What really causes your Sterling Silver jewelry to tarnish?

By Laura Novak-Roesgen

Ready to travel back to sophomore year science class? (Yeah, me neither!)

But hey, I really should’ve paid more attention during Material Science class in college because the engineer in me had to look up the REAL reason why tarnish happens.

Tarnish – you know, that dull, black, sad sorry state that sometimes happens to silver pieces?

The science-ey hot take: Sterling silver reacts with sulfates in the air and in many materials near you as you wear or store your jewelry. 

Nerdy enough for you??

7- Common – but little known –  materials

that may contain these sulfates & turn your precious turquoise & sterling silver jewelry black even faster are:


Hairsprays, shampoos, lotions, and perfumes may be laden with sulfates. Store your silver jewelry in anti-tarnish poly bags and out of your bathroom or vanity area if possible. Do not handle jewelry with make-up or lotion on your hands. Avoid wearing your precious jewelry at the beauty or nail salons that may be pungent with product fumes.


Tap water and naturally occurring water both contain varying sulfate levels. Do not wear any jewelry while swimming, showering or sweating. Especially swimming in salt water- yikes! Plus you chance losing your jewelry while swimming.


Tissue paper, newspaper and many of those cute printed craft papers often use acid-based sulfur dyes. Don’t wrap your jewelry with this seemingly innocuous paper.


Rubber seals, rubber bands and some rubberized plastic solids will leach sulfur into the air.


Popular leather cords & straps used in jewelry are tanned, just like all leathers, using sulfur-based acids. Store leather necklaces with silver with silver saver tabs to prevent blackening.


That crinkly clear plastic used for food packaging, gift baskets, and other applications is full of sulfur. This plastic is often used to make fold and seal baggies in retail packaging.


Fireplace smoke near your jewelry can be an issue. Make sure that chimney stays clear so smoke does not fill your home.

The best advice I have is the "last on, first off rule” and the 5 S’s.

Last on -- Jewelry should be the last thing you put on after getting dressed and applying lotions, cosmetics, and hair care products.
First off -- Jewelry should be the first thing you take off before washing with soap, cooking, cleaning or bathing.
The 5 S's -- don't Spray, Shower, Swim, Sweat or Sleep in your jewelry

Ok, how many of these “rules” do you accidentally break?  

Me? Spray– I tend to forget & put my jewelry on before spritzing! 

With every order, I give you a bonus polishing cloth and pack your silver jewelry in a reusable anti-tarnish poly storage bag.  The cloth makes it so easy to swiftly remove surface tarnish on the go and keep your jewelry sparkly day after day.

Check out the handmade sterling silver + turquoise collection here.