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You have a lot of silver jewelry, but you've noticed that while some pieces require constant attention to keep them shiny and new, others never seem to tarnish. Why is that?

RHODIUM PLATING - Some silver jewelry is coated with a layer of rhodium as a "finishing touch." Rhodium is a shiny silver metal with a finish almost like mercury. This finish is good because it mimics the brilliant finish of freshly polished silver and protects the piece from natural tarnishing, but it also has its drawbacks, such as uneven wear, scratching and repair difficulties.

WEAR - 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 you can get dull spots on the jewelry. There is nothing you can do about it, except to have the jewelry rhodium plated again. Rhodium 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 is worth in the first place. But if you have a cherished piece you simply don't want to give up on, call around to your local jewelers and tell them you have silver jewelry you want re-plated with rhodium and see if they can provide that service.

SCRATCHES AND REPAIRS - Other drawbacks include the fact that rhodium plated pieces can 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 silver jewelry that is rhodium plated is relatively inexpensive, most silver lovers like the ease of care that a good rhodium finish provides, and simply "retire" the piece if they eventually wear it off. You can, by the way, have any piece of silver jewelry rhodium plated, so if you have a beloved but troublesome piece that is always tarnishing, having the piece plated might be a solution to that problem.

CHEMICALS - Chemicals and living environment can make jewelry tarnish more frequently, so think about what you usually do when you wear a troublesome piece of jewelry. Everyone has certain jewelry for certain outfits, and certain outfits for certain lifestyle functions. It may be that your one ring always tarnishes faster because you always wear it when you work in the yard, for instance, exposing it to excess perspiration or harsh chemicals. It could also be that your jewelry is coming in contact with common household chemicals - and even things we don't normally think of as "chemicals," which remain on the skin even though we have rinsed off our hands. A Mrs. Gottrocks shopper, Lisa Lamb, recently brought to my attention that calamine lotion is considered a tarnishing agent and should be avoided when wearing silver jewelry, and that calamine was an ingredient in a skin blemish creme she was using (thanks for the tip Lisa!). It is wise to keep all your jewelry away from hairspray, perfume, soaps, lotions and other daily use chemicals - and keeping your jewelry clean and dry is a must and can slow down the tarnishing process.

SILVER QUALITY - Not all silver jewelry is the same. Like karat gold, sterling silver jewelry is not solid silver. Solid silver is not very durable, so it is alloyed with other metals and then used to make jewelry. One manufacturer's sterling silver alloy may be more susceptible to tarnish under your living/lifestyle conditions than another's.

FAUX SILVER - Often we buy "silver" jewelry, not realizing that it is actually base metal covered with silver or rhodium plating, and when the plating wears off, it can appear to us as dull spots or "tarnish." Faux silver pieces tend to wear longer without tarnish because they are not solid silver, but in the long run, their finish is less durable than a piece of jewelry made from solid silver, which can be re-polished and brightened indefinitely. Check when you buy sterling silver jewelry to see if it is properly stamped with the words "Sterling Silver" or the number "925" - both of which indicate it is solid Sterling Silver.

If you have a question we can help you with, or if you would like to suggest a topic, please feel free to email us here at Mrs. Gottrocks Fine Jewelry and Gifts.

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