One of the common misconceptions about jewelry is that if it’s “good quality”, then it won’t tarnish. But, the truth is:
MOST JEWELRY (EXCEPT GOLD) CAN TARNISH!
Yes, it’s true! Some silver pieces can be coated with a rhodium plating, which will keep tarnish away, but without that plating, sterling silver will tarnish. So will brass, copper, nickel and plated jewelry.
Today I’m talking specifically about brass. At Jessie Girl Jewelry, we use what’s called “jeweler’s brass“, which is also called NuGold. It has a higher copper content, which gives it a warmer color that is closer to true gold than regular brass.
But even still – it will tarnish over time. How fast and how much is determined by a number of factors such as environment, your body chemistry, any lotions or perfumes you might wear, and more.
Some people actually like the patina of tarnished brass but if you want to get the shine back it’s pretty easy to do with some typical household products.
How to clean your brass jewelry:
If the tarnish isn’t too heavy, take about 2 tablespoons of baking soda and add drops of lemon juice – from concentrate is fine – until you have a paste. The lemon juice will bubble and fizz as you add it. Don’t worry, it’ll stop after a few seconds. Take an old toothbrush and apply the paste to your piece and scrub. Let it sit with the paste on it for about 30 minutes and then rinse it with water and dry it thoroughly. (Water will leave stain marks so dry it well!)
If the piece is heavily tarnished or the above doesn’t work, you can place the piece in vinegar and let it soak for 30-60 minutes and then scrub it with an old toothbrush. Once clean, rinse it with water. This cleaning method is more aggressive and may leave the piece more “raw” looking – it won’t have as warm of color until the patina rebuilds.
If you want to slow the tarnish process, wipe the piece with a soft cotton rag after wearing and store it in a plastic zip-top bag with all the air squished out.
And if you’re wearing brass and it’s turning your skin green, that means you and brass have some bad chemistry, unfortunately. You can try to stop the green from happening by coating your jewelry in a coat of clear nail polish – not top coat, but actual polish. This should create a barrier between your skin and the brass. You may have to repeat doing this as the polish wears away, but it should allow you to wear your brass jewelry without looking like you’re turning into Kermit the frog. 🙂