Why some jewelry get tarnished?

Have you ever wondered why some, if not all your, silver jewelry tarnish

Like karat gold, not all sterling silver jewelry is the same. Some silver jewelry are not durable because they are not made of solid silver. Thus, they are alloyed with other metals and then used to make jewelry. One manufacturer’s sterling silver alloy may be more susceptible to tarnish under his living / lifestyle conditions than the others.

Many are confused about what ‘silver’ jewelry is. Silver jewelry is actually base metal covered with silver or rhodium plating. When the plating wears off, it can appear as dull spots or ‘tarnish’. Faux silver pieces tend to wear longer without tarnish because they are not solid silver. However in the long run, their tarnish is less durable than a piece of jewelry made from solid silver, which can be re-polished and brightened indefinitely. To make sure that the piece is of good quality, it is normally ‘925’¬†– both of which indicate it is solid sterling silver.

Rhodium plating

Rhodium plating may be used as a finishing touch on some silver jewelry. Rhodium is a shiny silver metal with a finish almost like mercury. This is a good type of finish because it provides the brilliant finish of freshly polished silver and protects the piece from natural tarnishing. However, there are also disadvantages in using rhodium such as uneven wear, scratching and repair difficulties.

The actual layer of rhodium applied to silver jewelry is extremely thin, and over time it will wear off. It doesn’t always wear off evenly, so there can be dull spots on the jewelry. As a remedy, the jewelry can be rhodium-plated again. Rhodium also does not stick to stones, so a piece already set with stones can be rhodium-plated, but the process may be cost prohibitive¬†– sometimes costing more than the jewelry.

Rhodium-plated pieces can likewise be scratched easily and the scratches cannot always be polished off without ruining the finish in general. It can also be difficult to repair a piece of jewelry coated in rhodium. If heat is applied to the jewelry, the rhodium beads up and burns off, making a kind of scaly finish to the piece. Sometimes this finish can be sanded off, leaving the natural silver finish underneath. But sometimes the design of the piece prohibits this and most jewelers will simply decline to work on it.

But all in all, because most rhodium-plated silver jewelry is relatively inexpensive, most silver jewelry lovers like the ease of care that a good rhodium finish provides. If the pieces tarnish, the owners may simply keep or put the piece aside.