When we choose jewelry, we want items that will last many lifetimes and not lose any of their lusters over time. This includes tarnishing. In this article, we outline several jewelry metals that don’t tarnish.
What Causes Metal to Tarnish?
Tarnish describes the end-product of a chemical reaction between metal and other non-metal reagents – it’s a form of corrosion. Some metals react when exposed to air and moisture, forming a thin surface layer that’s dull, usually discoloring the metal. This product is only on the metal’s surface and usually consists of the metal’s oxide or sulfide.
Tarnish is self-limiting since the layer of tarnish protects the underlying layers from contact with air and moisture. This prevents further tarnishing unless the tarnished layer is scratched, opening the deeper layers to corrosion reagents.
10 Jewelry Metal Does Not Tarnish
In its pure form, gold is famously unreactive and thus will not tarnish. Note that gold jewelry is usually made of an alloy, mixing gold and other metals prone to tarnish. So, gold below 18k will tarnish, while gold above 18k is unlikely to tarnish.
Titanium is another highly inert metal that remains resistant to tarnish and corrosion, even after many years of usage. It remains shiny, even with prolonged exposure to moisture and air. Titanium is one of the metals that are black and elegant with excellent strength yet lightweight.
Platinum doesn’t tarnish, but it does for a patina over time. A patina is an oxidation layer that forms on metal over a long time. In the case of platinum, the patina doesn’t form due to corrosion. Instead, it forms where the metal gets scratched or dented. While some may view platinum’s patina as unsightly, others prefer this appearance and carefully preserve it.
Platinum is an excellent metal for jewelry since it’s strong and hypoallergenic. This means that it offers a secure setting for diamonds, and you won’t suffer from allergic reactions to them.
4. Stainless Steel
Technically, stainless steel does tarnish, but it takes a really long time for this to happen. The chromium in the stainless steel alloy is inert and protects the metal from rust and corrosion. When exposed to harsh environments, stainless steel will corrode, however. So, suppose you wear stainless steel jewelry. In that case, I suggest removing it before diving into a chlorinated pool or working with any harsh chemicals.
Palladium is highly inert, scratch-resistant, and it looks like sterling silver and platinum. This makes it an ideal jewelry metal since it won’t tarnish. That means that it will shine like new, even after many years of continued wear. As a jewelry metal, it has really low maintenance. Unlike other jewelry metals, it doesn’t need rhodium plating or frequent polishing to maintain its luster.
Cobalt is another inert metal that doesn’t tarnish, ever. It’s also naturally lustrous, so it doesn’t require plating or regular polishing to maintain that gorgeous shine.
7. Rose Gold
As with gold, rose gold is an alloy. Here, the copper content is increased to give it that beautiful red hue. Since gold is inert, rose gold won’t tarnish. However, over time, it will develop a patina, a light protective layer due to the copper’s reaction with air and moisture. This will enhance the reddish hue of rose gold and is highly sought-after in the jewelry world. If you find it unsightly, you can remove it by polishing and cleaning it.
8. Tungsten Carbide
There are two grades of tungsten carbide: industrial grade, which uses a cobalt binder, and jewelry grade, which uses a nickel binder. The nickel binder protects tungsten carbide from rust and corrosion, while the cobalt version doesn’t. This is also the difference between expensive and low-cost (less than $50) tungsten carbide rings. The less expensive version usually uses industrial-grade tungsten carbide, which will rust and tarnish.
Niobium, with its silvery sheen, is another inert metal. It won’t tarnish, rust, or corrode when exposed to air or moisture, making it ideal for long-wearing jewelry.
When aluminum comes into contact with air or moisture, it reacts to form aluminum oxide as a thin surface layer on the metal. While this hard, white surface layer protects the metal from tarnish, it doesn’t protect it from corrosion. Aluminum corrodes, which reduces the metal’s initial luster, rendering it less attractive as a jewelry metal.
Metals That Turn Skin Green
Now that you have seen the 10 best metals that do not tarnish, let me tell you about the metals that not only tarnish but will also turn your skin green.
Worn copper is famous for its emerald green patina, which forms over time through reaction with oxygen. Copper jewelry also reacts to the oils in our skin and the acidic salt in our sweat, forming a blue-green discoloration on the metal’s surface. Wearing this discolored jewelry causes it to rub off on our skin, discoloring it in the process. It’s not dangerous or unhealthy in any way, but some people find it unsightly.
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. It is one of the metals that look like gold and can be bright and stylish when polished. However, wearing brass jewelry for long will turn your skin green, especially if it comes into contact with water or if you sweat while wearing it. This is due to the high copper content in the metal.
Bronze is another copper alloy and thus turns your skin green when worn for long. In this case, the copper is alloyed with tin.
Nickel is often used in low-cost jewelry, and many people are allergic to it. Like copper, it reacts with moisture and the oils on your skin to turn your skin green. Unlike copper, this green hue is often accompanied by an allergic reaction. This is why many jewelers suggest avoiding nickel alloys.