People were often unable to identify the specific metal or alloy that was used in a piece of jewelry because testing methods weren’t available at the time. So, jewelers adopted this saying as an easy way to remember if something wasn’t made from copper or bronze. If something didn’t appear to be one of those two metals then it must be sterling silver; even though there are other metals that also don’t appear green. Over time, this phrase became so well-known and trusted among jewelers and members of the public that people started assuming that it was always correct. However, it isn’t! There are instances when greenish copper or bronze can actually be identified as copper or bronze – especially if you know what you are looking for. The article below explains why sterling silver might turn green under certain conditions and what you need to know before buying this type of jewelry again.
Does Sterling Silver Turn Green?
Yes, sterling silver can turn green. There are many factors that can contribute to this discoloration, including exposure to air and chemicals. One way to prevent green discoloration is by storing your sterling silver pieces in a dry, dark, and well-ventilated location.
How Does Sterling Silver Turn Green?
- It is important to note that this process can take a long time – sometimes as much as two or three years. Although it may seem like the green color doesn’t change much during this time, you will notice that it will become progressively darker. The dark green color is caused by the copper ions reacting with oxygen molecules in the air and forming copper oxide crystals
- These crystals are chemically bonded with the silver molecules in the metal and they result in a tarnish that is much more difficult to remove than the normal, everyday silver tarnish. This type of tarnish is known as “patina,” and it can actually be prevented by rubbing the surface of the metal with a clean, dry cloth and keeping the jewelry stored in a sealed plastic bag or box.
- Using an anti-tarnish strip or storing the jewelry in an airtight container can also slow down the rate at which the patina process takes place.
- Sterling silver turns green when oxygen molecules attach themselves to silver ions (the negatively charged silver atoms) and form silver oxide (the positively charged oxidized form of silver).
- These two chemicals are quite unstable and they immediately begin to react with each other, forming a new compound called copper oxide (the positively charged oxidized form of copper). This process is also known as “metal corrosion” and it can occur at any time and in any environment.
Why Does Sterling Silver Turn Green?
- The most common reason for the greening of silver is the chemical reaction between copper and silver. When sterling silver is exposed to oxygen from the air, it oxidizes and turns a dark green color. This process of oxidation happens over time and will continue to happen until the metal is coated with lacquer or enamel paint.
- If you find that your sterling silver is turning a dark green color, it means that there is a higher concentration of copper in your sterling silver than what you would normally find in commercially made sterling silver jewelry. This means that your jewelry was probably handmade by a silversmith who used purer metals than what you would normally find in mass-produced jewelry.
- Another reason why sterling silver turns green has to do with the way that it is cleaned. If you clean your jewelry using harsh, abrasive chemicals such as bleach or ammonia, this can accelerate the oxidation process and cause it to turn a darker shade of green much more quickly than normal.
- If you wear your sterling silver jewelry in the shower or soak it in a bath, this can cause it to turn a darker shade of green much more quickly than normal. The reason for this is that the steam and moisture can cause the oxidation process to happen faster.
- If you wear your sterling silver jewelry while doing household chores, such as washing dishes, this can also accelerate the oxidation process and turn it into a darker shade of green much more quickly than normal
- If you have been exposed to chemicals that are known to be corrosive such as chlorine or bleach, this can also cause your sterling silver to turn a darker shade of green much more quickly than normal.
- If you wear your sterling silver jewelry while swimming in pools or taking steam baths, this can cause your sterling silver to turn a darker shade of green much more quickly than normal.
How To Make Sure You Are Buying Real Sterling Silver?
- The first step is to make sure that you buy your jewelry from a reputable jeweler. You should ask the jeweler if they know the markings on the piece of jewelry you want to purchase. If they don’t, it is a warning sign that they might be selling you something that isn’t real sterling silver.
- If you have an antique or vintage piece of jewelry that you suspect isn’t real sterling silver, you can test it at home. To do this, you will need to get some silver nitrate solution and a small container that can hold water.
- Make sure that the container is large enough to hold the piece of jewelry that you want to test and that it has a lid. Pour the silver nitrate solution into the container and swish the contents around to dissolve the crystals.
- Drop the jewelry into the solution, cover the container and leave it for about two hours. After two hours, remove the jewelry and let it air dry.
When Is Sterling Silver Actually Green?
- Sterling silver turns green when oxygen attaches to the silver ions. However, the way that this happens can depend on two things: The quality of the silver and the environment it is in.
- The higher the quality of the silver, the slower and less noticeable the greening process will be. The lower the quality of the silver, the faster and more noticeable the greening process will be. There are some instances when even high-quality silver will turn green.
- For example, silver that is in a very high-oxygen environment (like near a furnace) will turn green much faster than silver that is in a low-oxygen environment. Alternatively, silver that is in a low-oxygen environment (like near a water source like a river or a lake) will turn green much slower than silver that is in a high-oxygen environment.
How To Prevent Your Sterling Silver From Turning Green?
1. Use a silver polishing cloth
The first thing you should do when you clean your silver is using a silver polishing cloth. They’re incredibly easy to use: just wipe the silver with the polishing cloth and follow up with a quick wipe with a damp cloth to remove any dust or residue the polishing cloth may have left behind. The polishing cloth is an excellent way to prevent your silver from oxidizing while you’re cleaning it. It’s also a great way to prevent scratches and nicks that can occur when cleaning your silver with a sponge or other materials.
2. Add a tarnish-resistant sealant
Next, you can add a tarnish-resistant sealant to help prevent the oxidation process. Choose a sealant designed to prevent silver from tarnishing, like an anti-tarnish strip or a tarnish-resistant coating. While sealants and other anti-tarnish products can help to prevent your silver from turning green, they can also be applied to your silver items once they’ve become oxidized. If you notice that your silver pieces are turning green, you can use the sealant as a preventative measure to stop the green from progressing. Keep in mind that the sealant only works to prevent tarnishing, not repair it. If your silver has already begun to oxidize, the sealant might not be able to completely stop the process.
3. Don’t store your silver in tinfoil
This might seem like an obvious one, but we’ve seen it time and time again. Tinfoil is not a good way to store your silver pieces. It will actually cause them to oxidize more quickly. Silver is able to oxidize when it comes into contact with the chemicals that are present in the tin foil.
4. Treat your silver with copper and nickel
We know that silver naturally reacts with sulfur in the air, but other chemicals in your home (like copper, nickel, and zinc) also cause silver pieces to oxidize more quickly. If you have a lot of silver items in your home, you may notice that they are prone to tarnishing a lot faster than other pieces of jewelry. If you’re noticing that your silver pieces are oxidizing more quickly than you’d like, you can try treating them with copper and nickel. Silver pieces will not react with these metals, and they can actually help prevent oxidization.
The phrase “Something isn’t green so it must be Sterling” is a saying that has been around for many, many years. It originated from a time when there was such limited knowledge about how the different chemical properties of metals affect their appearance. People were often unable to identify the specific metal or alloy that was used in a piece of jewelry because testing methods weren’t available at the time.