Does Stainless Steel Tarnish (Stainless Steel Jewelry Care Tips)

Stainless steel is, by far, one of the most versatile metals used to create a variety of products. I bet the only reason it wins souls over is that it’s shiny and the perfect appearance.

For most people, the winning factor is its aesthetic appeal, and this is why most of us can’t help but ask, “does the stainless steel tarnish?”

Stainless steel is generally categorized in the list of metals that won’t tarnish.

However, the truth is although it doesn’t tarnish, under some extreme conditions, it will tarnish.

To understand why this could happen, you have to know the content of the stainless steel.

Whats a jewel tarnish?

jewel tarnish

Tarnish is more like a thin layer of corrosion that will form when you expose a particular metal to the air or water. It will react with the different elements in the air and water to form the layer of corrosion.

More reading: What Jewelry Can You Wear In The Shower

It creates a gray or black color over the metal. The good thing is that you can clean the tarnish out by merely wiping it out.

Now, most people want to argue that stainless steel will never tarnish, but like most other metals in the jewel industry, they will, over time, begin to tarnish.

The significant difference is that it takes longer to start tarnishing.

I know that metal is corrosion-resistant and scratch-resistant, which is the primary reason why most people use it for their most special jewels.

More reading:
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Is Stainless Steel Hypoallergenic
Stainless Steel Jewelry Pros And Cons
Zinc Alloy Vs Stainless Steel Jewelry
Surgical Steel Vs. Stainless Steel

Whats stainless steel made of?

To be precise, the stainless steel is made of an alloy of chromium, nickel, and titanium; no wonder it has outstanding features. With the presence of each piece, you can be sure it has the best features.

Stainless Steel necklace3

It has titanium which is responsible for strength and break-resistance. This is also the reason why people use it in the kitchen too. You will have it also in the car products, but it’s also a favorite in the jewel industry.

Don’t forget the fact that stainless steel has a silver-like look, which makes it admirable in the jewel and cosmetic industry.

More reading: Stainless Steel Vs Sterling Silver

This then goes to show you that stainless steel is one of the favorites for a reason.

Whether it tarnishes or how soon it tarnishes will depend more on the type of stainless steel you use.

Types of stainless steel

We have different kinds of stainless steel in the market, and some are of higher quality than others. If you want those with the best qualities, then you should choose high-quality stainless steel.

Often though, the jewel is made using 316L stainless steel. This features an alloy made using chromium, manganese, iron, nickel, and carbon.

They bring different uses to the stainless steel composition. Understand that the steel is an alloy, and of course, in some conditions with time, it will begin to tarnish.

Stainless Steel necklace

You will particularly like it because, although it contains nickel, the chromium layer makes the nickel stick within the metal, and thus it’s hypoallergenic.

You may also have the industrial-grade silver that’s made using grade 301 stainless steel. Such options have a high nickel level, and we may categorize it in the list of those that will cause skin allergies for the sensitive ones.

We also have the 304L, which is commonly used with the cookware. But to be safe, don’t use it with your body jewels, especially when you have new piercings.


It features the perfect alloys, which also means it remains durable. Contrary to most metals, stainless steel is scratch-resistant and corrosion-resistant thanks to the chromium presence. It will keep the metal from any damages that may occur.

Basically, this is one of the few metals you use on jewels, and you are sure they won’t tarnish quickly. It may tarnish over time, but it will take way longer for the tarnish to occur than other metals.

You won’t have to focus on a particular cleaning method, which makes your jewels easy to care for.

It’s way more affordable compared to other options in the market. This though doesn’t compromise on the quality.


Stainless steel is hard, making it hard to mold to different shapes that you would do on metals like sterling silver

Since they sometimes contain nickels, they may cause skin allergies.

So then why does it tarnish?

So most people have said how can it be corrosion-resistant yet it tarnishes? As you would expect, the tarnishing may occur, but it doesn’t happen as soon as other metals do. This is mostly because of the chromium level. But even the jewel will get destructed over time.

Stainless Steel bracelet

Well, the tarnishing is dependent on many factors but mainly the care you give it. The metal you used to make the jewel.

So how comes it slows the tarnish or rust process compared to other metals like silver?

The answer to this is simply the chromium power.

Generally, stainless steel may not rust or tarnish. But under certain conditions, you may not prevent the tarnish always.

The type of stainless steel we use in the jewelry is an alloy. The truth is that alloys make metals more durable and perfect. 316L stainless steel, as we had already mentioned, contains manganese, iron, nickel, silver, carbon, and a lot more.

I know what you may think, how is it that it doesn’t rust when all the metals mentioned above will cause rust? That’s simple; the chromium layer formed on the outer part of the stainless steel makes it not rust. It will generally prevent oxidation, and it’s also the reason why you won’t have tarnishes.

