Jewelry, especially silver or sterling silver jewelry, will always look old and a little rusty over some time, especially because the silver chain will react with air, among other factors.
But the effects of these factors tend to be temporary, which means that despite how bad a piece of sterling silver jewelry ends up looking, the same jewelry will give you a second chance; as long as you know what you need to use to clean the jewelry and get rid of any layers of tarnish.
Well, in this article, we’ll share with you the top cleaning tips for your silver chain.
But first, some basics.
Why do your silver chains turn black sooner or later?
Silver (sterling silver) jewelry will most certainly turn black sooner or later, and there’s not much that you can do about it. But why does this happen?
- Oxidation with Sulfur
Well, the actual reason why silver and sterling silver jewelry will turn or form a black film is because of the reaction of the silver with hydrogen sulfide and/or sulfur. Hydrogen sulfide is a naturally occurring compound, and it is in the air at all times. When your silver chain comes in contact with the silver, it triggers a chemical reaction forming a black layer or what is better known as silver sulfide.
Notably, the rate of reaction is much faster, especially in areas and places that get a lot of light and record high humidity levels.
- Skin and haircare body products
But that’s not all. The rate of oxidation of silver is increased when your chain comes in contact with certain products like cosmetics, deodorants, hair sprays, body lotion, bleach, and perfume, among others—all these speeds up the rate of oxidation.
Unfortunately, even the most natural occurrences in life can affect your jewelry. Every time you have your jewelry, air and moisture in the air will react with your jewelry, which means that even with the highest level of care you accord it, it will still get tarnished.
- Natural oils on your skin
Then you have the natural oils from your skin. The layer of skin that is responsible for keeping your skin supple, soft, and smooth – sebum. While doing a great job on your skin, the natural oils may also react with your silver jewelry. And there’s more to it – while the reaction of the body oils with silver will result in oxidation and in subsequent tarnishing of the jewelry, the kinds of food that you eat might contribute to a higher rate of oxidation. Alcohol consumption, medications, and some foods rich in sulfur like eggs, garlic, onions, etc., may also increase the rate of tarnishing on your silver jewelry. This is because they influence the skin’s level of acidity and may cause some form of reaction. Sweat could be a contributing factor too.
Lastly, there is a possibility that the kind of silver jewelry that turns your silver jewelry black has a higher content of copper rather than silver, especially when oxidation takes place too fast. In such cases, the high levels of copper mean a higher rate of oxidation, hence the black tarnish.
How to clean a silver chain that turned black
Now that we know why your silver chain turned black so soon, here are snippets of how to clean your silver jewelry and to get rid of the black layer of tarnish.
Warm water and soap
This is the simplest way for you to clean your silver jewelry. You will need some warm water, a small bowl, and mild dishwashing liquid.
- To get started, mix your water and soap until it bubbles, then adds in the jewelry, then allow the jewelry to soak for about 10 minutes.
- If, however, the chain is heavily tarnished, you may have to try a more aggressive approach like using the silver dip to clean it and also to remove the entire layer of tarnish. The silver dip is not only fast, but also significantly more effective, and t
- Next, take out, then rinse it with cold running water, then pat-dry the chain on a clean, lint-free towel or microfiber cloth.
Baking soda paste
Even though some people are against the use of baking soda to clean delicate jewelry, the truth is that this mild abrasive works great, and it will leave you with a sparkling silver chain. It’s also rather simple to use.
If you want to try this method because your jewelry is heavily tarnished and discolored, you will need baking soda, among other ingredients, in different combinations. The most basic of these involves the use of baking water and water.
- For this, you will need 2 tablespoons of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of water. Mix these components together, and then rub the paste on your silver piece of jewelry. Try rubbing in the paste along the grain gently and until you can see the initial shine of your jewelry.
- Once the chain is clean, rinse it in cleaning water and make sure that you have all the residue out.
- Pat it dry on a microfiber cloth, then store it in the jewelry box.
Baking soda, aluminum foil, and salt
With this option, you will need a glass or ceramic baking dish, some baking soda or bicarbonate of soda, clean/ unused aluminum foil, hot water, and salt.
- Take the baking dish or a saucepan, then line your container of choice with a the aluminum foil with the foil’s shiny side facing out. Pour hot water in the dish or saucepan, about a cup.
- To the hot water, add equal parts (1tablespoon) baking soda and salt. Mix these, then drop the silver chain into the mixture carefully. There will be some bubbling and fizzing, but this is all normal. Let the chain sit for about 10 minutes, then remove the chain using a pair of tongs.
- Next up, rinse the silver chain in cold water to wash out the residue. It should be shiny and sparkly by now. Pat it dry in a clean piece of microfiber cloth, then store it in the jewelry box to keep it safe.
- Bear in mind that the concentration of baking soda used will depend on the amount of water added. More water means more baking soda added.
- If the chains are too tarnished, you may want to try the other, more aggressive option.
Baking soda and vinegar mix
- Once you’ve added the baking soda and vinegar mix in the saucepan, you have to heat up the mixture for a few minutes then let it cool down a bit.
- When the solution comes in contact with the aluminum, that is when the real reaction starts. The heat and contact with the aluminum foil surface will initiate a galvanic reaction that would cause the tarnish to come off easily. In some instances, you may even notice a faint odor like that of a rotten egg. The bad smell is from the release of sulfur dioxide from the tarnished layer on the sterling silver jewelry.
- But once you notice some golden-brown stains at the bottom of the pan or on the item, it often means that the solution is overloaded and contaminated, and it’s time for a change in the liquid mixture, or perhaps the stained layer of tarnish has been removed. Brush the silver chain lightly using a soft-bristled brush.
- The next thing you’d want to do is to rinse the silver chain with cold water. Once it looks perfect, dry it by patting it on a piece of microfiber cloth.
- Take a baking bowl and add about a cup of vinegar. Then add about one or two tablespoons of baking soda, depending on the number of silver chains you have to clean and just how tarnished they are.
- Let the chain sit in the baking soda and vinegar bath for about 10 minutes, then gently brush the pieces using a soft-bristled brush. This will make sure that the gunk and tarnish hidden in the cracks is all out for the perfect shine and finish.
- Once done, rinse it well with cold water, preferably under the high-pressure kitchen wash, then dry it well on a soft, lint-free towel.
Not sure about what to do with your tarnished sterling silver jewelry? The insights shared above will help you maintain the shine and brilliance of your silver jewelry, and the best part is that you don’t really have to spend a lot of money to fix the problem. Read more useful tips here or here!
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.