Any jewelry lover, retailer or manufacturer can tell you that keeping tarnish at bay on silver and other metals is a constant battle. Before you can figure out how to prevent tarnish from ruining your silver, it would be helpful to know what causes it in the first place.

Sterling silver in particular has a distinct tendency to tarnish. It is an alloy containing 92.5% silver and 7.5% of another metal, usually copper. Over time, the freshly polished surface of new silver progressively changes color. Why? When silver is exposed to the sulfur, or hydrogen sulfide, in the air, the copper in it tarnishes. This oxidation process creates that undesirable darkening of your bright and lustrous silver.

In addition to the air around us, hydrogen sulfide can be found in many items. Sulfur-rich foods may accelerate the tarnishing process after touching your silver flatware and dining pieces. When hosting your next dinner party, consider the foods you are serving on your precious sterling silver. Be cautious of:

  • Vinegar
  • onions
  • eggs
  • table salt
  • mayonnaise 

Therefore, recipes containing these foods are better served in glass or ceramic dishes to protect your silverware and sterling hollowware. Also, be mindful of handling your silver after a meal as this can transfer tarnish-causing oils and residue onto your jewelry or other metal keepsakes.

Besides certain foods found in your kitchen, there are several common household materials containing sulfur that will hasten the rate of tarnish on your prized metal possessions. When using or storing silver jewelry, flatware and other metal valuables, avoid:

  • Wool
  • Leather
  • Latex
  • Newspaper
  • Rubber bands  

Chemicals in certain hairsprays, perfumes, lotions, and makeup can also diminish the shine of your jewelry, so make sure to remove your metal accessories when applying these products.

Unfortunately, silver will always be naturally inclined to tarnish. Luckily, your jewelry and other metal keepsakes can be protected with proper care. Now that you know what causes tarnish, you can take the necessary precautions to prevent it!