Why Does Silver Turn Black?

Silver is a precious metal that has been cherished for centuries due to its lustrous appearance and versatility in crafting jewelry, utensils, and various decorative items. However, one common issue that many silver owners encounter is the metal turning black over time. 

This phenomenon can affect the aesthetic appeal and perceived value of silver items. Understanding why silver turns black and how to prevent or reverse this process is essential for maintaining the beauty and longevity of your silver possessions. 

In this article, we will delve into the science behind why does silver turn black and explore effective methods for keeping your silver looking shiny and new. So, let's dive in!

What is Silver?

Before exploring why does silver turn black, let’s discover some information about silver. 

Silver, with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47, is a ductile and malleable element known for its brilliant white metallic luster. It is a noble metal, meaning it is resistant to corrosion and oxidation in moist air, which contributes to its enduring popularity and use. 

Historically, silver has been utilized in various applications ranging from currency and trade to jewelry and tableware. Its high thermal and electrical conductivity make it indispensable in modern electronics and industrial applications. 

Silver is often mixed with other metals to improve its strength and durability, leading to the creation of alloys such as sterling silver. Despite being relatively scarce, silver's unique properties and versatile applications continue to make it a highly valued and sought-after material.

Why Does Silver Turn Black?

There are many reasons for this phenomenon, but here are 5 main reasons:

  • Moisture and Humidity

Moisture and humidity are significant factors contributing to the tarnishing of silver. When silver is exposed to humid conditions, a chemical reaction occurs between the silver and airborne sulfur compounds. 

This reaction results in the formation of a black layer of silver sulfide on the surface of the item, causing it to lose its original luster. Storing silver in a dry, airtight container can help mitigate this issue.

  • Cosmetics and Sunscreen

Cosmetics and sunscreen often contain chemicals that can accelerate the tarnishing process of silver. Ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, commonly found in these products, react with silver leading to discoloration. It's advisable to apply such products before putting on silver jewelry and ensuring that they are fully absorbed into the skin.

  • Swimming Baths

Exposure to chlorinated water in swimming baths is another culprit behind silver tarnishing. 

Chlorine is a reactive element and can cause silver to corrode and darken rapidly. It's best to remove silver jewelry before swimming to avoid this type of chemical exposure.

  • Perfumes and Sprays

Perfumes and sprays, including deodorants and hairsprays, contain various chemicals and alcohols that can react with silver and cause tarnishing. The particles from these sprays settle on the silver surface, leading to a chemical reaction. 

To protect your silver, apply these products and let them dry completely before wearing silver jewelry.

  • Contact with Sulfur Compounds

Contact with sulfur compounds is one of the most common reasons why silver turns black. Sulfur is present in various forms in the environment, including in foods like eggs and onions, as well as in everyday items like rubber bands and certain fabrics. 

When silver comes into contact with these sulfur-containing substances, it reacts to form silver sulfide, causing the surface to blacken. To prevent this, limit the exposure of silver items to sulfur-containing materials. 

How to keep silver jewelry from tarnishing?

Enjoy your silver jewelry's timeless beauty by implementing proper storage and cleaning practices. Recognize the significant role that ideal storage conditions play in preserving the shine and longevity of your silver items. Use dry, airtight containers, complemented with anti-tarnish strips or silica gel packs, to protect your jewelry from air and humidity. 

Prioritize regular cleaning to prevent unsightly tarnish buildup, using a soft cloth for gentle polishing and a mild soap solution for deeper cleans. Also, be aware of the damage that direct chemical contact can cause. Ensure you remove your jewelry before swimming or using cosmetics and cleaning products. 

Interestingly enough, frequent wear can actually contribute positively to your silver jewelry's appearance. The friction and oils from your skin combat tarnish formation and keep your pieces shiny. So, don't shy away from flaunting your beautiful silver jewelry often!

By following these preventive measures, you can keep your silver jewelry looking as lustrous as the day you first bought it. Taking care of your silver not only maintains its beauty but also preserves its sentimental and monetary value.

How do I get my silver jewelry beautiful again?

Polishing Cloths

Using a special polishing cloth designed for silver is one of the simplest and most effective ways to restore the shine to your silver jewelry. These cloths are impregnated with anti-tarnish agents that can clean and polish silver to a high sheen.

Silver Dip Solutions

Silver dip solutions are chemical baths specifically formulated to remove tarnish from silver items quickly. Simply dip your jewelry into the solution for a few seconds, rinse thoroughly with water, and dry with a soft cloth. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid any potential damage to your items.

Baking Soda and Aluminum Foil Method

A tried-and-true home remedy involves using baking soda, aluminum foil, and boiling water. Line a bowl with aluminum foil, add a tablespoon of baking soda and pour in boiling water. Place your tarnished silver items in the solution, ensuring they are touching the aluminum foil. This creates a chemical reaction that lifts the tarnish away. Remove your items after a few minutes, rinse, and dry them with a soft cloth.


Non-gel toothpaste can be used as a mild abrasive cleaner for silver. Apply a small amount of toothpaste to a soft cloth or brush and gently rub your silver jewelry. Rinse thoroughly with water and dry with a clean cloth. This method is particularly useful for intricate pieces with detailed designs.

Professional Cleaning

For severely tarnished or valuable silver items, it may be worth seeking professional cleaning services. Jewelers have access to ultrasonic cleaners and professional-grade polishing equipment that can restore even the most heavily tarnished silver to its former glory.

By employing these methods, you can rejuvenate your silver jewelry and maintain its radiant appearance. Regular care and cleaning will ensure that your silver pieces continue to sparkle and shine for years to come.

Does Tarnished Silver Jewelry Affect Health?

Tarnished silver rings primarily affect aesthetic appeal rather than posing health risks. The tarnish on silver is largely composed of silver sulfide, which forms when silver comes into contact with sulfur-containing substances in the environment. While the blackened appearance may be unpleasing, it is usually harmless to the skin. 

However, if not cleaned regularly, tarnished silver can potentially cause mild irritation in some individuals, particularly those with sensitive skin or metal allergies. In rare cases, prolonged exposure to tarnish might lead to a slight increase in skin sensitivity or minor allergic reactions, but these instances are uncommon. 

Maintaining a regular cleaning routine will help keep your silver jewelry beautiful and ensure it remains safe for everyday wear.


In conclusion, silver jewelry is cherished for its gleaming appearance and timeless elegance, but it requires proper care to maintain its beauty. Understanding why does silver turns black, such as exposure to sulfur compounds, moisture, and chemicals, allows you to take preventive measures to protect your silver items. 

Proper storage, regular cleaning, and mindful wearing habits go a long way toward preserving the luster of your jewelry. If tarnishing occurs, various methods—ranging from polishing cloths to homemade remedies like the baking soda and aluminum foil method—can effectively restore your silver to its radiant state. 

By following the guidelines provided, you can enjoy your silver jewelry for years to come, keeping its shine as brilliant as the memories it holds. So, show off your silver pieces with confidence and let their timeless beauty shine through.