Daily Wire Tip Jan. 19: Why Would My Silver Tarnish?

By on January 19, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip
January 19, 2010


In July I sold a piece of silver.  Three weeks later the customer returned the piece and to my amazement it was black.  I re-tumbled the piece and it was restored to its original condition.  What are your thoughts on what chemical or perfume substance could have cause this to occur?  The piece is still bright and shinny with no signs of tarnish.


OK, the only culprit I know of that can cause serious tarnish so quickly is chlorine. If the customer wore her sterling silver in a pool or vacationed and took a shower where a large amount of chlorine is added to the water, this would turn sterling black about immediately. Using a tumbler to clean the piece again is great, but is it also being polished at the same time? Polish would coat the piece and add a certain amount of limited protection.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. avatar

    Bob keil

    January 19, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Hyrogen sulfide would accomplish the same thing. If the jewelry was worn near a volcano or egg processing center are the two that come to mind quickly. Also a natural spring spa are often filled with hydrogen sulfide gas. The rotten egg smell would be the tip off.

  2. avatar

    Michele Nicholson

    January 19, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I have heard some people have a chemical in their body (naturally) that will turn silver black. Sometimes it is such a strong reaction the silver cannot be cleaned/polished back.


  3. avatar

    Nina Christen

    January 19, 2010 at 11:39 am

    We have sulphur water which turns silver black. Our water treatment is chlorine which also turns silver black. I cannot wear my sterling rings etc. when using water for whatever reason. Hydrogen peroxide will also turn sterling black. We keep gallons of distilled water for rinsing the sterling after using a liquid jewelry cleaner. All of my sterling findings and jewelry is stored with the anti tarnish paper squares. The little papers do loose their strength after a while. It is a good idea to change them when ever you notice a bit of tarnish developing on the jewelry.

  4. avatar


    January 19, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    my late husband reacted with silver like that. he would wear a silver chain and it would be black in no time!

  5. avatar

    Alex Netherton

    January 19, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    My wife used to have trouble with our wedding rings which were sterling, when she made her famous (in our family, anyway) deviled eggs. They would turn the ring black, and I would have to get the Dremel out to polish it.

    I was married once to a girl who did lost wax casting. She sold a ring to a fellow who returned *the next day* with it black as coal, especially on the inside. She polished it up and returned it to him, to have this repeated.
    Well, he finally admitted that this happened to him all the time with sterling. I remember that he did a lot of photographic darkroom work, and this may have had something to do with it, but there are many things that cause silver to turn black, including body chemistry. This is the main reason I have started using Argentium.

  6. avatar


    January 19, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    I wear a sterling bracelet all the time, and have dogs. I know that when I was using lime dip on one of my dogs for her dermititis, it immediately turned black (my bracelet, not my dog!). It took Forever to get the black to go away; lots of polishing. Wright’s silver cream worked the best for me.. btw, Bob, lime dip has that rotten egg smell, too; same chemical, perhaps?

    Chem challenged,

  7. avatar

    Katherine Schilling

    January 19, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Denture cleaner works great to clean gold jewelry. But it will turn silver black if left in the solution.

  8. avatar


    January 19, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    My husband is just like bozo25’s. I made him a gorgeous byzantine sterling silver chain for his birthday and within 24 hours it was black. He doesn’t wear cologne, swim – no chemical exposure I could discover other than his very own skin secretions. I made a fine silver chain to replace it, problem solved. Tumbled and polished the sterling chain and now I wear it with no problems at all. Made me realize that if I ever has a customer with a similar experience, I’ll swap for fine silver or another non-corrosive metal.

  9. avatar

    Una Robinson

    January 20, 2010 at 3:39 am

    I saw silver go black instantly when in Rotarua in New Zealand when the wearer wore his silver ring into the thermal baths there, sulphur was the culprit, it was cleaned professionally later I believe.

  10. avatar


    January 20, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    I find that if I wear any jewelry with sterling when participating in an outdoor show and it is really hot, I do not perspire, I sweat profusely, and the next day the sterling is VERY black. Any time of year my body chemistry also causes silver and gold to oxidize and leave black residue on my blouses. The dry cleaners love me!

  11. avatar


    January 22, 2010 at 6:42 am

    I met a lady whose children draw on her with “any” metal. BE it gold, siver ,etc. they think its funny ! she showed me. i took my gold 14k ring and drew on her and it showed up really dark and was like writting with a pen and had to wear off!

  12. avatar

    Some dude

    December 13, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    I have an aunt that has the same problem, except her one turns black after a month or two. But there’s something odd with me, anytime i wear tarnished silver (aunt made me wear it since my necklace is super silvery) the tarnish on the silver disappear.