The Ring Leader Blog
small logo Oct 08, 2015

Your Jewelry Is Tarnished or Green. Now What?

author photo LISA

Green Corroded Silver
It’s happened to the best of us: You pick up a fun piece of jewelry and only get in a few wears before it starts to darken or turn colors. It’s not your eyes playing tricks on you. Costume jewelry is notoriously vulnerable to tarnishing or turning green.

For that, we can thank its makeup. Many of these inexpensive pieces are made with an alloy that will eventually look worse for the wear, no matter how much you polish and buff them. (Only precious metals, with the exception of copper, are impervious to change.) To complicate matters, many pieces of costume jewelry are plated. When that plating wears off over time and after use, it reveals a base metal that almost never holds a polish. Replating is an option, but it may cost more than what you initially paid for the piece. So the question often becomes when will you have to replace the jewelry, not if.

Tarnished Silver Before and After Cleaning
That said, there are instances when you can salvage the jewelry with little more than some elbow grease. Sterling silver pieces are one such example. Because silver doesn’t hold a good polish, it’s often rhodium plated to keep its luster. This is a great workaround, but the plating can eventually wear off over time. (Look for tell-tale signs of tarnishing, like dark spots.) You have some options:

Anti-Tarnish Strips
and Polishing Cloth
  • Wear the jewelry. In most cases, daily wear is enough to keep sterling silver looking good as new. That’s because the combination of water (from hand washing and showering) and oils from the skin are constantly sloughing off dirt and sealing the surface.
  • Buff it with a polishing cloth for 10 seconds at a time to bring back the polish.
  • Drop the jewelry and an anti-tarnish strip (available online for around $5) in a zippered plastic bag. Seal the bag and store between wears.
  • Fill a pot with enough water to cover the piece of jewelry and add one tablespoon of water and a loosely crumpled ball of aluminum foil. Bring to a simmer. Using tweezers or tongs, tip the tarnished pieces into the water until the tarnish is gone, then follow up with a polishing cloth. Note: Do not try this with jewelry that contains stones or inlay.
  • If all else fails, replate the piece but—caveat—know that rhodium will also wipe out any darkened, oxidized areas.
Your options narrow significantly if your costume jewelry turns green. This is a sign of corrosion and is difficult to reverse. Take pieces of sentimental value to a jeweler for evaluation; otherwise, you can try to clean the jewelry at home using a soft toothbrush and some toothpaste. Dry thoroughly, then inspect it to see if it’s worth salvaging.
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    Nov 01, 2015

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