Pure silver is very soft, too soft to create durable jewelry, so the metal is usually mixed with other metals to enhance its performance. Metal mixes are known as alloys, and one popular silver alloy is known as sterling silver . Copper is the metal most commonly used to make up the remaining 7.5 percent content of a sterling silver mix. Copper makes the silver harder, but gives it a tendency to tarnish , a darkening that occurs when sterling silver reacts with gases in the air or with other substances that it comes in contact with.
If your sterling jewelry was exposed to excess water, swimming pools, chlorine or other harsh chemicals, it’s more likely to darken quickly and wearing rings that have been exposed to chemicals can even leave a dark mark on your skin. For this reason, if you work with your hands, swim, or clean with harsh chemicals, wearing sterling silver rings continuously may not be possible. It’s always best to take off your jewelry when you shower or swim.
Sterling silver jewelry that is worn continually often develops a lovely patina, a kind of glow combined with darkened areas. If you like the look, leave it alone. If you prefer a bright and shiny look for your sterling silver, use a polish cloth to restore the jewelry to its original appearance.
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Gold requires very little care and is harder and more durable than sterling silver, so it’s a good choice for rings that will be worn every day. However, since gold alloys all contain metals other than gold (usually copper, zinc, silver and/or palladium) they can still react to harsh chemicals and chlorine. Gold doesn’t usually darken as dramatically, but it might take on a slightly darker, warmer color. This is just on the surface and is usually easily removed with a cloth. It’s best to take off your gold rings when working with your hands or cleaning, not just because they might discolor, but also to avoid scratching them or injuring your hand if they’re caught on something you’re working with. Wear them on a chain or find a safe place.
Rings With Stones:
Diamond, ruby and sapphire are the hardest stones, making them the best choice for rings that will be worn continuously. All of the semi-precious stones (aquamarine, peridot, garnet, etc.) can be scratched and damaged, so it’s best to take them off when working with your hands. If you wear a ring with a stone daily, a cloudy film will eventually cover the back of the gemstone, making it look dull. This is easily removed or prevented by scrubbing the back of the ring occasionally with dish soap and a soft brush. If it’s allowed to build up, it might need to be taken to a local shop for ultrasonic cleaning.