Why Does Jewelry Tarnish When Not Worn


Jewelry can tarnish when worn, but what about when it is simply stored? Tarnishing is the result of a reaction occurring between the metal content of an alloy and exposure to oxygen, humidity and outside contaminants. Airborne chemicals like ammonia, detergents and hairspray can cause a reaction when introduced to air that will lead to tarnishing. When jewelry pieces are stored away for long periods of time without being worn, these environmental elements may begin to cause oxidation and discoloration, leading to tarnish. The amount of time it takes for oxidization and tarnishing can depend on metal type ” silver items tend to oxidize quicker than other metals ” as well as exposure levels. Small amounts of moisture in the air or high levels of sulfur near jewelry pieces can hasten the process.

Tarnishing isn’t all bad news; in some cases it’s an indicator that the metal alloy you’ve chosen is hardy enough not to melt away in higher temperatures or acidic environments. Alloying metals with each other also adds strength and weight which many jewelry-makers prefer. However, even though it may be beneficial in some respects, certain sensitivities still need accommodations; some metals used in various pieces are more prone to oxidation then others due to their design or composition of ingredients combined with exposure outside their protective coating. Taking preventative measures such as using oiled cotton clothes or soft cloths when handling and storing jewelry items may help avoid unnecessary damage caused by tarnishing over prolonged periods of time.

Types of Metals Susceptible to Tarnishing

Jewelry can easily tarnish if not worn regularly. Certain metals are particularly susceptible to tarnishing due to their chemical makeup and this includes sterling silver, copper, brass and bronze.

The reason why these metals are prone to tarnishing is because they contain a certain amount of copper which is highly reactive with oxygen in the air. The oxidation process produces dark particles (commonly known as tarnish) which gradually form layers on the metal surface. This can be prevented or at least slowed down by wearing jewelry regularly and keeping it away from corrosive materials such as saltwater and soaps.

Instructive diagrams can help explain the effects of oxidation on the surface of the metal, such as how the layer of rust forms on a copper coin when exposed to air and water. Brittleness is also often associated with tarnished jewelry as time goes by, so often it’s better to stop the process sooner than later by washing regularly with a cleaning solution specially designed for jewelry items.

Reaction With Air

Jewelry often tarnishes when not worn due to a common chemical reaction called oxidation. Oxidation occurs when the metal in jewelry interacts with oxygen and other elements in the air, resulting in a noticeable change to the surface of the metal. This oxidation is commonly referred to as “tarnishing” and can occur over time even when jewelry is not being worn, as it is constantly exposed to air and other environmental factors. The rate at which jewelry tarnishes depends on the type of metal from which it is constructed, as well as on the environment and exposures to which it has been subjected. Some metals are more prone to oxidation than others; silver, gold, and even some alloys are prone to tarnishing over time. To help protect your jewelry from unnecessary oxidation or tarnishing, keep it in an air-tight box or sealed pouch when possible; this will limit its exposure to the elements that encourage oxidization. Regularly cleaning your jewelry with mild soap and warm water can also minimize oxidation damage.

Reaction With Skin Oils

Jewelry can develop a tarnish over time, even if it is not being worn or handled. This happens because of a reaction between the metals in the jewelry and oils present on human skin. When jewelry is worn, its surface comes into contact with your skin and is exposed to fatty acids and sweat secretions, which contain compounds that oxidize the metal more quickly. Human skin has natural oils which react with some of the metals used in jewelry like copper, brass, silver, and gold. When these reactive metals come into contact with these skin oils they begin to form deposits of sulfides (a type of compound), which appear as dark spots. If left untouched for a long period of time, these spots can gradually spread across the entire piece and leave it looking dull and discolored.

Does Sears Repair Jewelry

In order to prevent this from happening to your jewelry pieces you should follow a few simple steps: 1) Store your jewelry pieces separately so that metals are not touching; 2) Clean them regularly using mild soap (not acidic solutions!) to remove accumulated grime; 3) Dry offjewelry after each wear with a soft cloth; 4) Use an anti-tarnishing cloth or product to further protect your pieces from toxins; 5) Don’t expose them to air or moisture for too long; 6) Keep them from coming into contact with substances such as perfumes or hair care products, both of which may cause spotting; 7) Don’t store any valuable items around rubber material as this can promote oxidation; 8) Make sure each piece remains polished and clean by wiping off oil after wearing; 9) Lastly, if possible, avoid skin contact when handling precious items like silver coins or platinum rings by wearing gloves.

Poor Quality Materials

Jewelry can tarnish when not worn due to the use of poor quality materials in their construction. Different metals have different levels of reactivity and sensitivity to elements such as oxygen or moisture, making them susceptible to wear and tear. Certain metals are more reactive than others, and this can exacerbates the rate of tarnishing. When jewelry is made with cheaper, low-grade materials, it will be more prone to corrosion over time. Examples of materials that may not be ideal for making jewelry include brass alloys with a high copper content, lower grade silver alloys (such as nickel silver), or base metal plated items.