So it comes in at about 10% chromium, and this then provides a level of safety, but it’s not 100% safe. This is particularly true if the layer is damaged. This then will expose the stainless steel metal, and like you, this will then cause the tarnish and rust.

Also, remember that the metal doesn’t stain as much as other metals in the world from the name.

They further have a protective film.

Note that, aside from the chromium layer, we also have a protective film. Note that stainless steel develops an oxide layer when you expose it to the air.

This is the same thing that will protect the metal from corrosion. Note that even if you damaged the metal, it will still always form the oxide layer.

This doesn’t mean that you should just expose it to a harsh environment and expect it to be the same. Note that the harsh conditions will cause the stainless steel to start tarnishing sooner than you think.

Is stainless steel jewelry waterproof?

It is waterproof but not exactly waterproof if you know what I mean.

The metal is never affected by the water thanks to its tarnish, corrosion, and rust resistance. So unlike silver, this one you can bathe and shower in and not damage it. You will like that you don’t have to panic when you are in the rain as your jewel will not get damaged just yet.

One thing you can be sure of is that the stainless steel metal is never affected by tap water. But that doesn’t mean all water sources will not change it.

Unfortunately, the swimming pool water has a high chlorine content, which will often damage your precious jewels.

The same goes for ocean water, as it’s full of different kinds of salt. You can prevent the corrosion that may occur due to the presence of salts in the water.

In a nutshell, we are saying this stainless steel is very durable and perfect looking. That doesn’t mean you should expose it to absurd conditions expecting it to be as good as new.

How long will it take to start to tarnish?

Well, there are no exact dates to have in mind as to when the tarnishing occurs. It often depends on how you take care of the stainless steel jewels.

But mostly, it will last much longer, and it will take longer even to start to tarnish. Sometimes you may never notice tarnish if you keep it safe and use it in only ideal environments.

So what if it tarnishes?

We know that it may tarnish anyway, so what can you do when it tarnishes? Keep reading to find out.

If you would like to retain its original stature, you will have to clean it properly, and the good thing is that it will often come back to normal.

Simple water and soap

It’s as easy as finding a mild liquid soap together with warm water. And this is the simplest to do since you can do it anywhere.

Get your two small bowls and fill them up with water. Then add four drops of the mild soap into one of the bowls.

You should have a ready soft piece of cloth. Dip the cloth in water and then rub it over to the tarnished surfaces gently. Check it clearly, and if you notice some grime, you can use a soft brush to get rid of the grime completely.

Again gently rub the cloth on the surface of the jewel.

Once thoroughly cleaned, you can dip it into the other bowl making sure you rinse it right.

Then use a dry and soft cloth to dry the jewel once more.

The vinegar method

For more cleaning, you can use the vinegar as it will clear the tarnish. Take a bowl of water and then add vinegar to the water. It should be in equal parts.

Soak the jewel for about 15 minutes and then get it out and then rinse before you dry it with a microfiber cloth, and it’s ready for use. Sometimes you can use a soft cloth that has the vinegar already.

You could also use lemon water.

You simply have a bowl of lemon juice, and then you can dip your jewel in the bowl and rest for about 30 minutes. Finish this by rinsing it in clean tap water before you wipe out the excess water with a soft dry cloth.

More on tarnishing

And finally, understand a little more about the tarnishing. If you like jewels you will know this to be true; your treasures will soon start to tarnish but especially if you wear them more often.

Notice that when you notice the dull look, it’s as simple as the fact that it’s already tarnishing. Of course, you want to use the metals that don’t tarnish as much. You also want those that are easy to clean when they tarnish.

The ones that dont tarnish

Aluminum: This is one of the very few metals that will not tarnish. Aluminum also forms a protective layer that makes it not tarnish. Then it will maintain the shine and goodness throughout the time you have it on. Make sure you choose authentic aluminum jewels to be sure it doesn’t tarnish.

Stainless steel: we say it doesn’t tarnish because it doesn’t unless you subject to the wrong environment. The chromium and the protective layer are everything you need to keep it secure.

Titanium: not only is it hard, but it’s also tarnish-resistant. Titanium doesn’t react with oxygen and water, so it won’t tarnish, rust, or corrode.

Below are the metals that will tarnish

Sterling silver: I have talked about this in length in the blog does sterling silver tarnish.

Brass: it contains copper, and as you know, copper is easily oxidized. That’s why the brass jewels will change our skin green.

Gold: here, you have the most precious metal, but it’s not exempted from tarnishing.

There you have it now. Even though the stainless steel will not tarnish, rust, or corrode, if you subject it to harsh environments, it will start to corrode. Don’t even let it scratch because if you do, then it will begin to tarnish.

Remember to keep it clean and store it right if you want it to serve you over a long time. I hope you found your answers, and if you like, you can share your experience with your stainless steel jewels.

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