Solid metal jewelry is beautiful, durable, and has many qualities that plated or enameled metals don’t. However, the main drawback many solid metals share is tarnish! While tarnish and oxidization can be an attractive element in some pieces of jewelry, there are also times when it is unwelcome. What to do?
There are a number of ways to prevent discoloration of jewelry pieces, prevention, resistance, and removal.
I carry a number of different products that you can use to store your pieces in, or apply to your pieces in order to prevent tarnish and discoloration. The first are the easiest, anti tarnish baggies:
Anti tarnish baggies are great because all you have to do is seal your piece up when you are not wearing it and it will be protected not only from tarnish, but also tangling and scratching with other pieces. Most solid metal pieces that are in contact with the skin(bracelets and necklaces mainly) will not tarnish or will only tarnish minimally when being worn every day, as the friction and skin oils create a natural protection. Any time you are not wearing a piece, it should be stored in a non tarnish baggie, in a regular baggie with a non tarnish paper, or at the very least in a sealed bag.
Another way to prevent tarnish is with a protective coating. There are many kinds of sealants available on the market, but I have found Renaissance Wax and Jewelry Shield to be the most effective options.
Renaissance Wax is excellent for jewelry and can be used on a wide range of materials to protect them, not just metals. It does take a little time to apply and will soften the shine of the piece slightly, but it is very durable and will only require occasional re-application. Jewelry Shield is another good option, but works best for flat pieces and earwires. It can gum up chainmaille and other moving part jewelry.
One way of preventing tarnish is to pick a metal that does not tarnish or is resistant to tarnish. Examples of metals that do not tarnish are stainless steel, niobium titanium, and aluminum. Metals that are highly resistant to tarnish or tarnish very, very slowly are argentium sterling silver, fine silver, gold filled, solid gold, and nickel silver. Picking any of these metals will mean that you either never have to worry about tarnish, or so rarely that it is not a problem.
The last way of dealing with tarnish is in cleaning it off once it has formed. You can use commercial cleaning dips, polishing cloths, or do-it-yourself cleaning solutions. Polishing cloths are fast and easy and require no rinsing or drying, just a little elbow grease.
For home made cleaning solutions, plain white vinegar is great for brass, bronze, and copper, as is lemon juice with a pinch of salt. Sometimes sterling silver can be cleaned with vinegar, but usually a polishing cloth or a commercial sterling dip is the best option.