Tips for Jewelry Lovers- Getting Rid of Tarnish

Sterling silver jewelry is awesome. The shine and purity of a brand new sterling silver jewelry piece makes it a welcome addition to your jewelry collection. But over time, you may notice that brilliant shine is beginning to dull. The purity of the silver starts becoming marred with the appearance of a brownish film over the well worn surface of the piece. Eventually, over a period of time, that brownish film turns to a coating of dark gray.

That coating my friend is tarnish…otherwise known as silver sulfide, and it’s the bane of sterling silver.

If you love wearing sterling silver jewelry, you’re probably pretty familiar with tarnish and how it can make your favorite silver jewelry pieces look unattractive. Fortunately, getting rid of tarnish and keeping it off your jewelry can be fairly easy with a few simple techniques. In this blog post we’ll find out what causes tarnish, how you can remove it, and how to keep your jewelry tarnish-free in the future.

So What is Tarnish Exactly?

Tarnish is actually a form of corrosion. Basically, it’s a chemical reaction that occurs when certain metals comes in contact with certain substances in the air…like oxygen, moisture, sulfur, etc.

Pure silver (metals that contain 99.9% silver are considered pure) rarely tarnishes. It’s also a pretty soft metal, so any items made of pure silver will be fairly easy to scratch and dent. Enter sterling silver.

Sterling silver is an alloy or mixture of 92.5% silver and 7.5% of some other type metal like copper, platinum, and zinc. The addition of the second metal makes sterling silver stronger and makes it more suitable to use in things like silverware, serving dishes, and of course, jewelry.

Because copper is relatively cheaper than metals like platinum and zinc, it’s the traditional choice for making sterling silver. Unfortunately, copper is also more prone to react to certain types of chemicals in the air…and it’s the copper in sterling silver that causes the tarnish.

The biggest tarnish causing culprit is contact with sulfur. Sulfur in the air, or from contact on the skin, or from contact with substances on the skin like lotion, hairspray, or perfume can trigger tarnishing. Exposure to food that contains sulfur like eggs can also encourage the formation of tarnish.

There are other silver alloys available that are not as prone to tarnishing. A popular one you may have heard of is Argentium silver, which is made by replacing some of the copper with a metal called germanium. But Argentium silver is more expensive than traditional sterling silver. So cost is also a factor when it comes to the popularity of traditional sterling silver.

Okay, So How Do You Get Rid of It?

Since tarnish is basically corrosion, sulfur combines with the surface of the silver to create silver sulfide, the most common way to remove it is to strip away that layer of tarnish to expose the untarnished silver underneath. Items like polishing cloths and silver polish contains a small amount of abrasive material that strips away the thin layer of tarnish and buffs the untarnished metal underneath to bring back the shine.

Another way to remove light tarnish from sterling silver is to do it electro-chemically. All you need is an aluminum foil pan or a glass dish covered with aluminum foil, salt, baking soda, white vinegar, and hot water. This process unbinds the sulfur from that top layer of silver and transfers it to the aluminum foil. The great thing about this process is that you’re getting rid of the tarnish without removing any of the silver.

You can see the entire process in a recent Facebook Live tutorial I did below:

The removal method you use will depend on how severe the tarnish is and how intricately made your silver piece is. The electro-chemical method is great for lightly tarnished pieces and for pieces that have a lot crevices. A polishing cloth or silver polish works well on heavily tarnished pieces.

How to Keep It From Coming Back

It’s much easier to prevent tarnish from forming in the first place than it is to remove it. So here’s a 8 simple tips on how to protect your most loved sterling silver pieces.

1. Put your silver jewelry on after you applied lotion, makeup, perfume, and hairsprays. This will minimize contact with chemicals that encourage tarnish.

2. Keep your jewelry away from food and drinks. This will keep it from coming in contact with foods that contain sulfur.

3. Avoid wearing silver jewelry in the shower, while doing household chores with cleaners, or while swimming. And avoid using soap to clean your jewelry as it can make silver look dull.

4. Wipe your silver jewelry down with a soft cloth after you take it off and before putting it away in your jewelry box. This will help to remove potential tarnish triggering chemicals or body oils from your jewelry.

5. By the way, you should store your silver jewelry in a box or a bag that can be closed as opposed to a jewelry dish, an open jewelry rack, or simply laid out on a tabletop. Open exposure to the air increases the chance that the piece will tarnish.

6. Use anti-tarnish products when storing your jewelry. You can buy anti tarnish strips to put in your jewelry box. You can also store your jewelry in pouches made with anti-tarnish cloth or jewelry boxes lined with anti-tarnish cloth. Anti-tarnish products contains compounds that absorb sulfur, which will help prevent tarnish from forming on your jewelry.

7. If you don’t have access to anti-tarnish products, consider storing your silver jewelry in plastic resealable bags. First, thoroughly clean your pieces, and then use a plastic resealable bag to store them. This limits how much contact your jewelry has with potential tarnish triggering chemicals in the air.