The best way to tell if a piece of jewelry is made from good quality metals is by looking at the purity stamp on its surface or inside any hollow spaces. Appearance can also be a good indicator – look for dullness in color rather than bright and shiny finishes; good quality jewelry should offer consistent tones throughout without any spotting or blotching caused by cheap coatings wearing away. Additionally, good craftsmanship means that the piece is properly put together – cleanly soldered pieces will outlast rough edges and loses stones one can encounter in poorer pieces.

Protective Coatings

Jewelry tarnishes when not worn because it is typically composed of metals that react with oxygen in the air, making them prone to oxidation. The oxidation process leads to the formation of black or silver patches on the jewelry, giving it a dull, tarnished appearance. To prevent this process, some jewelry pieces come with a protective coating that helps delay or reduce the amount of damage caused by oxidation. Common protective coatings include anti-tarnish varnishes and films, and special chemical coatings designed to guard against water and other elements. However, these metals vary in their ability to retain the protective coating, so choosing the best one for your particular piece may require some research. Investment-grade jewelry, such as gold or platinum pieces, should always have high-quality coatings applied for best results. In general, any serious consideration of protecting jewelry from oxidizing should also include considerations about chemicals used in cleaning materials and processes needed in traditional cleaning methods.

Storing Jewelry

Jewelry tends to tarnish when not worn due to the natural oxidation process of metal. Exposure to air, light, and moisture can cause tarnishing. Additionally, storage environments that are too warm or humid can accelerate the oxidation process and result in tarnishing. One of the best ways to prevent this is by limiting exposure to such environments. When jewelry is being stored, it should be placed in a dark, sealed container, such as a zip-lock baggie or jewelry box, and kept away from areas that may have excess heat or humidity. Additionally, jewelry pieces should never be directly exposed to chemical cleaning products.

When decluttering jewelry collections for storage purposes, it helps to organize by type: badges/pins; bracelets and bangles; earrings; necklaces; rings; watches; etc. For example, pins can be sorted by size and color whereas earrings could be organized so that similar pieces are grouped together (hoops with studs.) Priority pieces can also be placed in more easily accessible small containers for quick wearings. Jewelry items should also be safely stored away from children and pets who may damage them inadvertently.

Gold Tooth Jewelry

It’s important to keep all jewelry stored off of surfaces where it is in direct sunlight or near open windows. Both direct sunlight and sources of UV light can cause discoloration in some metals while open windows may increase exposure to moisture which could cause rusting ” particularly on silver jewelry incrusted with gems or stones containing copper elements like turquoise, opalized petrified wood or amber with fossilized insects.

Care and Cleaning

Jewelry tarnishes when not worn for a variety of reasons. One reason is due to the chemical reactions caused by oxygen and humidity in the surrounding environment. The metal used to make jewelry is not totally inert, which means air and moisture can cause chemical reactions such as oxidation or corrosion. These reactions cause a dark or yellowish color to form on the surface of the jewelry gradually over time, leading to tarnishing. Another reason why jewelry may tarnish is due to the materials used in its construction ” certain metals are more prone to tarnishing than others, and even quality pieces may discolor after extended use and exposure to air and moisture. Lastly, skin oils can also contribute to jewelry becoming dull over time. This can be avoided by regularly washing jewelry with soap and warm water if it gets dirty or excessively oily.

It is important that jewelry is regularly maintained and cleaned in order to minimize tarnishing effects. Polishing cloths with special formulations should be used for periodic cleaning; this will help remove built up dirt and oils without damaging the finish of the piece. Additionally, proper storage options such as anti-tarnish bags will reduce exposures to air, moisture and dust that can accelerate deterioration within a short period of time. Jewelry should also be stored separately so that pieces don’t rub against one another causing them scratch or tangle. Finally, excess water should be wiped off after each wear so it does not cause rusting effect on costume pieces or gold plated fashion accessory items over time.


Jewelry pieces can quickly start to tarnish if not worn. This is because exposure to oxygen, as well as moisture and other pollutants present in the air, will cause a natural oxidation reaction on metal surfaces which results in them developing a dull and sullied appearance. In order to prevent this, readers should take the following steps:

– Store jewelry away from sources of heat or moisture. This can include places such as bathrooms, kitchens and patios.

– Clean jewelry pieces with warm water and a gentle jewelry cleaner after wearing them. This will help to remove sweat, dirt and cosmetics that tend to build up over time.

– Dry all jewelry off before storing it in an airtight container, preferably made from plastic or velvet so that moisture does not seep in.

– Opt for high quality jewelry made from metals like platinum or sterling silver which do not tarnish very easily if cared for properly.

Related resources that readers can look into include websites on cleaning and caring for jewellery pieces such as wwwdiamondere.com, particular books on the subject (like Fire Mountain Gems’ Jewelry Care Guide) or even locally available classes that offer advice and tips on how best to handle one’s jewellery collection going forward.

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