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The Quick Guide to Stop Earrings From Rusting

Written by Annabelle
November 22, 2019

You’ve been wearing your earrings for a while, and then you take them out to take a closer look…blech! It’s turning dark gray or red, and the color just looks off. Chances are, the discoloration is rust and oxidation. But why are your earrings rusting? Learn more here.

Why Do Metals Change Color?


A pair of costume jewelry earrings before and after rhodium plating.

Not all metals are the same! Gold and platinum don’t change color; these metals are known to be incorruptible, meaning that they will not rust or tarnish. 

On the other hand, brass, copper, silver, and bronze will change color. The change in color is due to chemical reactions to the oils and sweat from your skin, and a general reaction to the chemicals in the air. 

How Do I Get Rid of the Discoloration?

The discoloration is only something that develops on the surface of your item, so polishing it will remove it from your jewelry. The jeweler takes the earrings and runs it by the polishing wheel, which has an abrasive surface that gently rubs the surface to reveal the existing metal underneath.

polishing dirty jewelry

A ring in the polishing process

Things get a little trickier if your earrings are plated. Tarnish and rust seeps through plating, which then changes the color of your jewelry. If you polish plated jewelry, it will remove the plating as well. If you plan on fixing up something that’s plated, or considered costume jewelry, you should anticipate the restoration cost to be comparatively higher as it will not only include the polishing fee, but also the re-plating fee.

Tips on Keeping the Discoloration Away

  1. Keep your jewelry clean: Earrings are commonly worn in your ear piercings, and if you have the habit of not taking them out, dead skin and other gunk will accumulate underneath the earring. Aside from how gross that sounds, it's also not good for your earrings as the accumulation of grime will cause chemical reactions to occur if the earrings are made from a metal that's prone to tarnishing. The stuff can also get into the holes behind stone settings, causing your stones to look less shiny.
    To keep your earrings clean, try to remove them before you shower or sleep. Wiping them down with a soft cloth before putting them away will also help to remove the oils and any other residue from your skin, which will deter the tarnishing from occurring.
  2. Store your earrings in a dry and safe location: Some people have the habit of leaving their jewelry in a dish in the bathroom, next to the sink. Others like to leave their pieces strewn about on damp surfaces after they've just taken a hot and steamy shower. All of those are big jewelry no-nos and directly contribute to your earrings rusting, so please keep your earrings in the jewelry box where they can stay safe and dry. The humidity can exacerbate the tarnishing process, and it's just not good to leave jewelry in wet areas especially if the piece has glue-set stones. 
  3. Don't forget to plate your earrings: If you have a piece that's silver-colored, it's good to do a coat of rhodium regardless if the metal is a costume jewelry alloy, sterling silver, or white gold. Rhodium is a bright white precious metal that does not tarnish and is commonly used to enhance the appearance of sterling silver and white gold, so plating with it will restore the original color of your earrings. As for costume jewelry, getting it rhodium plated will help touch up any missing silver coloration and deter the tarnishing process.
    Gold plating is always a great option to brighten up your jewelry as well; if you're concerned about the tarnishing seeping through the plating, ask a jeweler to add a layer of palladium before plating it with gold. The palladium metal will deter and slow down the tarnishing of the base metal, extending the “lifespan” of your plating.


    A silver pair of earrings before and after plating.

  4. Bring it in once in a while for maintenance: As with cars, jewelry needs to be checked every so often! A jeweler can examine the piece and fully restore it with a good cleaning, polishing, and plating. The stones in your piece can also loosen over time, so the jeweler can tighten everything for you.

Now you know the reason for your earrings rusting, and what to do to prevent it! If you have something that needs cleaning and polishing, hit us up in the comments below.

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