8. Store your jewelry with a piece of chalk. Ordinary chalkboard chalk also has some sulfur absorbing properties.

So there you have it! Follow these steps and you’ll be able to enjoy your sterling silver jewelry for years to come.


Artist Interview: Julie Knowles of Posh Posy Ceramics

Often when people think of handmade objects, they made think of something colorful, perhaps something that was intricately made. But some of the most beautiful handmade pieces are simple, understated and elegant in their simplicity. It was the understated elegance of this month’s giveaway item, “White Lotus Flower Trinket Dish” that attracted me to the work of ceramic artist, Julie Knowles of Posh Posy Ceramics.

Little did I know that the items in Posh Posy was only the tip of the iceberg. In addition to Posh Posy, Julie also runs two other Etsy shops, PromisePottery & MomologyPottery which offers custom and personalized ceramic designs. With such a heavy production load, I was lucky enough to snag some time with Julie Knowles to find out more about her work.

1. How did you get started with your art?

I was always busy drawing when I was a child and my mother would buy me art supplies during my Summer breaks from school. This gave me an introduction to many different types of media and cultivated my love for trying new things. After I had my family I decided to take formal art training at my local junior college. I started with a drawing class and ceramics classes. I decided that ceramic art was what I loved the most so I concentrated on learning how to make functional ware that I could sell.

2. Describe a typical day in your studio.

I’m in my studio early each morning with coffee in hand. I begin preparing my orders from the previous day which means rolling slabs and adding my floral designs to the wet clay. In addition to my Posh Posy line I also have two busy custom pottery shops (PromisePottery & MomologyPottery) and I am always working on filling those orders as well. I am lucky to have a studio behind my house so I can bounce back and forth from my studio to my home throughout the day to visit my family.

3. What most inspires your work?

I enjoy flowering plants and have a large tropical hoya collection that I have spent years cultivating. They fill my studio with fragrant blooms and give my eyes rest when I need to take a break from work.

4. What’s your favorite aspect of your creative process?

By far my favorite part of the creative process is seeing the end result. There is something magical about unloading the kiln and seeing all of the designs come to life with color and texture.

5. What do you love the most about your creative business?

My customers give me wonderful feedback and the changing market always keeps me on my toes. If a design does not sell I take it as an opportunity to get my sketch pad out and begin reworking my design. This may sound like a challenge but I love the idea of forcing myself to look at a flower in a fresh new way.

6. Are there any difficulties that you have to overcome to make your business work?

Selling my products online is very different than selling them out of a gallery. The never ending process of photography seems to be my biggest challenge. Hopefully with some photo editing and simple styling my products are standing out in the marketplace.

7. Where do you see yourself going with your business and your art in the future?

I have been selling my pottery online since 2009 and I don’t plan on changing that! I love interacting with my customers directly. As a very creative person I have to force myself to focus on my current work but I am always plotting my next pottery line and how to market that idea in the future.

You can check out more of Julie’s work at her Etsy stores (Posh Posy Ceramics, PromisePottery & MomologyPottery) and her Instagram feeds (promisepottery & poshposyceramics).

Remember that July’s giveaway item is the “White Lotus Flower Trinket Dish” by Posh Posy Ceramics. Here’s how you can enter the drawing:

1. Join my email list by filling out the form below. Members of my email list are automatically entered into each month’s giveaway. You’ll also receive a free goodie as a thank you gift as soon as you sign up!

2. The drawing for this month’s winner will take place on July 31st at 6pm (EST), so keep an eye on your email inbox. The lucky winner will receive an email after 6pm (EST). Good luck!

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Etsy Shop Update- Christmas in July

An unfortunate incident during a morning run and 95+ degree weather has been keeping me sitting on the couch lately.

Fortunately there’s two upsides to being confined to the couch. One, Season 4 of The Originals and Season 5 of Wentworth just became available on Netflix (yay!). Two, I’ve started building my jewelry inventory for the holidays. Part of the holiday season preparation is building up an inventory of the most popular designs in the shop. While there’s always new designs to be developed and made, there’s always those perennial favorites that I can’t seem to keep in the shop during the holidays. (See slides below)

A post shared by Handmade Jewelry (@ntdstudio) on

Last year, the Gold Brushstrokes Earrings were featured on Huffington Post and the run on that design was both wonderful and crazy.

Speaking of new designs…I’ve added more new items to my Etsy shops this morning!

The florals just keep on coming at the small book Etsy shop with the release of 24 new floral-based designs. And 4 fiery red and gold and silver designs have been added to the Nicolette Tallmadge Designs Etsy store.

small book company

Handmade book jewelry for people who love books and reading

Nicolette Tallmadge Designs

Beautiful handmade wire jewelry for every occasion

Sign Up for Shop Updates

Want to know when the latest Etsy shop update is coming? Join my mailing list! You’ll be the first to know when shop updates are coming, you’ll get a sneak peek of new designs, and early notice of new deals in my Instagram Summer Flash Sale series. PLUS, you will be entered into my monthly giveaway series, AND you’ll also get a free gift immediately after sign up.

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