What Metals Tarnish? | Tini Lux

What Metals Tarnish?

By Jacqueline Burke

Fashion jewelry is great for many reasons. It is affordable and allows you to try out a bunch of different styles. It lets you switch up your outfit and look without re-doing your entire wardrobe. I think every outfit looks infinitely and instantly more polished with jewelry. 

On the other hand, it can also be very frustrating when you purchase fashion jewelry that very quickly tarnishes, rusts, chips, or fades. Companies obviously do not advertise that their jewelry is likely to tarnish* within a few wears, so it can be difficult to make informed purchases.

Here is a breakdown of commonly used jewelry metals and whether or not they will tarnish or turn your skin green:

  • Brass (An alloy of copper and zinc):  Will tarnish. Copper very commonly oxidizes with skin and will cause the jewelry to tarnish and your skin to turn green
  • Gold Plating/Gold Filled/Gold Vermeil over Base Metal: May tarnish. This depends on the base metal.  When the plating wears away, the base metal (which is typically brass, pewter, or nickel) will be exposed and the jewelry will most likely tarnish
  • Sterling Silver: Will tarnish. Sterling silver is an alloy that is typically 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals. The other metals, usually copper, will oxidize with the skin or the air cause the sterling silver to tarnish or your skin to turn green.
  • Aluminum: Does not tarnish. Pure aluminum develops a clear protective layer when exposed to oxygen so it will not tarnish. Aluminum alloys may tarnish.
  • Stainless Steel: Does not tarnish. The chromium in stainless steel forms an invisible protective layer that prevents stainless steel from rusting, tarnishing, or changing colors. 
  • Titanium: Does not tarnish. Because titanium is an inert/non-reactive metal, it does not react with water or oxygen and therefore will not tarnish, rust or corrode.
  • Niobium: Does not tarnish. Like titanium, niobium is an inert/non-reactive metal, it does not react with water or oxygen and therefore will not tarnish, rust or corrode.

Click to shop our collection of nonallergenic titanium and niobium jewelry


*Tarnish: a thin layer of corrosion that forms over some metals as their outermost layer undergoes a chemical reaction. It often appears as a dull, gray or black film or coating over metal.


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Marsha 12/5/2022

Thank you ever so much! I’m going to try it on my Jewelry that went through our fire!

Judy 1/11/2021

Regarding STERLING SILVER (.925): Yes, it CAN tarnish, but it takes a VERY long time with jewelry and you should be able to clean it (the way one cleans “silver” silverware or serving pieces). I have sterling silver jewelry from when I was a child (45 years ago!) that has little or no tarnish yet. And the “little” I can generally clean with a silver polishing cloth. Regarding PLATED/FILLED/OVERLAY/etc: This means when the layer of good metal wears off (can be relatively quickly depending on thickness of layer, body chemistry, how much it rubs on things), you are left with the base metal. So plan on temporary beauty.

Leoba Kolnes 11/18/2020

Do they tell u if sterling silver has copper and alloy in them? And just plain silver plating too

Kellie Mcgrath 5/26/2020

Why do people choose to buy silver over other metals if it more expensive but tarnished and the cheaper ones don’t?

TAra 1/15/2020

I got a bracelet from jcrew and the band is made of a soft band that holds the charms in a place they are metal gold and I have to say I got this from that store mom says that it won’t break because jcrew built all their jewelry to not break and according to what my mom said she was right that jcrew bracelets and head bands just will not tarnish
Well it’s a soft material and I will be fine
Just got to be care ful around water and sharp stuff otherwise my bracelet can get ruined!
Should I be care ful?

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