The most common question we receive from clients is how to avoid tarnish on sterling silver beads and findings. Tarnish is unfortunately inevitable and all sterling will tarnish sooner or later. However, we can offer many tips on how to keep silver jewelry shiny for as long as possible.
1. Understand what causes tarnish – Sterling silver reacts with sulfates in the air and in many common materials that may be near your jewelry items. Air born sulfates exist everywhere but are particularly concentrated in industrial areas and coastal regions. Tap water and naturally occurring water both contain varying sulfate levels. Common household items such as papers, plastics and cleaning or beauty products also contain sulfur compounds that will accelerate tarnish.
2. Inspect your storage conditions – Crinkly plastic bags as well as rubber or plastic bins such as Tupperware type containers are very high in sulfates. If you are storing your silver jewelry supplies in many common craft storage units you may actually be accelerating tarnish. Keep your silver findings in an enclosed, dry space. It also helps to add silver saver tabs or silicone packets to remove humidity and moisture from your storage space.
3. Remove offensive items from the environment – Printed newspaper, dyed tissue paper, perfumes, open liver of sulfur containers and many types of aerosol products contain sulfates that will tarnish your silver jewelry supplies nearby. Remove these items from your studio space or storage area.
4. Be prepared – Silver cleaning supplies are inexpensive, easy to use and readily available. Keep a treated cleaning cloth within reach in your work area. A quick wipe will remove tarnish from most items. Anti-tarnish dip cleaners and other solutions are available according to your preference. Tarnish cleaning products are usually safe on most metal items but can damage some stones and pearls.
5. Consider anti-tarnish alloys – A limited selection of silver jewelry supplies is available in anti-tarnish alloys such as Argentium or other alternatives on the market. These alloys are considerably more expensive than sterling, but they do offer extra protection against tarnishing.
6. Educate your customers – Customers appreciate package insert describing tarnish prevention and silver jewelry cleaning instructions. The best advice you can give clients is the “last on, first off rule.” Men and women should make sure the jewelry is the last thing they put on before leaving the house – after they have dressed and applied lotions, cosmetics and hair care products. It should also be the first thing they take off when they get home before washing with soap, cooking, cleaning or bathing. Do not wear silver jewelry to nail salons, automotive service centers or other locations with high levels of sulfate fumes.
It is important to remember that all sterling silver is not the same. Even when you store items under identical conditions you will find that some pieces tarnish faster than others. First, you do not know the history of the items before you received them. The time they spent on the shelf, their exposure to fumes in transit and other variables may play a role before items arrive in your hands. Second, sterling silver items from different manufacturers may or may not have temporary treatments or polishing finishes to extend tarnish-free shelf life. Some common industry treatments include spray on anti-tarnish treatment, flash plating, e-coating, or wax tub tumbling. These treatments vary in efficacy and durability and will increase the variance in tarnish time when comparing across different silver items.
Halstead Bead Inc provides wholesale jewelry supplies to the trade. The company specializes in sterling silver and gold filled wholesale beads, findings, chain and wire.