All of my jewellery is made using sterling silver (925) often with copper and brass used as decorative metals.

When wearing a sterling silver ring daily, the act of wearing a ring and washing your hands will polish the sterling silver so you might never see the ring tarnish. Hence the common myth that ‘sterling silver does not tarnish’. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Silver is constantly changing.

However, if you have not worn a piece of silver jewellery for a while or you have been wearing it in hot, sticky summer weather you might notice it change colour, sometimes surprisingly fast. I hope the following information will help you understand why silver changes colour and what you can do about it. 

What is sterling silver?

Sterling silver is an alloy of silver 92.5% (Ag) and 7.5% Copper (Cu). So, it is not 100% pure silver. Pure silver is not the best material for making jewellery, as it is soft, brittle and not quite as shiny. By adding a small amount of copper to the silver, the metal becomes harder, more flexible and polishes to the mirror shine we all associate with silver jewellery. 925 has been the standard for making silver jewellery for centuries.

Why does my silver ring go black?

Silver tarnishes by reacting with sulphides in the air. With the addition of copper to the silver to form sterling silver, the copper will react with oxygen in the air as well. This is what causes the blackening.


What causes my silver ring to tarnish?


Hot, humid summer weather is the enemy of sterling silver. Remember when you were at school, add water and heat to any science experiment and you make any chemical reaction go faster. With silver it is the same, once you add sweat to the equation, often you are left with black marks on your fingers and black marks on the ring. Its best to avoid wearing your jewellery at night in the summer.


Body lotions, sprays and sunscreen can all contain chemicals that can speed up the tarnishing process. Avoid putting these on while wearing the jewellery, especially with avoid creams building up in crevasse and cracks and next to rings.


Avoid bleach! Obvious!

Avoid wearing sterling silver jewellery in swimming pools. The chlorine in the pool is very corrosive to silver.


Your diet can also affect silver. Food rich in sulphur such as garlic, eggs and seafoods can also cause you to sweat more sulphur and tarnish silver.

How to clean sterling silver?

The best way to clean your silver jewellery it to use a soft silver polish cloth. They are easily obtainable from high street jewellers and retailers such as Argos (UK).  

What do I do?

I totally disregard the above!

Let’s face it, most of us will put on a piece a silver jewellery and not take it off. Me too. I swim in my rings, go on holiday to hot, humid countries, apply sunscreen and I never take my rings off. Most of the time they stay bright and shiny looking, but every so often ill look down and find that I have turned all or part of a piece of jewellery black. Usually I will just leave it and wait until I have washed my hands enough times, until it returns to its original colour. Silver is constantly changing, this is part of the attraction to work with, and wear sterling silver jewellery.

Copper and Brass

Copper oxidised much quicker that sterling silver, but it is also very easy to remove, so small decorative pieces on jewellery will often not change colour when being worn. If you do not wear and piece of copper jewellery daily then just uses a silver polish cloth the bring back the shine.

    Brass oxidises slower, but it also sticks harder, but the advice above still applies.