Can Sterling Silver Rust? – Answered


If you like to buy fine jewelry for yourself or loved ones, as I occasionally do for my 5 sisters, then you might bump into a startling sterling silver necklace for example. At the same time, you rightfully ask yourself if this investment is worth it because you’ve heard somewhere that sterling silver rusts. 

Well, I’ve learned the same, and it is time to separate the facts from the kitchen table and water cooler stories we listen to without double-checking, just because Meghan or Tamika said so.

Sterling silver jewelry can generally not rust since this is a metal alloy with 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Both are unable to corrode the metal surface. However, copper does expose itself to oils, body sweat, and oxygen (sulfides) which eventually leads to patina (tarnish) discoloration.

How Does Sterling Silver Jewelry Rust (If Any)

To fully answer your request on the probability of sterling silver rust, let’s develop a quick understanding and therefore distinction of two typical metal characteristics that many consumers confuse.

Then read about the best solution against sterling silver rusting.

Difference Between Rust and Tarnish

The difference between rust and tarnishing is when a metal rusts then its surface decays slowly breaking into typically small yellowish parts or darkening as a result of iron oxidation. On the other, a metal like sterling silver may tarnish or discolor due to usually repairable air oxidation (sulfur).

Other metals too, e.g., white gold tarnish and so forth, may go through the same jewelry metal oxidation process. This however can be prevented as illustrated further below. First, we need to briefly address the sterling silver rusting issues.

How Does Rusting Works (Illustration)

Sterling Silver Quick Facts

Sterling silver pieces of jewelry like commitment rings are made of three metal compositions:

  • Silver (92.5 %) of fine silver which is a soft metal
  • Copper (7.5%) possesses a harder metal scale and
  • Rose gold (yellow gold) coated around the metal mixture of silver and copper

This results in the popular 925 sterling silver jewelry you know and can find at almost every fashion store selling earrings charms or birthstone rings and so forth. The 925 silver is preferred to regular silver because the latter is too soft for jewelry making, which will cause it to deform and scratch easily.

To prevent that and develop an astonishing necklace that will stand the test of time, sterling silver has to be of certain appearance and strength according to Moh’s hardness scale that determines metals or gemstone strength. The range starts from 1 (extremely soft) up to 10 (extremely hard).

With this background knowledge equipped you can now make that important distinction meaning that when metal rusts it’s terrible on the other when it tarnishes it’s not that bad, since it can be reversed easier (see below how).

How To Keep Sterling Silver From Tarnishing

Since tarnishing is as bad as rusting, but still not good for your necklace chain or any wearable accessory from sterling silver,  it is advisable that you do something about it.

To keep sterling silver from rusting, here are some useful steps to take:

  • Avoid Moisture

The number one reason for your sterling jewelry to tarnish is mostly moisture. Once your 925 silver promise rings get in contact with moisture (e.g., bathroom, shower, pool) then the copper metal in it reacts to air/steam which produces sulfur oxide.

Your otherwise awesome rings lose their shining, change color, and eventually tarnish.

  • Avoid Chemicals

Many chemicals, at home, on travel, or at work are not appropriate for use with wearing sterling silver, including cleaning your jewelry with it, although it is a popular belief.

It always depends on the cleaning chemical, though. If you want to go safe, buy here the Silvo cleaner, which is especially useful for jewelry cleaning.

  • Clean 925 Sterling Regularly

As a rule of thumb, the more often you clean it after usage, the longer your awesome engraved pendant with your name or whatever you’ve personalized stays beautiful, like on day one. Again, a cleaner like Silvo available usually just straight out works.

Cleaning Sterling Silver Simple Steps:

  • Avoid Inappropriate Storage

Many jewelry owners think it’s a job accomplished when you just store your favorite silver earrings or rings somewhere safely.

It may be safe from your daughter, sister, or roommate, but not necessarily from exposure to the elements (sun, air, chemicals, etc.) as briefly discussed above.

It’s paramount that you store them in a jewelry box that does not allow oxygen to come in or any other fluids and the like.

  • Rhodium-plated Silver Sterling

One method used by jewelry makers today to prevent or at least delay silver sterling bands, rings, or bracelets from tarnishing is to coat them with the metal rhodium.

The benefits of rhodium plating silver sterling pieces are mainly that rhodium gives your jewelry surface a glow appearance. Though silver possesses that characteristic naturally too, however, 925 sterling is an alloy that can, unfortunately, corrode over time if you don’t know how to treat it right.

Moreover, the rhodium covering protects and increases the chances of your chains and earrings made from 925 silver alloy keep shining.

Not to mention the ability to resize fit your ring when your finger size changes due to bodyweight variations overtime or other external reasons like extreme temperature fluctuations.

If that’s not enough, rhodium-plated sterling silver may positively affect your otherwise allergic reaction to a copper-silver mixture found in your white shinning rose gold birthstone rings or silver diamond heart necklaces.

Using these simple methods to keep your precious sterling silver collar or wedding ring will save you time and money along the way.

However, there is more worth sharing with you on choosing, shopping, and caring for sterling silver accessories.

How Long It Takes Until Sterling Silver Jewelry Rusts?

Sterling silver does not rust but tarnishes over time. Therefore, time is not a factor when dealing with sterling jewelry and rusting. The rusting process requires a metal, iron, to form those dark, yellow-reddish sharp forms which break the metals´ surface.

Hopefully, this helps clarify why real sterling silver (925) doesn’t rust but can tarnish over time.

Does Sterling Silver Rust in Water?

Sterling silver does not rust in water, only metal alloys like steel do, which contain iron. The oxidation process triggered by water molecules H₂O and iron creates hydrated iron oxide, better known as rust. Sterling silver, oxygen, and water possess no iron, therein cannot rust while wet.

Can Sterling Silver Jewelry Be Worn Every Day?

Sterling silver-based jewelry like anniversary rings or 925 men’s bands can be worn every day as long as you clean them using proven homemade cleaners or even better-approved silver jewelry cleaning products to retain the glow.

Can Sterling Silver Turn Your Finger Green?

Sterling silver jewelry can generally turn your finger green, including as a result of copper in the metal alloy reacting to acids or other elements like oxygen. The discoloration of the jewelry leads to tarnishing, which in turn reacts with your body fluids or creams. The result is green finger coloring.

Does sterling silver tarnish green? 

Yes, but there is more to it. And the good news (above on the top) gives you everything you need to prevent, sustain, or remove the tarnishing and a green neck or finger from the jewelry oxidation without harming your health.

Does Silver Sterling 925 Jewelry Rust (Conclusion)

Real 925 jewelry silver does not rust but provides you with the brightest of all precious metals thanks to 92.5 percent fine silver contained in it.

Unfortunately, it does tarnish as we’ve explored. Nevertheless, the cure is simple and easy if you know how (and you do by now). Thankfully, at the same time, US American as well as far as Australian collaborative research teams are working internationally on tarnish-resistant silver sterling products too (PDF Source).

By the way, to tell if a jewelry is real or fake silver sterling it’s simple:

When it rusts, it’s a fake. Sterling silvered metal pieces of jewelry do not rust!

Now and finally even Tamika and Meghan from the office water coolers can enjoy their delicate gemstones sitting on those gorgeous minimalistic sterling silver rings thanks to you sharing the secrets of shopping and caring for jewelry.

Bill Dominic

Bill is an art history and business graduate. Moreover, he loves to test, compare, shop jewelry & fashion items for his 5 sisters, girlfriend, nieces when not enjoying a great novel.

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