I get this question a lot - I mean, a LOT! So I'll explain what we do here at tryst, the science behind it and maintenance. This one is long - but it's pretty important to be educated so you can make educated choices!
What we do:
99% of the metal we use is brass. We work with it, fire it, bend it and once we're done, we send them off to be plated. After years of trial and error, we found the perfect plating that we are absolutely thrilled to compliment our finished pieces with it. Our silver toned pieces are actually plated in rhodium - a high quality metal that is naturally tarnish resistant. Our gold toned pieces are plated in, well...gold! 22 karats of it to be exact, and also tarnish resistant. The plating quality is thick, durable and easy to maintain. The process is expensive, but we think it's very well worth it. It's something we take pride in and something our customers really appreciate! If you take care of your tryst pieces, they should last you a long time.
What is going on?
Two things could be happening here. The metal being worn is reacting to your body chemistry. Every person is different, and so the speed at which this occurs varies for each individual. The natural oils found in your skin, sweat and external products like soaps, lotions, perfumes etc all contribute to the discoloration process.
1: The plating has worn off. I hate to say, but there is no rescuing here. The outer layer of metal has worn away exposing the base metal underneath. This is very common in low quality costume jewelry (including gold filled, if it is poor quality) and like the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Certain metals (including ours!) can be re-plated, but some cannot and it's pretty much ready for its next journey into the trash bin.
2: The metal is oxidizing. The tarnish is pretty much rubbing off onto your skin - that's all! This occurs most often in solid sterling silver jewellery as well as sterling silver plated jewellery. The discolouration is pretty harmless although those with extra sensitive skin may find it irritating. Just some gentle hand soap will get it off.
Copper is the common culprit behind the green colouration - you've seen those old government buildings with the green roofs right? Those are copper roofs that have turned green after prolonged exposure to oxygen and the elements. Brass also has this effect, since it is a metal made of a mixture of zinc and copper. Unless these metals are specially coated/treated or plated - they will tarnish whether you like it or not. The keyword to remember is 'raw', which defines untreated metal.
Silver is the common culprit behind black colouration. It is found in a lot of plated pieces and of course in sterling silver which is 92.5% pure silver.
What can I do if I already own pieces that turn on my skin?
Store them in a closed environment (plastic zip bags are great), away from moisture. To go the extra mile, you could store the zipped bags with those little packets of silica gel that you occasionally get when you buy other things. Those little packets absorb moisture. Regular cleaning with a gentle jewellery cleaner/polishing cloth will remove the tarnish. And finally, wear them on your less sweaty days/dry days - so autumn/winter weather conditions.
*Quick DIY Raw Brass Cleaner: in a glass jar, mix 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water and immerse your jewelry for a 3-5 minutes. Swish it around, but keep a close eye on it. Once the brass is bright, remove from the vinegar solution, rinse with water and pat dry on a towel.
*Quick DIY Silver Cleaner: dab a blob of toothpaste onto a paper towel and polish until shiny, then rinse with water and pat dry on a towel. I don't recommend this method for fine silver as the toothpaste could corrode it, but for inexpensive jewellery, it's quick and easy!
In short, to maintain jewellery of all types, costume and fine:
• Individual storage in a plastic zip bag
• Regular gentle cleaning (mild soap and water, dry with a towel immediately)
• Apply lotions, deodorants, perfumes before putting on jewellery
• Remove all jewellery when washing hands, showering, swimming, going to the gym etc.
Our motto for jewellery care is:
Jewellery should be the last thing you put on before going out and the first thing you take off once you come home.
That said, depending on the frequency of wear and how well you've been maintaining your pieces, even our super fantastic plating WILL wear off over time. We're not miracle workers! Our pieces have a good few years on them before (or if!) this happens. Just send us an e-mail letting us know and we'll get you started in the process of sending it back to us and having it re-plated all shiny and new again! Please note that there is a small fee for this service. Please also note that we only plate our own designs and do not plate other jewellery.
Phew...that's pretty much it! So for our pieces specifically, tarnish resistant is just that. Resistant, not tarnish proof. But if you store them properly and take care of them, you'll extend the life of your tryst pieces by a milestone!