Have you found your Sterling Silver jewellery becomes tarnished more quickly in the summer time?
We have some possible explanations, and some steps you can take to remedy the situation and keep your jewellery looking good.
What causes the discoloration in silver jewellery?
Tarnishing (or oxidising) of silver jewellery is a very common issue with silver, and believe it or not it's rarely a sign that there's an issue with the quality.
Of course if you've bought something very cheap that claims to be silver, but is in fact base metal, brass or copper that's been plated to look like silver (and we've all fallen for this I'm sure!) - this is likely to cause your skin to discolour very quickly. But even with British made hallmarked solid silver, over time any jewellery that's exposed to air will tarnish even slightly. Though it's very frustrating when suddenly it seems to happen overnight - most of the time this occurs in the summer months.
Sterling silver is made up of a mixture of metals with at least 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, and it's these other metals, usually copper, that oxidise in the air resulting in the build up of a tarnished, blackened surface on your silver necklaces, bracelets and rings.
1. Humidity & Moisture
Increased moisture on the skin whether it be showering more, sweating, or high levels of humidity in the air. Those hot summer days and humid nights when you can't keep cool could be reacting with the tiny element of copper present in all sterling silver - this ultimately causes a greenish-black discoloration and will make silver tarnish.
Solution: Don't leave your jewellery lying around in the bathroom to be exposed to steam from baths and showers. Remove your jewellery if you get really hot and sweaty, when you swim and sleep - especially with necklaces in the case of sleep as hot summer nights can cause sweat build ups around the hair which will certainly not help your necklaces stay their best. Invest in a quality silver polishing cloth to help rub off any black dust and tarnish from your silver jewellery.
2. Sunscreen & Make-Up
A little known fact is that some mineral bases sunscreens contain zinc oxide and other chemical compounds, which actually behave as a very mild abrasive. Zinc Oxide is a fantastic and safe sun-blocking agent as well as a common ingredient in a lot of cosmetics. In short, as gold and silver are in their very nature soft metals, mild abrasives in your sunscreen could actually be rubbing off minute particles from your silver jewellery, leaving it tarnished and in extreme situations turning your skin green or black.
Solution: Always remember to remove your jewellery before applying make up and sunscreen, especially when it's really hot. Wait till it's truly soaked in before putting your jewellery back on to help it keep that lovely shine.
3. Diet - especially Sulphur rich foods!
Not a lot of people know but eating a lot of sulphur rich or foods with high levels of acid, such as eggs, garlic, some fruit juices onions, fish or shellfish can sometimes cause the sulphuric chemicals to come out in sweat through the skin. Combine this with hot weather and it's the perfect recipe for tarnishing silver! Similarly preparing sulphur rich foods can cause the jewellery you're wearing to oxidise slightly - so always take those lovely rings off before making that egg salad!
Solution: Don't give up the eggs and prawns, just be mindful that having lots of these foods combined with hot weather could be the trigger that turns your silver black! If this happens, a silver cloth will usually take the worst of it off if you act quickly.
It's no secret that our favourite perfumes contain all sorts of chemicals - all safe for contact with the skin of course, but what are they doing to your jewellery? From first hand experience, over 50% of the incidences of tarnished necklaces and bracelets returned to us for cleaning have been exposed to perfumes. How can we tell? Part of our cleaning process involves heating up the silver to burnish off any nasties before we polish them, and the chemical smell gives the game away.
Solution: Put your perfume on, leave it to dry thoroughly before putting your jewellery back on again and it will have a much lesser impact on the blackening of your jewellery.
5. Hormones & Medication
Some medications such as antibiotics and chemotherapy can cause the chemical balance in your body to temporarily change, and dramatic hormonal changes such as adolescence and the menopause can also cause your jewellery to change colour. The acidic chemicals in some medications leave the skin, clash with your silver and can cause it to discolour.
Solution: There's no answer to this one - often we may be experiencing hormonal shifts without even knowing it, but if you've been given antibiotics you might want to take off your necklaces whilst you finish the course as a safeguard.
So in short, if your necklace turns black overnight, you may have been victim of a combination of any of these which has caused the tarnishing to happen faster than usual. It's always reversible - ask us about our free cleaning service by dropping us an email or giving us a call and we can usually bring them back to their new shiny look quickly and easily for you.