Why Does My Silver Always Tarnish? It Doesn’t Have To.
Obviously, we focus on gold a lot here. But silver is almost as popular as gold, and for many of the same reasons any of the precious metals are valuable. It’s rarer, denser, and more unique than most metals, making it ideal for use in currency and trade. Silver has a history that’s just as diverse as any precious metal’s, and it plays a giant role in world economies.
It’s also popular for jewelry. There are a few things to know about silver, though. It’s unique, and a buyer’s approach to using and maintaining their silver must be, too.
Silver has a different market value than gold does. When gold is at $1250, silver’s at $15-$20. Despite the difference in cost, gold and silver have roughly the same labor costs. It’s great as a bullion investment — if you’re buying the metal alone. If you’re buying silver jewelry, there’s less of a return on your investment. A lot of that has to do with the labor costs we mentioned, but it also has a lot to do with the way silver tarnishes over time.
As far as producing jewelry goes, for every ten thousand dollars you spend, you’ll have at least seven thousand dollars worth of gold jewelry. If you spent two grand on silver, you’ll squeeze about $300 worth of actual silver out of the deal. It makes sense when you think about it. Pretend a jeweler charges a flat rate of $500 to make a piece of jewelry. If you send them both gold and silver for minting, more of that silver will be needed to cover the $500 cost, leaving less leftover for production. You’d only need a small amount of gold to pay for $500 of labor, leaving room for more product.
Silver’s real strength is its aesthetic appeal and its rarity, which makes great for currency, decorations, jewelry, and the like. As an alternative to spending premiums to own genuine gold, silver works just fine. We’ve all seen some nice watches and decorations that work well in silver, perhaps better than in gold.
Keeping it in decent condition takes a bit of work. It tarnishes very easily and requires a great deal of care. Silver looks like white gold when newly-minted, but it’s easy to lose that shine.
So, for all of our current and future silver lovers, here’s some handy information that’ll help you keep your silver looking beautiful — on your wrist, neck, or portfolio.
1. Soap, water, saltwater, and cleaning chemicals (think of chlorine, bleach, detergents, anything you’d wash your skin or clothes with) are great for you, but they’re terrible for silver and can eat away the shiny appearance of your silver in no time at all.
2. Fine cotton or similar materials are all you should bring into contact with your silver. Cleaning it as-needed is essential to maintaining its quality. Use something to wipe it down that won’t scratch it.
3. Butter paper — use it! It’s a little like tracing paper, which is also fine to use. Both are acceptable materials to wrap your silver in to preserve it and keep it protected from airborne contaminants and other debris.
4. This one’s not so much a maintenance tip as a general handling tip, but don’t wear your silver if you’re working with your hands, or will be handling pollutants or excess amounts of dirt of any kind. Keep in mind, your silver (or any jewelry, really) is never more at risk and exposed than when you’re wearing it. Take special care to make sure you’re only wearing it in clean environments.
5. One of the best materials for preserving, handling, and (as an added bonus) displaying jewelry is velvet. It’s soft, comes in a wide variety of colors, and works for both soft and hard storage mediums. We especially recommend a velvet-cased vehicle for your silver if you’re moving it to and fro. Another trick you can use with your silver is to slip some silica gel in the container. It’s great for absorbing moisture, and it’ll keep your metal dry.
6. Sulphur is bad for your jewelry, and it accelerates tarnishing. But we’re not all too accustomed to keeping track of what items have or produce sulphur, so here’s a rule of thumb lots of folks have broken: no rubber bands. It may seem obscure, but consider the fact that people do wear rubber bands, use them to wrap jewelry cases, and use them to secure jewelry. This is a terrible idea! When they start to stretch and age, rubber bands release sulphur. This will seep into your silver and ruin its appearance.
Seems crazy, but it’s true. You may be guilty of this one yourself. There are a few other items you should avoid, but probably bring into contact with your jewelry all the time. Newspapers, cardboard, leather, and silk are a few.
7. With summer on the horizon, we’re going to be uncovering our pools pretty soon. If you do so, leave the jewelry inside. This is another rule people break by the millions. No swimming pools, hot tubs, or any chemicals you’d handle while maintaining a pool. In each case, water and other undesired liquids will eat away at the jewelry, rendering it dull and less valuable.
8. Adding to the list of activities we’ve all probably taken part in to diminish the value of our silver without knowing it — toothpaste! If you wear your jewelry when you brush your teeth, you’re doing yourself, and the jewelry, a disservice. Toothpaste (and baking soda, if you use that) is far too corrosive to do silver any favors, and it’ll scratch or tarnish any metal it comes into contact with. It’s very corrosive, in fact. Consider how strong it has to be to break down all the materials in our mouths after a day of eating, drinking, and breathing in dust.
9. Little-known fact about tissue paper: it contains wood pulp and small, abrasive particles that help the tissues perform better while in use. Most people don’t know this, and use it to clean their jewelry or other precious metals with. That’s something we explicitly avoid, and recommend you should, too, because it’s like taking some very mild sandpaper to your stock. No good!
10. You have a good idea of what situations to avoid already, and can probably imagine some other tasks you should avoid while wearing jewelry. Still, in the interest of being inclusive, here are a few more: gardening, house chores, sports, cleaning, repairs, laundry, and cooking.
Silver has a spot in all of our hearts for its appearance, rarity, value, and uniqueness. Silver goes right along with gold for many, in light of their vastly different market values. As an investment, silver is great, so long as you’re sticking to bullion and bulk purchases. As a medium for jewelry, it’s a very close second or third to gold and, say, platinum.
Kept in pristine condition, silver looks a lot like white gold. Follow our hints above, and you’ll have no issues retaining that shine.
Have your own tips or experience in keeping your silver tarnish-free? We want to hear from you!