Tarnish is a product of a chemical reaction between a metal and a nonmetal compound, especially oxygen and sulfur dioxide. It will inevitably occur with any metal except gold and platinum. Over time, exposure to moisture and air will cause silver, copper and brass to darken as tarnish forms on the surface.
The environment you keep your metal jewelry in will also affect the rate of tarnish. High temperatures and high humidity are known to speed the tarnishing process. It is never recommended that you wear your jewelry while swimming, bathing or doing dishes, or keep your jewelry in your bathroom, for these reasons.
Copper will develop a warm patina over time and darken in color, which some people prefer. If you prefer this patina, you may simply highlight the piece with a polishing cloth from time to time. I like to use Sunshine cloths. If you have shiny copper jewelry and you prefer to retain the bright, shiny copper finish, simply pour enough white vinegar into a container to cover the piece and, optionally, add about a teaspoon of salt. Drop the piece into the solution and swirl it around, allow this to sit for 5-30 minutes depending on the level of tarnish on the piece. Remove from the solution, and rinse, and dry thoroughly. Note: (If the jewelry contains stones that may be damaged by the vinegar, then do not follow this method.)
Wright’s Copper Cream also works very well for cleaning copper. However, I do not recommend using it for very intricate pieces, as the cream tends to “cake up” in tiny crevices. Be sure to rinse the piece well to remove any excess cream and dry thoroughly.
If you have problems with copper turning your skin green or black, you may try applying Renaissance Micro-crystalline wax polish to the piece to create a waterproof barrier, which should eliminate this problem. Reapply as necessary. Renaissance wax can be found online.
Wright’s Silver Cream works very well for cleaning any type of silver. Follow the directions on the jar. You may also polish with a Sunshine polishing cloth to highlight.
For Matte or Brushed pieces: Use very fine “0000” steel wool. Just brush the piece with the steel wool and it will bring back the luster without damaging the brushed or matte finish. NEVER use a polishing cloth on these types of finishes. It will destroy the textured matte finish.
***AVOID “dip” solutions like Tarn-X or Connoisseur as they will cause your jewelry to tarnish faster and are very harsh.***
Brass or Bronze:
For antique finished pieces, simply highlight the piece with a Sunshine polishing cloth as needed.
If the piece is very dirty, use warm water and a small amount of mild liquid dish soap like Dawn to remove any accumulated dirt, pollutants, skin oils, etc. from the metal with your fingers or a soft toothbrush. Thoroughly rinse and dry the piece.
Always be sure to rinse your jewelry and dry completely before storing or wearing.
It is a good idea to store your jewelry in an airtight bag with a tarnish strip for added protection.