Why Does My Jewelry Tarnish And What Can I Do About It?

Tarnished jewelry, two words jewelry lovers cringe at the mere mention of. But why? It’s something we always hear about and automatically think it’s a bad thing, but is it? To answer some of your questions around tarnishing I put together a blog that goes over just exactly what tarnish is, why it happens, how you can prevent it, and how you can clean your own tarnished jewelry safely. 

What is jewelry tarnish, and why does it happen?

Jewelry tarnish is caused when the surface of the metal comes into contact with body oils, makeup, sulfur, sweat, perfumes, deodorants, lotions, and other external substances. Tarnish varies from looking slightly dull or totally black, depending on the metal and how you wear your jewelry. Read on to learn which metals cause what reactions.

Which metals tarnish?

There are many metals that tarnish, but I’ll be focusing on the main two in my collection: nickel-free brass and sterling silver. I also use a lot of thickly plated 14kt gold which doesn't tarnish over time so read more below! All of the metal I use in my jewelry is high-quality and hypoallergenic, which means it’s safe for sensitive skin, including my nickel-free brass.

All brass naturally tarnishes over time, which gives it that organic and unique look that we all love. What causes brass to tarnish is the copper within the metal. When copper comes into contact with your skin it’s very common for it to oxidize, and if you’re allergic to brass or have really sensitive skin the oxidation can sometimes turn your skin green. If that’s the case, I recommend wearing sterling silver or gold metals.

Sterling Silver:
Tarnished sterling silver is caused by a number of common and natural chemicals, like sulfur (found in air particles around cities/industrial areas), moisture (if you live in a more humid environment), chlorine (swimming in pools or spas), and your own skin’s acidity level (some people's skin PH is so high silver tarnishes almost instantly!). When it comes down to it there are so many things in daily life that can cause your silver to tarnish and look dull or completely black. But! It’s very easy to manage and remove tarnish from silver, read on to learn about my cleaning techniques.

All gold above 14 karat will not tarnish, and even if it does it is very very little. For my gold plated jewelry, I plate 14kt gold over nickel-free brass using a minimum of 80 millionths of gold for earrings and thicker coats for necklaces and rings. I do this to ensure your gold won’t rub off over time and you can wear it for years and years, perhaps even keeping it in your family as a special heirloom piece for generations to come.


How do I clean my tarnished jewelry?

I organized my cleaning tips by metal type because of the way tarnishing varies. While you’re cleaning your Twyla Dill jewelry be sure the cleaning methods are safe for the cotton lace. The lace I use is durable and hand-washable with a simple combination of soap and water. If you’re looking up DIY methods to clean your jewelry, I highly recommend finding a solution that is reputable and won’t ruin your jewelry. So, here's how to get tarnish off jewelry: 


  • Polishing cloth, which I include in each jewelry order I send out
  • Use soap and water for a gentle clean. First test it on a small spot on your jewelry to make sure it’s safe then dry your jewelry really well after doing this so there’s no water left over on the metal and would cause it to tarnish even more

Sterling Silver:

  • Polishing cloth, which I include in each jewelry order I send out
  • Wear it regularly! The natural oils on your skin can actually help keep your jewelry clean and maintain its brilliance
  • Chemical cleaners like Tarn-X or Wright's Silver Cream Polish, but be careful since these are chemicals and can be toxic if used incorrectly. Because my jewelry often has lace, it's easier to avoid these and use a polishing cloth. 


  • Gold naturally remains polished, so there's no real need to spruce it up!


How do I store my jewelry so it doesn’t tarnish?

  • Keep your jewelry dry
  • Separate your jewelry by metal and type
  • If you keep your jewelry out in the open, be sure it’s not in a very humid space and has a consistent temperature
  • Store delicate jewelry in a dark and dry location
  • If you like your jewelry to be on display, separate your costume jewelry from the rest and put it somewhere in your house where you can see it everyday!
  • When in doubt keep your jewelry clean and dry

I hope this helps you get a better feeling for what tarnishing is and how it's not the terrible thing that it's made out to be! It's completely natural for metals to tarnish, and it's easy to prevent and take care of. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out via the Contact Form.


Unique and one-of-a-kind jewelry handmade in Seattle, WA. Lovingly and sustainably created in small batches with nickel-free brass, sterling silver, 14kt gold, stones, and hand-crocheted lace. Redefining everyday jewelry so you can feel seen and empowered to live life on your own terms.