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Article: Does Stainless Steel Jewellery Tarnish?

5mm silver rope chain in the ocean

Does Stainless Steel Jewellery Tarnish?

Stainless steel has emerged as a popular choice for material when it comes to jewellery. It offers the perfect balance between durability, style and affordability. Renowned for its robustness, hypoallergenic properties, minimal maintenance requirements and resistance to tarnishing and corrosion.

Tarnishing is a common phenomenon experienced by those who wear jewellery. Tarnishing is characterised by a dulling of the shine and colour of the metal. It occurs in metals like silver, copper and brass. However, stainless steel's unique composition sets it apart from the rest.

In this blog, we answer the common question “Does stainless steel jewellery tarnish?” Read on to learn more about what stainless steel jewellery is, how tarnishing happens, why it's resistant to tarnishing and so much more!

What Is Stainless Steel Jewellery?

stainless steel jewellery in the water

Stainless steel jewellery refers to any piece of jewellery that consists of stainless steel. Stainless steel is an alloy that consists of iron and at least 10.5% chromium. Other elements that are present in stainless steel include nickel, molybdenum, titanium and copper. All of these are added to increase the durability and strength of the metal.

Many different grades of stainless steel are used when making jewellery. Depending on the structure and composition, it can have a wide range of properties.

The main characteristics of stainless steel are that it is strong, hypoallergenic and corrosion-resistant.

Want to everything there is to know about stainless steel jewellery? Check out our blog which cover what stainless steel jewellery is.

What Is Tarnishing And How Does It Happen?

tarnished jewellery

Tarnishing refers to a chemical reaction that occurs on the surface of some of the metals. Tarnishing causes metals to lose their lustre and darken in colour. Common metals that tarnish include silver, copper and brass. Sulfur-containing substances in the air are the main reason for tarnishing.

Tarnishing differs from rusting in that rusting affects only iron and steel and involves a reaction with oxygen and moisture to form iron oxide. Rusting typically gives a red and orange colour to the metal. Whilst tarnishing can occur in environments of lower moisture.

Tarnishing is undesirable in terms of jewellery as it darkens and reduces shine.

How tarnishing occurs will depend on the metal. Tarnishing is most commonly caused by a reaction with sulfur compounds. But, tarnishing can also occur due to reactions with air, moisture and other chemicals.

Does Stainless Steel Jewellery Tarnish?

No, stainless steel is highly resistant to tarnishing. Stainless steel contains chromium, which reacts with oxygen to form chromium oxide. This chromium oxide forms a protective layer over the metal. This protective layer prevents oxygen and moisture from reaching the underlying metal.

Factors That Affect Stainless Steel Jewellery’s Resistance To Tarnishing

3mm silver rope chain in the ocean

The Grade Of Stainless Steel

Different grades of stainless steel have different compositions. Grades like 304 and 316L are most commonly used in jewellery as they have a high chromium and nickel content. Both of which enhance the metal's corrosion and tarnish resistance.

Environment

If stainless steel jewellery is constantly exposed to harsh environments, then over time it may be susceptible to tarnishing. Exposure to high salinity environments such as sea or exposure to chlorine in pools can lead to corrosion.

Surface Finish

The surface finish of the jewellery can influence its tarnish resistance. Smoother finishes will be better resistant to tarnishing due to their smoothness. Smoother surfaces also have fewer ridges and gaps where corrosive compounds can accumulate. Stainless steel jewellery that gets scratched or marked is more susceptible to tarnishing.

Contact With Harsh Chemicals

Regular contact with harsh chemicals in perfume, soaps and shampoos can weaken the protective chromium layer on stainless steel jewellery. This increases the risk of tarnishing over a longer period.

Physical Wear And Tear

Regular wear of stainless steel jewellery will lead to the formation of micro-abrasions and scratches on its surface. This could potentially compromise the jewellery piece and increase the risk of tarnishing.

Maintenance And Care

How well you maintain, clean and care for your stainless steel jewellery is also a factor to consider. Cleaning ensures that there are no harsh chemicals, oils or substances that can cause tarnishing. Properly storing your stainless steel jewellery in a dry environment can help maintain the protective chromium layer.

