Silver Tarnish Photo credit: Muffet / Foter / CC BY

It is a fallacy that only poor quality silver will tarnish.

All silver (even the Queen’s) will tarnish when exposed to sulphur compounds.

Tarnish is the formation of silver sulphide and is caused when the silver comes into contact with sulphur compounds. This can be through contact with hydrogen sulphide in the air caused by car
exhaust or industrial pollution.

There is however, tarnish resistant sterling silver.

More commonly tarnishing occurs when silver comes into contact with the sulphur compounds that are found in these foods and everyday items: garlic, eggs, cabbage, mustard, broccoli, asparagus, ammonia, wool, latex, rubber bands, perfumes, hair sprays, onions, body oils and many cosmetic lotions.

People who eat foods containing sulphur will release sulphur compounds in their perspiration. These sulphur compounds will then react with any silver jewellery they are wearing and tarnishing will start to occur. Tarnishing also occurs more rapidly in humid climates and in areas with higher UV radiation from the sun.

Moral of the story? Don’t eat lots of garlic and then go out in strong sunlight on a humid day and sweat!

Often people who perspire readily and eat a diet rich in sulphur will complain about how often their jewellery needs to be polished and are quick to blame the jewellery as being low quality.

It is always best to put on your jewellery after using any cosmetics, perfumes, lotions and so forth.

Don’t expose your silver (or gold) jewellery to cleaning products containing chlorine.

You can clean your silver with our jewellery cleaning cloths or you may like to try an inexpensive and environmentally friendly method using common household items.

See Cleaning Techniques.