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Sterling Silver, does it tarnish?

Sterling Silver, or .925, can tarnish over time. This is a perfectly normal phenomenon; silver reacts this way when exposed to air. Oxidation forms on the surface over time. Therefore, as long as they are worn, silver jewelry will not tarnish on the surface.

At MCDécarie, we love oxidation. Most of our jewelry is oxidized in advance. This adds a strong contrast and an artisanal style to the jewelry. If the jewels are already oxidized, they are then very easy to maintain because the areas inaccessible to cleaning are already blackened.

Silver and yellow gold ring with topaz and diamond. Custom order by MCDecarie.


You don't like the oxidized style? Then choose jewelry with rhodium plating! Your jewelry will have a more chic, tone-on-tone style and will not oxidize for a few years. If needed, the rhodium can be refinished.

Left: oxydized silver. Right: rhodium plated silver.

Prevent oxidation

When not being worn, store your jewelry away from light and air. For example, in a small airtight bag placed in a pouch or box. If not worn and left in the air, jewelry can oxidize on the surface within a few weeks. The intensity of oxidation will vary depending on the conditions; for example, jewelry placed on the windowsill in the bathroom may tarnish very quickly.

When worn, avoid contact with strong cleaning products such as bleach, chlorine from the pool or spa, etc. A shower in slightly sulfuric water or a trip to a sea & sunshine destination can also tarnish your jewelry.

To remove oxidation

To demonstrate this, I looked for jewelry that was badly oxidized by time. I came across this pair of sterling silver earrings; they have not been worn in 7 or 8 years.

I offer two cleaning options to remove the oxidation.

Naturally oxydized silver.

Sodium bicarbonate

The famous 'Baking Soda'. You must already have it somewhere in the house. If not, add it to your grocery list quickly; it’s a versatile and inexpensive product.

Mix 3 parts baking soda with 1 part water. No need to measure exactly. The idea is to make a paste of sorts. Then use a cloth, washcloth or just your fingers to rub the surface of the jewelry. Rub a little hard, then rinse with warm water and dry with a clean cloth.

You can use a toothbrush to get into the little hollows. For a chain, you need to hold it by one end and, with the other hand, pinch the cloth full of bicarbonate and then gently slide it down several times.

Polishing cloths

Polishing cloths contain a very fine abrasive powder that polishes your jewelry. They should be used dry and never washed. When they are completely black, their useful life is over. There are different kinds of polishing cloths. About 5 years ago, I discovered -- and adopted -- the little polishing squares, which work miracles!

Here is a picture of the famous earrings. On the left, the first earring was cleaned only with sodium bicarbonate, next to its tarnished twin. On the right, the pair cleaned with sodium bicarbonate and then polished with the small polishing cloth. Both options can be used alone or combined for best results.

When you buy a MCDecarie polished jewel, you receive a polishing square. They are also available on our online store, right here.

To use them, rub the small square quite hard on the oxidized surface. For a chain, hold the end of the chain and then gently rub the cloth folded in half downward several times.

Satin jewellery

For jewelry with a satin or dark brushed finish, I usually give a small green square. This is simply a piece of scouring pad that you can use to remove unwanted oxidation on a piece of jewelry with a satin or dark brushed finish. If necessary, rinse the jewelry with warm water afterwards. You can combine this cleaning with a baking soda cleaning.

How often should we remove oxidation from our jewelry?

This is really a personal choice. I would advise keeping a polishing cloth where you store your jewelry. Every once in a while, a little rubbing with a cloth before wearing a piece of jewelry only takes a few seconds and brings back an instant shine. For cleaning with baking soda, say a few times a year should be sufficient. It really depends on how much your jewelry oxidizes and your tolerance to further oxidation. There is no risk in doing it too often or not often enough.

Can I use a special product for silver?

There are several products that can be used to soak your jewelry and instantly remove the oxidation. If you want to keep the oxidation in the hollows, I really don't recommend it. Moreover, in the long term or after a too long soaking, these products can damage the silver because they are slightly corrosive. On the other hand, if you have hard-to-clean non-oxidized white jewelry that has tarnished, such as a chain, you could use such products. However, I always recommend trying a baking soda cleaning first.​

What about the toothpaste? The lemon? Ketchup? What about it?

Grandma's tricks to clean up silver, as well as specialized products for that matter, there are hundreds of them. I haven't tested them all; I imagine that some can have good results.

I strongly recommend baking soda first and foremost because it is economical, environmentally friendly, effective, non-abrasive, non-corrosive, non-toxic and safe for stones or pearls.

Moreover, with the rest of the box, you can wash your kitchen, whiten your teeth, wash your clothes, freshen up the smell of your fridge, fight against allergens, cook... And so on!

-Marie-Claude Decarie, Jeweller

Jewellery designer MCDécarie, Marie-Claude is the founder of the company MCDécarie joaillerie. Graduated from a DEC in jewelry in 2009, she perfected her education at the School of Gemmology in Montreal to deepen her knowledge of stones and diamonds.

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