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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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 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
- 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.
- 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.