How To Take Care Of Your Stainless Steel Jewellery?

jewellery box storage
The best way to prevent stainless steel jewellery from tarnishing is to take care of it. This involves cleaning your stainless steel jewellery, as well as storing it when it’s not being worn. Below is a basic way of cleaning and storing your stainless steel jewellery.

Cleaning Your Stainless Steel Jewellery

In a bowl or container mix warm water with mild dish soap

Dip a soft cloth into the solution and gently rub the jewellery to remove any stains, dirt and residues.

For rougher pieces, you can use a soft-bristled toothbrush for more hard-to-reach areas.

Then rinse your jewellery under lukewarm water to remove any soap. Then dry the jewellery with a clean, soft and dry cloth.

Storing Your Stainless Steel Jewellery

Make sure to store each stainless steel jewellery piece in its pouch, box or container. This reduces the risks of scratches developing,

Ensure that your stainless steel jewellery storage container has a soft lining. This will protect your jewellery from scratching. This is especially important if you plan on travelling with your jewellery.

Avoid moisture as much as possible, as this can cause tarnishing.

Avoid chemical exposure as much as possible. When storing, make sure that your jewellery isn’t exposed to harsh chemicals.

How Does Stainless Steel Compare To Other Metals?

5mm silver cuban chain
Stainless steel is one of the best metals to make jewellery with. Here’s how the metal compares to other popular metals used for jewellery making.

Silver
  • Tarnishes easy
  • Reacts to sulfur compounds in the air and forms silver sulfide, which is black in colour.
  • Stainless steel in comparison is more tarnish-resistant due to its chromium oxide layer.
Gold
  • 24K gold is highly resistant to tarnishing and corrosion as it doesn’t react with most elements. Because lower karats of gold contain more alloys of copper, silver, nickel and zinc, they can tarnish over time.
  • Stainless steel offers a similar tarnish resistance as high karats of gold but at a fraction of the cost.
Copper
  • Tarnishes easily.
  • Reacts with oxygen and leads to the formation of the greenish layer known as patina.
  • Stainless steel does not develop a patina and maintains its appearance with minimal effort.
Brass
  • Brass consists of copper and zinc. Because it contains copper, it tarnishes over time. This transiting often gives the metal a dull or green tint.
  • Stainless steel is more resistant to tarnishing than brass because of its chromium layer.
Platinum
  • Platinium is considered one of the most durable jewellery metals and manages to maintain its shine without frequent cleaning or care.
  • While stainless steel is also tarnish-resistant, platinum surpasses this material in terms of prestige and longevity. 

Titanium

  • Titanium is also extremely resistant to tarnishing and corrosion. It manages to maintain its lustre without the need for much maintenance.
  • Stainless steel has similar tarnish-resistant properties to titanium, however at a much lower cost and with a shinier and whiter appearance.

Conclusion

After reading this blog you should finally have the answer to one of the most popular questions surrounding stainless steel jewellery which is “Does stainless steel jewellery tarnish?” You should now be more aware of what stainless steel jewellery is, how tarnishing happens, factors that contribute to tarnishing and much more.

Stainless steel offers the perfect blend of aesthetic appeal and functional durability in the realm of jewellery. Its resistance to tarnishing and corrosion, coupled with its hypoallergenic properties and affordability makes it a great choice.

The factors that impact the longevity and brilliance of stainless steel jewellery include the grade of the stainless steel, wear and tear and frequency of exposure to harsh chemicals. By becoming more aware of this, you now know the proactive steps needed to prevent tarnishing from occurring. Simple practices including regular cleaning and proper storage can extend the shine of these pieces.

In comparison to other metals like silver, gold and platinum, stainless steel holds its own when it comes to strength, durability and tarnish resistance. Stainless steel jewellery is truly the perfect choice for those looking for a jewellery piece that stands the test of time.

 

FAQ’s About Stainless Steel Jewellery

How long does stainless steel jewellery last?

Stainless steel is a durable, tarnish-resistant and corrosion-resistant material. When used for jewellery, it can create a piece that often lasts many years or even a lifetime.

Can you shower with stainless steel jewellery?

Yes, you can shower with stainless steel jewellery without damaging it. This is because it features a thin chromium layer that makes it resistant to tarnishing with moisture.

Can you wear stainless steel jewellery every day?

Yes, you can wear stainless steel jewellery every day. This is because stainless steel offers the perfect blend of appearance, durability, tarnish resistance and hypoallergenic properties.

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