Does Sterling Silver Tarnish?

Many times people have asked me at art fairs, "What is this made of"? "Sterling Silver" I respond. The next question they sometimes ask always stumps me. Often times, after I answer with sterling silver, people will say "So this won't tarnish"? .....spoiler alert....of course it will tarnish, it's sterling, but tarnish isn't the enemy.

The facts:
Sterling Silver does tarnish. Tarnish is by definition an oxidation (coating on the surface). The Statue of Liberty is tarnished copper. Shiny copper turns green as it is exposed to air and moisture. This kind of tarnish is often times called a patina. The same thing happens with Sterling Silver. A tarnish on Silver creates a less shiny, dull appearance and can produce a blackish color as well. Silver can always be polished back to its original luster....just as the Statue of Liberty could, though that may not be a good idea as it would probably blind boats in the harbor with its reflectiveness from the sun.

The confusion:
I think sometimes people can confuse the word tarnish with what happens to costume jewelry or plated jewelry over time. A costume jewelry piece can appear very nice and be very fun to wear, but as time goes on and the more times it is worn it will begin to "turn". By "turn" I mean, start to become dull, then discolored and finally show it's true color, which is not very pretty. It is not something that you can simply polish back to it's original luster. It can not be polished at all. In fact if you try to polish it, it will make it "turn" even more. This is what I think some people confuse with the word tarnish. This is NOT tarnish.

Here is an analogy:
Costume jewelry "turning" is like an icecream cone with sprinkles. Once the sprinkles are licked off of the cone all that is left is the rest of the cone. You can never get the sprinkles back.

Tarnish is like when you park your car outside and snow happens to fall on it. Brush it off and it is still your car and looks as good as ever.


PS... can you PS in a blog?
In my opinion silver that is slightly tarnished just to the point of looking muted is the prettiest. This is the look you get when you wear it over long periods of time.