Why is my sterling silver turning dark or look dirty?
Sterling silver, by definition is made out of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other materials such as copper. The sterling we use is nickel free. This is an industry standard. In fact the little "925" stamped into some sterling pieces is to signify that it is made out of 92.5% silver. The reason jewellery pieces are made out of sterling silver, and not 100% silver because silver in its purest form is often too soft to use to create jewellery with. This is why most silver pieces bought anywhere is sold as sterling silver.
Oxidation occurs because of the metal reacting to the air and oxygen, hence the term OXidation, for OXygen. This is a chemical reaction. Silver reacts to sulfur in the air, and this is what causes the oxidation, a black or dark substance or film. Sulfur is in the air because of by-products of pollution and also can be found in the air naturally. Sulfur reacts very quickly with sterling silver. Chemicals that are found in shampoos, creams or even in tap water can cause a reaction to the metal and speed up oxidation. We recommend not showering or exercising with sterling silver as the salts from your body in the shower can cause rapid oxidation. Sometimes we see oxidation happen faster during the warmer months, as when the temperature increases, more sweat happens if it’s hot.
Please note, brand new pieces of sterling silver will oxidize more quickly until it is worn. As you wear it, your natural oils will likely collect on the surface and form a protective layer from the oxygen in the air. Some people notice that the sterling silver they wear more often oxidizes slowly. This varies and depends on each person’s body chemistry.
Sterling silver will oxidize. This is not a reflection of poor quality. I hand cut our sterling bars and triangles out of thick sheets of silver, and each one is handcrafted one at a time. The darkening you are seeing is oxidation, and this is something that cannot be controlled, and is due to Mother Nature. Sterling silver reacts to the sulphur in the air, which causes oxidation. This oxidation is the darkening that you see. However, oxidation can easily be removed or cleaned!
There are many old fashioned ways to remove silver. The easiest way to clean it is to use a jewelry polish pad. You can also take it to a jeweller to have it polished in their ultrasonic machine. You can also purchase anti-tarnish strips to store your piece in. To slow down the oxidation, you can also store it in a plastic ziplock bag. Most jewelry stores will also sell silver cleaning solutions. Another tip is to use ketchup to clean your sterling silver piece. The acidity in the ketchup can help dissolve the oxidation.
If you do a quick google search, you will find that this is a very, very natural phenomenon for sterling silver. (For example, old movies where the women can be seen polishing the silverware before a fancy dinner). A $400 sterling silver piece will oxidize just as a $50 sterling piece will. The finish on our necklaces is very smooth, so oxidation may appear as a film, or dark marks. Oxidation can happen in micro scratches that happen to necklaces naturally through normal every day wear. (Precious metals are very soft, and is scratched easily). It can make the smallest scratch look like an eye sore.
But the good news is that it is removable! Oxidation is out of our control, and is subject to the moisture in the air, the chemical composition of your skin, if you wear it when sweating or moist, and the weather.
To clean it, you can buy jewelry cleaning pads or cloths from your local jewelry store. There was a little polish pad included in your order :) You can even get anti-tarnish strips that help absorb the sulfur and moisture in the air if you store it with a zippie bag.
The good news is that sterling silver can be cleaned, and that oxidation can be removed! If you need more polish pads, please let us know as we have them on the website! If you’d like to send it in for us to clean for you, we can do that as well. Please contact Jessica if you have any questions at all!