Silver: How to Deal With The Tarnish

When we leave our silverware locked away in the cupboard or jewellery in the jewellery box for weeks, months or years it ends up going through an oxidation process called 'tarnish'. I am sure that we are all familiar with tarnishing silverware come time for a special dinner party or tarnished jewellery when we have left a jewellery item in the box for too long. 

 

Here is an image of a silver evening bag we received for restoration. The extent of the tarnish and the links in the design would make it very hard for anyone other than an experienced jeweller to clean.

Here is an image of a silver evening bag we received for restoration. The extent of the tarnish and the links in the design would make it very hard for anyone other than an experienced jeweller to clean.

And here is that same bag after a full clean and restoration by our gold and silversmiths

And here is that same bag after a full clean and restoration by our gold and silversmiths

But what is tarnish? Silver is the metal usually blamed for tarnish, but wrongly so. Silver is a fairly non-reactive metal, basically meaning that pure silver shouldn't tarnish (unless it comes into contact with a little hydrogen sulfide). It is actually the alloys (other metals) mixed in with our silver to strengthen it which tarnish. Metals such as copper, aluminium, brass and alike are reactive with oxygen and will 'tarnish' in a process sort of like rust. These metals are mixed in with silver which might be 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper or other metal to strengthen the silver. This small 7.5% alloy is what causes the tarnish. 


Use and enjoy your silverware. Unused silverware is one of the leading causes of its discolouration.

Use and enjoy your silverware. Unused silverware is one of the leading causes of its discolouration.

The good news is that when your silver items are in use either at the dinner table or on your person they do not get a tarnish build up. Or tarnish can be wiped off with a cloth and a little bit of elbow grease. Never put silver in the dishwasher!

Enjoy your silver jewels and use your silverware once or twice (or more) a week to keep it looking bright. 

Gray Reid Gallery now has a collection of unusual silver pieces from around the world the newest being our range of Mexican silver as well as an extensive collection of estate and antique silver.