Tips & hacks

How to clean tarnished jewellery 

How to clean tarnished jewellery 

Over time, our precious jewellery can lose its lustre – the main cause; tarnishing. Understanding what tarnish is, why it occurs, and which metals are most susceptible is crucial to preserve the beauty of your jewellery. Here’s a detailed guide to tarnishing – and how to reverse the effects. 

What is ‘tarnish’? 

Tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion that forms over metals as their outermost layer undergoes a chemical reaction. Unlike rust, which occurs on iron and steel, tarnish can develop on a variety of metals, including silver, gold, and copper. This dulling and sometimes black coating is primarily the result of the metal reacting with sulfur-containing substances in the air, household chemicals, or contact with the skin. 

Why does jewellery tarnish? 

Several factors contribute to the tarnishing of jewellery. Exposure to air and moisture accelerates the chemical reactions in the metals leading to tarnish. Everyday substances such as perfume, hairspray, soap, and even the natural oils from our skin can speed up the tarnishing process. Higher humidity levels can also contribute – basically – unfortunately – tarnishing is a fact of life when it comes to jewellery. 

Which metals tarnish the most easily? 

Silver: Sterling silver is particularly prone to tarnishing because it is an alloy containing 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, typically copper. The copper reacts with sulfur in the air, causing the silver to tarnish. 

Copper: Known for its reddish hue, copper tarnishes more quickly than many other metals, developing a greenish layer on the metal known as patina. 

Gold: Pure gold does not tarnish, but gold jewellery is often an alloy containing a mixture of gold, copper, and silver, to ensure it is hard enough to make jewellery from. The higher the content of other metals (particularly the silver and copper), the more prone the alloy is to tarnishing. 

How to clean tarnished jewellery 

Luckily, you can easily restore tarnished jewellery, at home. Here are some methods based on the type of metal: 

For silver jewellery 

  • Baking soda and water: Make a paste using baking soda and water. Apply it gently with a soft cloth or sponge, rub lightly, then rinse with warm water and dry thoroughly. 
  • Silver polish: Silver polishes and cloths can effectively remove tarnish. Many stores sell these products which you can use easily in the comfort of your own home. 

For gold jewellery 

  • Dish soap and warm water: Soak your gold jewellery in a solution of warm water and a few drops of dish soap. After 15-30 minutes, gently scrub with a soft-bristled brush, rinse, and dry with a soft cloth. 
  • Ammonia solution: For deep cleaning, a solution of one part ammonia to six parts water can be used for some jewellery (ensure your piece does not include gemstones that could be affected by the chemicals). Soak the jewellery briefly, no more than one minute, then rinse thoroughly and dry. 

Preventive measures to stop tarnishing 

Preventing tarnish is easier than removing it. Store your jewellery in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, and ideally use anti-tarnish strips, cloths or pouches when storing it. Additionally, regular cleaning and minimizing exposure to chemicals and moisture can also help prevent tarnish. And finally, actually wear your jewellery! You may think hiding it away will prevent it tarnishing, but wearing and using it will cause it to tarnish less than it being stowed away. 

Any more questions?

If you have any further questions about caring for your jewellery, take a look at our 5 top tips and hacks for caring for your jewellery, and the do’s and don’t’s of jewellery storage.