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Sterling silver is famous for tarnish

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Tarnish…. The everlasting foe of silver… but what if I told you I loved it?

Silver arch pendant with patina handmade by Melissa Pedersen

Sterling silver has a bad reputation of tarnishing. I’m sure you’ve seen it, that dark discoloration that starts to sneak in on your otherwise pristine piece of jewellery. As a jewellery artist I have fought a long and hard battle with tarnish before I came to a place of acceptance, respect and now love for the stuff… Yes! I love tarnish! I’ll let you in on the secret… I use it for my advantage.

As my designs have evolved over the years, I have learned to appreciate the beautiful contrast between dark and light that naturally occurs in sterling silver. This contrast is what sterling silver is famous for, and once I embraced the blackened state of silver, I realized it is one of its best attributes.

As you wear your silver jewellery you may notice that it naturally becomes darker and takes on grey then black patina in the recessed areas. The high points that come in contact with clothing and skin remain bright and shiny. I’ve discovered that I can use this to really bring out all the tiny details and make the pieces come to life.

sterling silver seed rings by Melissa Pedersen

Now I give some of my work a dark patina, which is the fancy jewellers way of saying tarnish on purpose, leaving the low points black and buffing up the high points to really glow. I’m basically mimicking and speeding up the process of what happens naturally. If you wear your sterling silver jewellery regularly there should be very little maintenance. I have a sterling silver ring that I have worn for four years straight, and it is just as shiny and beautiful as the day I put it on. (If you see me in person, make sure to ask about it!)

But you may be thinking “What about the pieces I don’t wear regularly – what do I do if those tarnish?”

Check out this post for easy tips and tricks on how to keep your silver jewellery looking as bright and white as the day you brought it home!


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