Wondering why your sterling silver jewelry has turned copper? Or why after months of the bracelet looking perfect, it suddenly looks like or is turning into a copper bracelet that is leaving green or black marks on your wrist and long-sleeved tops?
Well, this article shares all insights into silver bracelets and why silver jewelry has turned into copper. So, let’s jump right into it!
Understanding the material – Silver
Silver is a precious metal that’s used to create some of the most elegant pieces of jewelry. This precious metal is, however, quite soft, and it cannot be used to make jewelry in its pure form. So, to create silver jewelry, pure silver is mixed with a metal alloy like copper, creating sterling silver. The creation of sterling silver involves mixing 92.5% of pure silver with 7.5% copper.
While pure silver makes great jewelry and isn’t used in making pure jewelry, it might still be slightly reactive when it comes in contact with sulfur. If you have a sterling silver bracelet, you should, therefore, expect some discoloration. The copper in sterling silver is the primary reason for the reactivity and the black specks, which is also the reason for the tarnishing of the bracelet.
The reaction of silver when exposed to the air results in a black tarnish of silver sulfide from the reaction of silver with hydrogen sulfide. This is known as corrosion/ tarnishing.
Silver and sterling silver jewelry is often hallmarked with the 925 stamps. This stamp represents 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper or other metals such as zinc.
Why your silver bracelet turn copper?
- Humidity & Moisture
Copper in sterling silver gets oxidized upon exposure to the environment, especially in high moisture and high humidity conditions. The copper will react with oxygen in the air, forming a layer of copper oxide on the outside hence tarnishing and the blackened appearance of the sterling silver jewelry. What this means is that all kinds of sterling silver jewelry will tarnish. So, why is it turning copper? Well, in the case of sterling silver jewelry with high copper content, the tarnishing would not just leave you with a black tarnished bracelet, but it would also turn it copper and green.
- Corrosion of sterling silver plating layer (Bracelet not made of actual sterling silver)
If your sterling silver jewelry is actually made of sterling silver plating rather than solid sterling silver, then the jewelry might turn from sterling silver into copper as the layer of sterling silver wears out. In such cases, the corrosion of the coating will result in your jewelry turning copper. So, if your sterling silver jewelry is turning into copper or taking on the copper color, then it means that the jewelry is not actually made of solid sterling silver but made of the now exposed copper. It would be safe to call this silver-plated copper jewelry rather than sterling silver.
Unfortunately, there isn’t anything you could do to fix this problem, and the sterling silver piece that’s now turned into copper might not be wearable anymore, well, unless you take it for plating at a professional jewelry store. It could be re-plated with sterling silver, rhodium, or even platinum. Before you embrace this option, though, you might want to consider the cost implications of the decision you are about to make – if the bracelet has lasted years and you can stay without it, then giving up on it would be wise. Also, if the cost of re-plating this new copper bracelet is too high and since polishing the copper finish will not do the trick, at least not in the long term, buying a new bracelet made of actual sterling silver would be a more viable option for you.
So, if you don’t understand why your glamorous sterling silver bracelet has turned copper, you should know that the unfortunate bit about that bracelet is that it wasn’t made of sterling silver, to begin with. It is a copper bracelet that was plated with silver. Since the silver has worn off, the copper underneath is now exposed, and also what you are left with.
If re-plating the bracelet isn’t a viable option for you and you are ready to count your losses, then you just have to make sure that you are more careful next time and confirm with the jeweler that the bracelet or earrings you are buying is made of solid sterling silver and not plated. Also, take into account the price of the jewelry – if that sterling silver bracelet is too cheap, it’s likely a plated piece of copper bracelet, or maybe the base metal used is brass.
How to clean your tarnished silver bracelet?
For starters, all sterling silver jewelry (silver) will tarnish, and no jewelry made of silver/ sterling silver is resistant to tarnishing. Tarnishing results from oxidation. The good news is that the tarnished layer is not permanent, and it can be polished off to retain the nice shine of sterling silver, but only if the bracelet is made of sterling silver and not just plated with sterling silver/ silver.
- Clean it using a baking soda paste
This is the easiest and often the most effective way of cleaning the tarnished sterling silver bracelet. Make a paste by mixing two parts baking soda with one part of water, then rub this paste on the jewelry, allow it to sit for some minutes, then rinse and dry it using a soft, microfiber cloth.
- Use aluminum foil, baking soda, salt, and hot water
Alternatively, set down the jewelry in a bowl lined with the shiny side of an aluminum foil, fill this lined bowl with boiling water, then add ¼ a cup of baking soda plus 2 tsp of salt to the hot water, and stir, then allow it to bubble. Let this sit for about 5 minutes, then rinse the jewelry thoroughly and dry them using a soft cotton cloth.
- Use a silver polishing cloth. See the following video.
Tips for storing your silver bracelet
- Store the silver bracelet in a soft, airtight, anti-tarnish bag, and keep it in a cool and a dark place
- Keep the bracelet in a low humidity place.
- Add chalk or silica bags in the jewelry bag to keep out moisture.
- Don’t keep your jewelry in the bathroom.
Silver bracelets turning copper is a sign that the jewelry isn’t actually made of sterling silver but copper that is plated with sterling silver. So, be extra careful next time you are shopping for sterling silver jewelry.