Does Alloy Tarnish? (What To Do About It?)

Last Updated on December 30, 2023

The susceptibility to tarnishing depends on the metal content of the alloy. For example, brass is a copper-zinc alloy that will tarnish over time when exposed to the air. Gold alloys are also susceptible to tarnishing because of the base metals used in the alloy. 

On the other hand, some alloys are highly resistant to tarnishing, such as stainless steel, niobium, and titanium. These alloys contain metals that are not as reactive to the elements in the air and environment.

For an in-depth discussion on what kinds of alloys tarnish, continue to read on:

  • How long does alloy take to tarnish?
  • Does alloy turn your skin green?
  • How do you keep alloys from tarnishing?


Does Alloy Tarnish?

Certain alloys are more prone to tarnishing than others. The susceptibility to tarnishing depends on the metal content of the alloy.

An alloy is a metal formed by combining two or more metals to develop specific properties. The type of metals used in its composition will determine how susceptible the alloy is to tarnishing. Alloys are most commonly used to create stronger, more durable metals and have a range of other characteristics.

These alloys are then used in creating jewelries wherein these properties are needed. Some alloys that are commonly used in jewelry making are:

Susceptible to Tarnishing

Gold plating: Gold plating in jewelry is done by electroplating a thin layer of gold on the surface of another metal. When the gold plating wears off, the base metal will be exposed. The tarnishing of gold-plated jewelry will generally depend on the kind of base metal when it starts to expose.

However, the common base metals are brass or nickel, and they will tarnish over time when exposed to the elements in the air and environment.

Aluminum Alloys: Pure aluminum will not tarnish if exposed to oxygen; however, aluminum alloys will tarnish over time.

Sterling Silver: Sterling silver consists of 92.5% silver combined with 7.5% other metals, such as copper. Copper is a reactive metal and will cause sterling silver to tarnish.

Brass: Brass is another alloy that consists of copper and zinc. The presence of reactive copper will make brass tarnish over time when exposed to air and other environmental elements.

Resistant to Tarnishing

Stainless Steel: This alloy is made up of different metals, including chromium which makes it resistant to corrosion and rust.

Niobium: Niobium is a metal that is non-reactive to most elements and will not corrode or tarnish.

Titanium: Titanium is another metal that is non-reactive to elements and will not corrode or tarnish. Titanium will not react to exposure to air, water, or chemicals, making it a popular metal for jewelry.

How Long Does Alloy Take To Tarnish?

Generally speaking, most alloys with reactive metals in them will take months to start showing signs of tarnish.

The rate at which an alloy tarnishes depends on several factors, including the type of alloy, the environmental conditions, and how often it is exposed to those conditions. It will also depend on how frequently jewelry pieces with these metals are worn or used.

Does Alloy Turn Your Skin Green?

Some alloys, such as copper and nickel, can cause your skin to turn green over time. This results from the reaction between these metals and your skin oils. The green discoloration will generally disappear over time when you stop wearing or using jewelry with these alloys.

However, the green discoloration is not harmful and will not cause any long-term damage to your skin. It is simply an aesthetic issue that can be remedied by stopping exposure to these alloys.

How Do You Keep Alloy From Tarnishing?

Alloy tarnish is generally caused by exposure to the elements such as air, water, or chemicals. However, you can do a few things to prevent it from happening.

One way is to store your jewelry in a dry place, such as a jewelry box or pouch. You can also keep it in a sealed bag to prevent any moisture from getting to the alloy.

Another way to prevent tarnish is wiping off any moisture or dirt that gets on your jewelry pieces before storing them. Moisture from lotions, perfumes, and other beauty products can cause tarnish to occur, so you must wipe these off your jewelry pieces before storing them.

You can also use a jewelry protectant to help keep your alloy from tarnishing. Many products on the market will do this, and most are easy to use.

Lastly, give your jewelry a break from time to time. This means that you should change out the jewelry you wear to rest your pieces. Alloys will generally last longer when they are not constantly exposed to the elements.

Jackie Palmer is a Houston-based coin journalist and fashion enthusiast. She joined Jewels Advisor’s content team after years of experience as a content strategist, managing blogs and social channels for local stores. Jackie mostly collects and studies US coins produced during the 20th century and over the years, published hundreds of articles for multiple coin publications.