Of all the precious metals we use in our products, sterling silver is the most prone to tarnishing. When comparing sterling silver to other precious metals we work in (gold, palladium or platinum), the sterling silver will tarnish more, more often, and more quickly. Before it gets passed down to a second generation it likely will get tarnished and need to be refreshed.
Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals such as copper (which is often what’s responsible for color changing tarnish in sterling silver when it reacts to certain substances in the air).
Over time any sterling silver jewelry piece exposed to air will tarnish by changing colors. Yes: ALL sterling silver jewelry will tarnish/discolor over a long enough time.
But that is not to say sterling silver will ‘tarnish quickly’ in a general sense or that it will tarnish with normal wear for one wearer during their years of wear. Allow us a minute or two to explain the factors that will cause our sterling silver jewelry to tarnish more quickly than it should.
Please note: While jewelers have created and market some other substances similar to sterling silver but with different metal makeup and physical properties, anyone telling you "sterling silver" will not ever tarnish is lying or misinformed.
To answer your question of whether sterling silver will discolor (tarnish) quickly under normal wear, the answer is it depends on the user.
Factors that affect the rate of discoloration/tarnishing for sterling silver jewelry over the years:
- Do you have sweaty hands?
- Will you wear the ring daily?
- Will the ring be exposed daily to activities that are harmful to your hands?
- Does your work require you to handle chemicals and substances?
- Do you use hand lotion?
- Do you use a harsh chemical detergent or bathroom cleanser and regularly touch either with your bare hand outside a glove?
A ‘yes’ to any of these questions/factors will increase the likelihood of a sterling silver piece of jewelry tarnishing, and doing so sooner rather than later.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked and ignored reason why sterling silver jewelry tarnishes is the wearer's skin chemistry. The pH levels of your skin -- especially your hands -- actually affect your jewelry. So even if a person who wears sterling silver jewelry works in an office, and does not really have an active lifestyle, if his/her skin chemistry is at odds with the metal (especially the person's sweat), that sterling silver ring will tarnish much quicker.
The possibility of tarnishing is a big reason why we plate all our white metal jewelry (inclusive of white gold) with rhodium to add extra shine and to help protect the precious metals against wear and possible discoloration. Rhodium plating lasts for a few years, but not a lifetime. Eventually, in even the finest jewelry the natural (yellow) color of colored white gold or colored rose/pink gold will peek through, and/or tarnishing and metal discoloration will occur.
That being said, under normal circumstances, we guarantee our sterling silver won't discolor or tarnish quickly, although we do recommend regular cleaning of sterling silver jewelry. Warm soapy water (we found that gentle dish soap works best) and a soft cleaning brush (or an old toothbrush) should do the trick. Make sure to dry it off completely with lint-free cloth. If you notice your sterling silver jewelry starting to discolor in such a way that regular cleaning doesn't take care of the discoloration, that means the rhodium plating is probably worn off and it's time to have it re-plated.
CubicZirconia.com does not only offer quality sterling silver jewelry, but we're also able to take care of jewelry cleaning, rhodium plating and repair at very minimal costs (we treat repairs as a service and not as a profit center so we don't mark up repair charges). For do-it-yourselfers, we provide an excellent care and cleaning FAQ which provides details on how to care for your cubic zirconia plus precious metals jewelry.
In any case, if your sterling silver jewelry begins to show a tarnish, a number of inexpensive commercially available jewelry cleaning products will be able to clean your jewelry and bring it back to its original luster if you don't wait too long.
However, we strongly recommend that in cases where the tarnishing and discoloration is bad enough, that you get your jewelry professionally cleaned and rhodium plated for protection. The "Jewelry Spa Treatment" package we offer might be just the ticket.
Unsure about which precious metal to choose for your jewelry? Read our article "Which Precious Metal Is Right For You/Her?"