Jewelry Tarnish and What To Do About It

Diamond ring featuring colored diamonds.
Violent, Green and Chocolate Diamond Ring

We’ve all been there. When rushing to get ready to go out you remember that fabulous diamond bracelet you haven’t worn in years! You pull open your jewelry box and grab the bracelet and your big smile turns downwards towards the floor. Tarnish. Loads of ugly tarnish.


Sometimes tarnish is very beautiful. A tarnished copper roof looks so beautiful with that green patina. Tarnish on your favorite silver bracelet, not so much. But what is tarnish exactly and why has it set out to ruin your fabulous night out?

The comet ring is one of the many unique rings designed by Hearts on Fire.
The Comet Ring in Rose Gold Designed by Hearts on Fire

Tarnish is the sign of corrosion of metal. Generally, it is a blackish layer or other discoloration that appears very slowly over time. It is usually oxidation, but moisture and reactions with other substances can cause it also. When it comes to jewelry, it looks awful and you can’t wait to get it off of there.

Jewelry Metals That Tarnish

You will notice that not all of your jewelry has a problem with tarnish, but it is a short list:

  • 24-K gold
  • Platinum
  • Sterling Silver

Any gold will tarnish if it is mixed with other metals, but 24K gold is considered quite pure, so it doesn’t tarnish easily. The problem is, 24K gold is very soft and doesn’t make for a very good piece of jewelry. Sterling silver is known for not tarnishing. Sure, it does need to be polished and buffed out now and then to bring back its gloss, but it doesn’t get covered in black and the same holds true for platinum.

The lotus flower on a heart charm bangle designed by Alex and Ani
Lotus Heart Charm Bangle from Alex and Ani

Some jewelry has gold plating or a special coating is applied to seal out tarnish. Of course, over time that coating or plating starts to wear off and you no longer have that protection.

Preventing Tarnish

You can store your jewelry properly and have a lot less problem with tarnish. Keep in mind that sulfur also causes tarnish, so you need to find a cover for your fine jewelry that didn’t use a sulfur product in the cloth, glue or box. Ask your jeweler what is recommended for your rings, necklaces and bracelets if your jewelry box is not taking care of the problem alone. A good jewelry box is lined with a special fabric to help prevent tarnish. Your jeweler probably offers anti-tarnish bags that you can use to store the most problematic pieces of jewelry.

Chocolate diamonds in engagement ring.
Chocolate Diamonds Used as Accents, Designed by LeVian Jewelers

Proper storage of your jewelry will allow you long periods of time between cleanings. Be sure to store the jewelry that you do not wear often in special boxes or anti-tarnish bags. Then it will be ready for you when you need it at the last minute.

What To Do About It

Removing tarnish is a messy bit of business and it is best that you have your fine jeweler clean your jewelry. Whenever you’re out shopping, pop into the jewelry store and ask them to clean your rings or earrings that you are wearing. This is usually a free service. The jeweler will also check all of your gemstones to make sure they are being held tightly in place and have not loosened.

ArtCarved has unique wedding rings for women.
Sapphire Wedding Ring by ArtCarved

There are sometimes when you can’t run to the jewelry to polish something at the last minute, so you should have a polishing cloth at home. This cloth has two sides to it. One side has the chemical to dissolve the tarnish and remove it. The other side is to polish it. You can purchase this cloth at any fine jewelry store.

Looking Good

Always keep your jewelry looking beautiful by storing it properly and preventing tarnish. Take a look at your stored rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings from time to time to catch tarnish in progress. If it is allowed to go too long between cleanings then the tarnish will go deep in the metal causing pitting and making permanent changes to the metal. Ask your jeweler what is recommended for storing your valuables.

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