it is often mixed with other metals to create an alloy that is more durable. 

Gold-plating is another alternative used over metals like nickel and copper to create the look of gold without the high price. 

Depending on the base or other metals used, these types of jewelry could tarnish over time


How to Keep Jewelry from Tarnishing

To prevent tarnishing, take care of your jewelry by preventing contact with certain chemicals and maintaining proper cleaning and care. 

Here are some easy steps to keep your jewelry from tarnishing!

  1. Avoid exposing your jewelry to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures. These can accelerate the rate of tarnishing. 
  1. Store jewelry in a cool, dry place when you’re not wearing it. Tarnish-prone jewelry is sensitive to moisture and pollutants – placing jewelry in a drawer or storage box will help keep it from being exposed.
  1. Separate individual pieces of jewelry. Adding dividers in your storage box or placing pieces of jewelry in small plastic bags can prevent scratches that expose the metals under plated jewelry.
  1. Avoid exposing your jewelry to water or chemicals. This includes things like makeup, hairspray, and perfume. Put on jewelry only after applying cosmetics, and be sure to clean each piece at the end of the day.
  1. Clean your jewelry regularly with a soft or microfiber cloth. Regular cleaning will help remove any build-up of dirt or grime that can contribute to tarnishing. 

By taking these simple steps, you can help keep your jewelry shining like new for years to come.


Can you restore tarnished jewelry? 

The short answer is: yes! Many pieces of tarnished jewelry can be restored fairly easily using basic cleaning methods.

However, while gold-plated jewelry or plated jewelry can be cleaned and restored at home, tarnish usually happens because the plating has been scratched and the base metal is exposed. In this case, your jewelry will have to be taken in to be re-plated by a professional to stop it from reacting with outside pollutants and other chemicals.

Tarnish-prone metals such as copper, brass, and sterling silver can all be restored using a similar cleaning method.

Materials Needed

  • A glass bowl or container
  • Aluminum foil
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • Boiling water
  • Paper towel
  • A soft or microfibre cloth

Instructions

  1. Use enough aluminum foil to completely line your glass bowl or container.
  2. Add a tablespoon of baking soda and your tarnished jewelry to the container.
  3. Next, after pour hot boiled water over your jewelry to cover it completely.
  4. Let your piece(s) sit in the solution for a few minutes or until the water has cooled, shifting and agitating it occasionally. 
  5. Take your piece(s) out of the container, and place them on a paper towel to dry. 
  6. Use a soft or microfiber cloth to wipe away any remaining residue.

💡 Take Note: Be sure that your pieces have been dried completely before storing or wearing, to prevent further tarnishing from leftover moisture.


Does clear nail polish stop jewelry from tarnishing?

Although many sites recommend using clear nail polish to keep jewelry from tarnishing, it might not be the best option for your piece.

Clear nail polish is a soft and temporary solution for tarnished jewelry that can wear down over multiple uses. 

Clear nail polish can chip and even turn yellow over time. This means you’ll need to add more layers to your piece, which will make it look unattractive and uneven.

So, while this method does technically stop jewelry from tarnishing, we don’t recommend it as a long-term solution.


Stop the Tarnish

Now that you know how to clean and take care of your jewelry, it’s time to put that knowledge into practice! 

Keep your necklaces, earrings, rings, and bracelets looking bright and new with just a few extra steps in your cleaning routine. 

And if you prefer the look of tarnish on your piece, we don’t judge! However you like them, we know you’ll enjoy wearing these beautiful pieces for years to come.

💎 You should know: We use affiliate links throughout our site. This means we may earn a cent or two when you make a purchase on our site. Thanks for adding to our shine.