Jewelers use sterling silver to create various types of beautiful pieces. However, as with all types of metals, sterling silver is prone to the effects of wear and tear, particularly if you do not care for it properly. One common thing that happens to sterling silver jewelry is turning green.
Why Does Sterling Silver Turn Green?
Contrary to what some people believe, sterling silver jewelry does not turn green because it’s fake. Instead, green sterling silver jewelry results from oxidation, a chemical reaction.
Oxidation happens when you expose metals to air and water, causing an oxide to form on the metal’s surface. There are various oxides for different metals; for instance, iron oxide is the brown substance known as “rust.” So, the green substance on your sterling silver jewelry is similar to the brown substance on your iron tools. Oxidation can also make your jewelry to turn your skin green. Also, if your skin is turning green due to oxidation, you don’t need to panic because there are simple ways to get green discoloration off skin.
Ordinarily, silver is a chemically inert substance, so it won’t react to other elements. However, sterling silver comprises 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, and the oxidation of sterling silver is a reaction of the copper component to air and water. Therefore, while copper does an excellent job of making silver a tougher metal that is easier to work with, it’s guilty of causing it to oxidize.
About Copper Oxide
You will most commonly see the oxidation of copper in statues and coins; for instance, the Statue of Liberty did not always have the green tint it does today. Whenever you see jewelry that becomes green with use, it has some copper content, and the green substance is copper oxide.
Copper oxide is unique because of its high durability; it sticks firmly to copper. On the other hand, iron oxide flakes off with time, exposing more iron, which oxidizes and continues the cycle. Unlike copper, oxidation can destroy iron over an extended period.
When different people use sterling silver, their jewelry will turn green to varying extents. The degree of reaction results from the severity and composition of their sweat, skin, and skincare products.
How to Clean Green Sterling Silver
It is possible to remove the green coat that oxidation has caused your jewelry to have. You can easily make your jewelry look as good as new if you have the following materials:
- Aluminum foil
- Pot of boiling water
Steps to Clean Green Sterling Silver
Step 1 – Heat some water and place the aluminum foil in the pot when it begins to boil.
Step 2 – Put some detergent into the pot and stir the solution gently, ensuring that the lather doesn’t fizz too much.
Step 3 – Place the affected jewelry in the boiling solution and leave it for 3-4 minutes. When you drop the jewelry in the solution, ensure it has direct contact with the aluminum foil.
Step 4 – When the time is up, leave the jewelry and allow the water temperature to drop. Next, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean every part of the jewelry, paying attention to all the affected parts.
Step 5 – Use clean, running water to rinse the jewelry and leave it to air dry.
What Silver Does Not Turn Green?
Sterling silver is the most popular type of silver that jewelers use to make jewelry, but you might not like the way your jewelry turns green. The good thing is that other variations of silver jewelry won’t turn green due to oxidation.
Pure Silver (.999 Silver)
Pure silver or fine silver is a variation of silver jewelry made almost entirely of silver. To be precise, jewelry labeled pure silver comprises 99.9% silver, hence the name .999/999 silver. People refer to pure silver as fine silver because it is considered a more classy type of silver and is more expensive than sterling silver.
Oxidation doesn’t affect pure silver as it does sterling silver since there is no copper. However, you still need to protect your pure silver jewelry from sulfur-producing products like eggs, as this can cause it to tarnish. The tarnish of pure silver is usually a blackish color, as opposed to the green of oxidized sterling silver.
Another variation of silver jewelry that isn’t affected by oxidation is rhodium-plated silver. Rhodium is a costly metal that jewelers use to plate silver jewelry. Because rhodium looks just like silver, it’s hard to tell when there’s rhodium plating on silver jewelry.
Plating jewelry with rhodium makes it more durable and resistant to scratches. All these advantages make rhodium a perfect source of protection for silver jewelry. Manufacturers use rhodium to plate pure silver as well as sterling silver jewelry. Plated jewelry is usually more expensive and lasts longer.
Cleaning the green layer of copper oxide on your sterling silver jewelry restores its shine. However, when you clean your jewelry, some silver is lost, resulting in a gradual depletion of the jewelry. Also, newly-polished sterling silver is more prone to future oxidation.
Learning how to care for sterling silver jewelry is more straightforward than allowing it to make your skin green or wear it out with cleaning. Below are some steps to keep your sterling silver jewelry glittering for longer.
1. Keep Away From Some Chemicals
The chemicals in some perfumes and body lotions are never great when they come in contact with sterling silver. Therefore, you ought to take off your jewelry when you want to use lotions and perfumes; it’s best to put on your jewelry last.
Another chemical that can facilitate the oxidation of your sterling silver piece is sweat. Always take off your jewelry when you want to perform hectic activities that will cause you to sweat.
2. Clean Regularly
Regularly cleaning your sterling silver jewelry will help to stop oxidation from having a chance to take hold of it properly. Oxidation doesn’t form overnight; in stable conditions, it will take a couple of weeks before you start seeing its effects. Cleaning your jewelry regularly before it turns green is a proactive step in the right direction.
You can clean sterling silver jewelry with dishwashing liquid and water to remove any oxidizing agents on the jewelry. Ensure that you dry the jewelry properly after washing it.
3. Polish it
Like cleaning the jewelry, regularly polishing it will hinder the start of oxidation on your sterling silver jewelry. An added advantage of polished sterling silver is the extra gloss that your jewelry will have.
You can use a silver polishing cloth to wipe your piece after you pull it off daily. More effectively, you can apply the obscure method of polishing your piece with beeswax. It’s a somewhat stressful but efficient means of protecting metals from moisture and oxygen, the two causes of oxidation.
4. Coat the Jewelry
Coating your jewelry is similar to what jewelers do with rhodium plating. The aim is to cover your jewelry with another material that shields it from any air or moisture that might lead to its oxidation.
You can use a clear coat to provide that layer of coating over your jewelry. Clear coat works well because it is colorless and is an inexpensive item. Alternatively, you can use nail polish; this works similarly to a clear coat if you buy a clear nail polish instead of a colored one. Clear coat is the better option because nail polish doesn’t provide a durable coat.