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Why should you store metal jewelry separately from each other

If you’ve ever bought or received jewelry that came with a warning to store it separately from other necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, but thought, “What’s the worst that can happen?” — the answer is: scratches and oxidation.

“The problem is that if you combine two metals, you basically create a battery; a galvanic cell where these ions will transport onto each other and that will lead to corrosion,” Marcus Young, associate professor of materials science and engineering at the University of North Texas, told HuffPost.

A galvanic cell causes spontaneous redox reactions that lead to pitting and discoloration of jewelry, Young explained. “These [reactions] form on that surface and they only make it shiny, a beautiful metal,” he said.

Copper-based coins are most prone to these types of reactions, and silver is another – storing silver with other metals can accelerate its oxidation.

The rate at which a part oxidizes depends on the percentage of alloy or the amount of each metal in the final product. Judith Anderson, a professional jewelry appraiser, told HuffPost that platinum doesn’t tarnish because it doesn’t contain base metals, but different types of gold have different compositions.

“If you look at 14 karat gold, it’s only 58.5% pure gold,” Anderson said. “The remaining components are usually a combination of silver and copper in varying proportions, depending on the color. If you look at white gold, either it contains nickel as an alloy or it may also contain nickel. iridium, which belongs to the platinum group.

Other variations of gold, such as rose gold, are generally nickel-free but contain more copper than silver, while green gold contains a higher amount of silver than copper.

However, the jewelry industry does not use a standard ratio to create gold. “Different craftsmen have their own recipes when they combine their gold,” Anderson said. “The big companies that sell gold have a specific formula that they use for their production. What causes the color is the variation in the ratio of copper to silver content.

Even sterling silver “isn’t pure,” Anderson said. “It still contains alloys and so it will tarnish further.”

Scratching between dissimilar metals occurs due to their different levels of hardness. For example, “platinum doesn’t oxidize, but it can scratch because it’s actually a bit softer than gold,” Anderson said. “So if you store platinum and gold jewelry together, the gold could scratch the platinum piece and you’d start to develop a duller finish.”

The best way to store jewelry

Exposure to air is a major contributor to oxidation, so experts agree that storing items individually in clean, dry environments is still the optimal method for keeping all jewelry scratch and tarnish free.

“That’s the #1 tip, whether it’s silver, gold or platinum,” said Amanda Gizzi of Jewelers of America. “Keeping them separate will keep them looking their best.”

For silver, Gizzi advised using tarnish-free storage boxes made specifically for metal. And she warned against stacking pieces in a jewelry box where they end up sitting on top of each other and tangling. Instead, Gizzi suggested installing dividers in a large jewelry box or storing items in individual plastic bags.

“That’s how almost all jewelers stock everything,” Gizzi said of this last option. For necklaces, Gizzi offered the hack of leaving the clasp hanging out of the bag to keep it from tangling.

Anderson goes so far as to store each earring in an individual bag, then put both bags in a larger bag to keep the pair together. “If you really take care of things, you don’t have to have them fixed and polished as often,” she said.

Young noted that a fabric-lined jewelry box will help keep extra moisture from damaging its contents. “The wetter something is, the more moisture in the air can promote oxide and hydroxide formation that would lead to tarnish,” he repeated.

For anyone who wants to keep their items on display, Anderson likes to frame the screens and put individual earrings in each hole. “I wouldn’t do this with really expensive jewelry because you don’t want it sitting where someone can see it, but if you have cheap earrings it’s a good way to put them away,” she said, acknowledging that this method doesn’t prevent oxidation but does work to keep items separate.

This approach can also be used for chains by adding hooks to a utility tray (displays used by jewelers for overstock and to store pieces overnight) and placing a frame around it.

What to do if you notice scratches or tarnishing

Despite the best intentions, normal wear and tear on our beloved jewelry does occur. Anderson said that for silver you can use a commercial silver cleaner, but for gold you’ll have to go to the jeweler so they can polish it on a polishing or buffing wheel.

“The best thing to do is take these pieces to your local jeweler,” Gizzi agreed. “Either polish it or at least clean it. This general maintenance should take place about once a year anyway.

But patina, the sheen of a piece of jewelry’s surface due to age or polishing, can also be adopted.

“There’s a certain beauty to the corrosion process,” Young said. “The patina is natural. There is a question, if it was shiny, do you want to restore it or do you want to have some kind of natural beauty for jewelry? Generally, we want them to be shiny, but you also don’t want to clean the jewelry too much, because you don’t want to take the surface off.

See, too much cleaning box be a bad thing.

The Huffington Gt

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