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Silver Tarnishing

Silver Cufflinks when new look bright and gorgeous. Over a period of time if not looked after carefully, the same pair of cufflinks may start to show changes in colour and turn a yellowish tint. This is called the tarnishing of silver and is a natural process.

The notion that silver tarnish only occurs with silver jewellery made from low purity silver is also not correct. What Causes Silver To Tarnish? The presence of Hydrogen Sulphide in any material that silver comes into contact with, is one of the prime reasons for silver tarnish. Sulphur containing materials generally cause silver to tarnish and Hydrogen Sulphide is just one of these. Materials like wool, rubber bands, fuels derived from fossils, a few types of paints and rubber (latex) gloves are some of the common materials that cause tarnishing of silver.

Certain foods like eggs, Vinegar, Olives and onions also hasten the silver tarnishing process. You can therefore realise that, touching silver jewellery with oily hands or after a meal could also stain your silver jewellery with tarnish. The extent and speed with which your silver jewellery tarnishes is also related to the climate and in general, high humidity would result in silver tarnishing much faster.

Cleaning Silver Tarnish

It is best and easiest to clean tarnished silver in the first stages. Tarnish on silver will start with a mild colour change to yellowish spots or patches and this is easily cleaned by washing the jewellery with a detergent that does not contain any phosphate based chemicals. If your silver jewellery is washed often in this way, you will rarely need any harsher treatments for silver tarnish. When you wash your silver jewellery be careful to avoid getting the jewellery scratched or dented due to being rubbed or hit against the sink or water tap.

There is a golden rule for wearing any jewellery including Cufflinks and it holds true for both silver and gold jewellery. The rule says that:

.... your jewellery should be the last thing that you put on before going out. It should also be the first thing to be taken off when you get back home......'

Ingredients in cosmetics like powder packs, hair sprays etc can cause silver jewellery to tarnish easily. Wash your silver Cufflinks with a phosphate free detergent before storing them. This practice will protect your cufflinks from tarnishing and rarely require you to perform any tarnish cleaning processes.


How do you keep it from tarnishing and becoming dull again? Provide an environment that will prevent or retard tarnish. Protect silver from sulphur by wrapping it in acid-free tissue and storing it in tarnish resistant cloth or polyethylene bags. Use caution in storing to avoid trapping moisture and do not allow the polyethylene bags to directly contact the silver.

If anti-tarnish strips are used, do not allow them to touch the silver and change strips regularly (every 3 to 6 months, depending on where you live and how fast jewellery tends to tarnish) as they can re-deposit the sulphur onto silver.

Some jewellers use ordinary blackboard chalk in place of the no-tarnish strips. Add a single piece of white chalk to the drawer or cabinet where your silver is stored. White chalk is reported to prevent tarnish. For jewellery you store on display racks or in trays or cases, place the rack and several no-tarnish strips inside a large plastic rubbish bag and close the bag up tightly with a twist-tie. Change the no-tarnish strips every 3 to 6 months. Every time I change my no-tarnish strips I write a quick note on my calendar 3 months from the date I change them, reminding myself it’s time to change them again!